Should You Attend or Exhibit at Beauty Industry Conferences?

9 Min Read |

Opportunities to connect face-to-face with beauty consumers and network with other brands and industry professionals are rare. Beauty brands and entrepreneurs in the current climate work largely online, and many start-ups use e-commerce platforms rather than physical stores.

Virtual marketing and sales have created a vast array of new opportunities, but they’ve also heightened the isolation that brands experience — because you don’t actually welcome people through your doors to meet your team and see, touch, smell and experience your products or beauty services.

So industry conferences are invaluable. They allow you to get down on the ground and interact in person with your audience; including potential customers, social media influencers and other industry professionals who could help to promote your brand, as well as potential freelance collaborators. In addition, a well-organized conference or trade show gives you the chance to create engaging behind-the-scenes content to share on your own social media; so you can take your followers along for the ride and boost online engagement.

Attending or exhibiting at a conference leads to long lasting professional relationships that can help you grow your brand. In particular, when you create a well thought out exhibit, you’ll gain new clients and attract interest from other professionals in your field. Other conference attendees who like what you are offering are likely to share your exhibit on their social media and tag your brand, too; another organic marketing boost.

But a downside can be the cost. If you’re an exhibitor it can be expensive. So are industry conferences really worth it for you? Ultimately, the answer lies in the calculation of your ROI.

Here we focus on the risks and benefits of attending a conference as an exhibitor, as that is the most expensive route. But many of these points also apply to attending without exhibiting, or attending as an invited speaker.

Funding Your Conference Exhibit

When you start to look at all the details, exhibiting at a beauty industry conference is expensive. There’s no way of getting around it. In order to get your brand there in the first place you’ll need to create a budget for costs including:

  • Conception and construction of your exhibit display

  • Storage and transportation costs for your display

  • Accommodation for you and/or your team close to the conference venue (exhibitors usually need to be on-site early in the morning, and days tend to be long)

  • Creating a visual presentation and other hooks to capture the attention of passers-by and draw them into your display

  • Brochures and other marketing materials

  • The hours of time that you and/or your team will put into planning, creating, attending and then breaking down your conference exhibit

Most companies also invest in additional marketing campaigns and PR strategies to make the most of a conference and ensure they’ll be noticed at the event.

All of this means that while exhibiting at a conference can generate marked increase in sales, awareness and networking value, it is vital to plan well in advance and put funds aside to ensure the event doesn’t become a serious financial drain.

What Are The Benefits?

With a solid understanding of the audience that will be present at a particular conference, along with careful and creative planning, exhibiting at an industry conference can yield enormous benefits.

It’s an ideal environment in which to test products and designs, build awareness of your brand, and collect valuable feedback from consumers and other beauty industry professionals.

You will also have direct access to a large number of industry leaders and influencers all in one place — providing an unmatchable networking opportunity and the potential to meet perfect brand or marketing collaborators.

At a good, well-attended conference you will:

  • Expand your brand reach and enhance consumer familiarity with your message and products or services

  • Access networking opportunities with fellow industry professionals at all levels

  • Increase sales leads

  • Have the opportunity to test new products with consumers and professionals who are generous with their feedback

  • Be able to attend educational events to increase your industry knowledge, and/or offer educational workshops about your own brand

At Beautyworld Middle East, for example, a series of educational events aim to “awe and enthrall” attendees, while promoting brands and sharing new innovations. These events include Front Row, a show which updates attendees on the latest industry developments; and Fragrance Station, which offers samples of fragrances from different exhibiting brands across the conference, all in one convenient and enticing place.

Audience Is Everything

Different conferences attract different audiences. So if you are planning to invest in a conference this year, it’s vital to choose the one that best suits your brand. Ideally, you would attend a conference that attracts your competitors and the most respected thought leaders in your field.

To dig into the details of a particular conference’s usual audience, look online for articles and reviews of the event in previous years. Check out the sponsors of the event, too — the type of business that chooses to sponsor a conference gives clues as to its content and audience.

It’s also worth spending time on social media to find out who is tagging and posting about the conference. And of course, the event’s own website is a useful place to gather information about confirmed attendees and workshops and lectures that are taking place. Points to consider include: is it a B2B or B2C conference? Will there be angel investors in attendance? How established is the event?

In addition, check whether the show is centered around a particular theme, or focused on a specific area. If so, be aware that the audience will likely be attending because they are interested in that theme — and therefore may be less interested in your business if the theme doesn’t fit with what you are offering.

For example, Beautyworld Middle East is oriented primarily towards manufacturers, retailers and distributors. Professional Beauty is geared more towards beauty professionals, and Dubai Derma focuses on the innovative science behind dermatology.

Qualifications And Quality

When you invest in a conference you expect to take home a wallet full of business cards. But those cards are worthless if the names on them are not highly qualified, well connected or genuinely experienced industry professionals.

When you collect leads, you need to know how qualified each lead is and how much of your energy and resources you are willing to invest in building a relationship with them.

So take two wallets with you. Fill one of them with the leads that you know are qualified and interested in your brand. Fill the other one with contacts who share vague credentials and are unlikely to convert into useful opportunities; and then throw that second one in the recycling bin.

Preparation Pays Off

There’s no point in buying an exhibition space — or even a standard price attendance ticket— at a trade show, only to show up with a poorly designed display and no clear strategy for the event.

Start planning at least four to six months ahead of the event, and much earlier than that if possible. Create a marketing strategy and begin to implement in the months leading up to the conference. And invest time and funds into a captivating, informative and connection-building display stand to stand out from the crowd.

You can begin lead generation months before the start date of a conference. Methods include participating in a related event, or sponsoring one yourself; collecting leads through an email list; or by running a competition which will come to its culmination during the event. If the conference organizers publish a list of confirmed attendees on their website, you can work through that list to identify attendees who might be interesting to you, or interested in you, and contact them directly to arrange a catch up during the event.

It’s highly beneficial to familiarize yourself with the conference floor layout before you arrive, and know where your placing within that. Your location on the floor can determine some of the techniques you’ll need to use to draw people in; for example, if you’re right next to a main through-way you’ll have lots of passing traffic, which is great; but that traffic will be distracted and fast-moving, so you will need to appeal to their senses to make them pause. In contrast, if you’re tucked away in a corner you will have less footfall but the people who do walk by you will be moving slower, feeling more relaxed, and be easier to speak to directly.

Don’t Forget To:

  • Discuss your goals for the event with your team

  • Confirm whether any existing contacts will be there, and let them know you’re going too

  • Send pre-event emails to your mailing list

  • Set up your exhibit stand and run a test session with the team who will be on-site

  • Share on social media, such as Instagram Stories, as well as send emails during the event

  • Schedule time to follow up with new contacts by email, phone or in person after the event

How To Determine Your ROI

After all of that, it comes back to our initial point: that ultimately, it all comes down to your ROI.

This isn’t always easy to calculate as the value of an event is often not known until well after it’s happened. But you can make a start by calculating your costs for the exhibit so you know what you need to cover.

After the conference has wrapped up and a few weeks have passed, you can then assign a value to each of the contacts or transactions you made as a result of it. There’s no formula for doing this because it’s very subjective; you and your team are the only people who can determine how much value any one contact is to you.

You can track lead generation and sales using a CRM such as Salesforce, or similar. Enter each lead you make at the event and then set up a reporting system to track the results of those leads in order to monitor performance. This allows you to more accurately assign a monetary value to each lead.

Then you can add up the lead values along with the profit from sales and deduct the cost of your participation in the event – then that number is your profit. As long as your gross profit is higher than your total investment you’ll have a positive ROI.

To calculate your ROI use this simple formula;

ROI = (Gross profit – Marketing Expenses) / Marketing Expenses

Depending on your sales cycle length and marketing strategy, you may need to update this ROI on a weekly or monthly basis for some time after the event — so the final ROI may not be known until up to a year (or even longer for some companies) after the conference.

However, if you have a successful conference it’s possible that the long term benefits for your brand or for you as a professional will be more important to you than the ROI. Some conferences can kickstart professional development, spark new ideas and solidify relationships — even mentorships — that will support you for years to come.

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