How to create a solid customer base from exhibitions and trade shows.

When it comes to exhibitions companies need to have a plan or they risk striking out. “The exhibition is a chance for clients and prospects to experience that brand,” Lee Ali from Expo Stars said.

“It all starts with asking the right questions about what that a trade show can do, how it can actually help us grow our business, then actually creating a strategy to target the type of people that you want to target who are your ideal customers,” he explained during a session of Kobestarr Digital Podcast.

Lee Ali - Expo Stars
Lee Ali - Expo Stars

“Once you know what you actually want to get out of the show, once you know who your target audience is then you can actually put an engagement strategy in place to attract those people to your stand and to come and talk to you.”

Ali, who is originally from Kashmir moved to the UK with his parents when he was 7 years old. He opted to study accounting at college but didn’t take to the subject.

“Accountancy wasn’t for me because I was just writing down numbers all day and I thought there must be more to life than just numbers.” He moved into sales in the “typical” way he says.

“I saw an ad in the newspaper saying ‘Make loads of money.’ My first sales job, at the age of 21, was selling time share. Not that I want to be proud of that but from a training perspective it was a great start to my sales career because I learned a lot about dedication and the sales process.”

Having now worked for 25 years in sales and nine years at Expo Stars Ali is considered an expert at turning prospects into customers.

Things changed for Ali in 2007 when he was at a trade show in Chicago and saw an interactive booth that was engaging attendees.

“It was like a lightbulb moment because I had been visiting exhibitions and knew business psychology and everything just came together just in that two minute process.”

He said he instantly saw the way the company was engaging attendees at the exhibition was a fantastic approach.

It was then that the idea for Expo Stars started to form, he explained.

“It took me the best part of about three months for me to investigate the business opportunity and get confidence that I could actually do it.”

Within a few months of Chicago, he had launched his company Expo Stars.

“At that moment I was at a crossroads with where I wanted to go with my career and everything just came at the right moment.”

He said that companies who are looking to be successful developing relationships and finding customers at trade shows needed to change their mentality of simply building a stand and waiting for people to come to them.

“We know that not everybody is going to walk past that stand. Not everybody will be curious to walk to every stand and find out what everybody is looking for,” Ali said.

“They are relying on the organiser to deliver those people and they are assuming that they will actually walk past that stand.”

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Ali said that because most people attend trade shows to solve a problem or find a way to fulfil a need it was important to engage people in meaningful conversations “that will give them compelling reasons to actually follow up with you after the show.”

He said the first thing that needs to happen is proactive engagement.

That is where Expo Stars can help. They can handle all the details for companies planning a presence at an exhibition, from developing a strategy to supplying staff for the booth that are sure to engage attendees.

“Everybody that attends the exhibition is a potential client,” Ali said, adding that by attending the exhibition the attendees were giving exhibitors permission to sell to them.

“It is the only environment where people actually go where and say ‘I am looking for new ideas. I am looking for new products and services. Tell me what you’ve got’.”

For more on the interview with Lee Ali or to hear more of The Kobestarr Digital Podcast visit the iTunes website.

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