This week Josh and I attended our first expo as Grizzlyware. We went to the South West Business Expo at the Westpoint Arena in Exeter. The event was busy and well organised, offering a multitude of stands and guest speakers. Although we didn’t have our own stand this year, the expo provided a valuable opportunity for us to meet other business owners in the South West and listen to guest speakers. Here are the 5 most important things we learnt at the expo this year.
1. You can learn a lot from guest speakers
The South West Business Expo had several different stages with a real variety of speakers throughout the day. We attended several of these talks and found them all very informative and useful. There was a good selection of topics to choose from, ranging from PR by Lucy Matthews at Marvellous PR to Intellectual Property by Meg Pascoe from the Intellectual Property Office (IPO). All the talks we attended were interesting, well delivered and genuinely helpful. They also all offered an opportunity to ask questions at the end. If you go to an expo, you can learn a lot from taking advantage of the free presentations on offer.
2. Non-digital marketing is very much alive
As a software company we obviously spend a lot of our time online and subsequently we have focused a lot of our marketing on social media and Google Ads. At the expo we decided to attend a talk about the importance of traditional marketing in the digital age. Sam Pengelly of Magareth presented a great talk about how traditional marketing can complement your online marketing. One statistic that particularly resonated with us was that only 48% of the population are actively using the internet. By limiting your advertising to online-only, you could alienate half of your potential clients. Offline marketing is definitely something we will be paying more attention to in the future.
3. The more you talk, the more you benefit
Walking into a hall full of stands can be intimidating, but the more conversations you have, the more you will take away from the day. We spoke to many businesses yesterday and can honestly say that we gained something from each conversation we had. Even if you are unsure if a business has anything to offer you, it’s worth talking to them anyway. We discovered businesses offering services or products that we may be able to use directly, but also other businesses that were able to just offer friendly advice.
4. Branding is important
Businesses whose product or service was really obvious in their logo or strapline seemed to be the busiest stands throughout the day. It goes to show that unless people know what you are offering, it doesn’t matter how good your product is.
Having consistent branding across the stand, business cards and any merchandise also makes a business more memorable. After meeting so many people in one day, we struggled to remember individual names, so having a business card with the same colours and logo as the stand made it easy to remember who was who, making us more likely to reach out to them in the future.
5. Business cards are important, even if you don’t have a stand
Whilst we didn’t have a stand at the expo this year, we exchanged cards with many other businesses so we could stay in touch in the future. Upon exchanging cards, one question people repeatedly asked was ‘so what does a software developer actually do?’. After explaining that we specialise in automation it became clear just how few businesses are currently automating time consuming tasks.
Some people had just never considered the option of automating tasks, whereas others had been reluctant to pay for software. However, when we discussed the amount of employee hours being dedicated to tasks such as data harvesting or invoicing each month, many businesses began to think about the long-term cost saving benefits of automating tasks. Most business owners seemed keen to reduce human error and be able to dedicate more employee time to growing the business too. We created awareness of our services without even really thinking about it, purely by swapping business cards during conversations. It’s certainly worth making sure you take plenty!
Overall, we thoroughly enjoyed meeting some wonderful people at the expo this year. For anybody considering going to a similar event, we highly recommend going and talking to as many different people as possible and making the most of guest speakers- you never know what you may learn!