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The smart exhibitor no longer relies on intuition and experience as the primary tools for predicting tradeshow success. Instead, the smart exhibitor relies on scientific measurement to maintain success.

The recent EXHIBITOR2013 tradeshow offered several educational sessions to teach exhibitors how to measure their success and help ensure that their operating budgets as well as bottom lines grow rather than shrink over time. When revenues shrink, a lot of firms will cut back on their exhibiting budgets and, at times, eliminate it altogether.

“Too often, exhibiting is considered [an] obligatory event and is not focused on the company plan,” said Jerry Gerson, senior corporate training associate of Marketech 360. “They don’t see the value of one of the most important business and marketing tools ever invented.”

One of the reasons why the value may not be obvious is that, too often, “fuzzy objectives” are created to determine the success of tradeshows throughout the year rather than specific, measureable goals that can be quantified and presented to those in charge of marketing budgets.

“There is a difference between a goal and an objective,” said Gerson. “A goal is what we intend to accomplish, a place in the process where we want to be. An objective is what we must do to get the expected outcome.”

To move from a fuzzy objective to a measurable one, Gerson suggests establishing a goal, such as: “To show the market our  system is the best.” While the objective is fuzzy, it becomes measurable when asking and answering these additional words: “… by doing what?”

“Exhibit staff must clearly understand the end-game – the strategy and execution and how the objective will be evaluated,” said Gerson. “Fuzzy, broad brushstroke statements, like ‘Launch our new product’ are not game-plan objectives.”

Gerson suggests exhibitors engage a five-point plan for creating and communicating measurable objectives to demonstrate the value and success of tradeshows.

The first step is to involve all stakeholders, such as staff involved in marketing, sales, product development and senior management, to participate in establishing measurable objectives to better determine which product or concept is the primary feature and which tradeshow marketing efforts must be focused. The next step is to avoid allowing tactics to get in the way of the overall strategy for a tradeshow. Tactics, which Gerson defines as paths of action and implementation to realize a goal, must be part of an overall strategy in a thought-out, planned initiative for tradeshow success.

Once the strategy is in place, step three requires determining the goal and targeted audience for the tradeshow to be a measurable success.

“This tells us what we must accomplish and why, and with whom we must accomplish it,” said Gerson.

The fourth step is to set the critical lessons for the target audience that fits with the company’s sales goals and marketing plan. Doing so requires knowing what the target needs to learn, how the learning will be done while exhibiting and which staff to include to make it happen during a tradeshow.

Exhibitors must be specific about the critical lessons they intend to impart during a tradeshow and know what is the value to the potential customer, which key words need to be used to convey the value, and how and where the message will appear, according to Gerson. All the while keeping in mind that the expected result of the tradeshow efforts will help determine the messaging necessary for conveying the critical lessons.

Finally, exhibitors must establish quantifiable objectives that easily can be measured to demonstrate the value and success of a tradeshow exhibit. The number of qualified leads, demonstrations done during the tradeshow, pre-show versus post-show brand awareness and similar objectives all can be measured or determined through surveys in order to demonstrate value and potential success of a tradeshow experience, which can help protect or even grow marketing budgets for future tradeshows.

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