Sales and Marketing

Why Waste Your Trade Show Opportunities | Steve Hancock

Develop Clear And Measureable Objectives

Steve Hancock copy 2
Steve Hancock is Co-Founder and President of Divinitas Displays, Inc., an exhibit design and consulting firm based in Orlando, with operations in New York and Las Vegas

There are many reasons that companies typically waste as much as 40{bfd614f294d07c51b84c8dad33a56885001f0ed7300088ac66752d3246377d5a} of their exhibit and trade show investment. But the most common cause is a tactical approach that fails to define clear objectives.

Statistics reveal that more than 90 percent of exhibitors can’t quantify any kind of return on investment — or even their return on objectives. That’s because many of those companies had no real plan; their trade show planning and management tend to be reactionary and tactical. As a result, they were unable to measure achievement.

First, for many companies, trade shows are more of a habit than a carefully considered element of a marketing strategy.

This is due in part to the role trade shows have long played in the culture of commerce. Trade shows can be traced from the ancient bazaars of the Middle East, to trade fairs of medieval Europe, then to the more structured commercial exhibitions that began in Europe and North America in the 1700s. Trade shows have always been regarded as an essential means of getting goods in front of buyers.

This cultural DNA is still prevalent in today’s market: Companies go to trade shows not with specific objectives in mind, but because that’s the way things have always been done. For some organizations, this also creates a visceral fear of NOT going to certain trade shows — the fear of conspicuous absence: “If I’m not there, the market may assume something is wrong with my company.”

Second, the responsibility for planning and managing trade shows is often an awkward and inefficient collaboration between sales and marketing departments. It’s not unusual for the budget to be bifurcated: exhibit branding and show promotion belongs to marketing, while sales pays for the exhibit space, exhibit construction and logistics. This arrangement can also create conflicting perceptions and expectations. And the ad hoc nature of the arrangement leads to tactical thinking on everyone’s part.

The result is a lack of focus, poor coordination, wasted money and lost opportunities.

To Stop the Bleeding

Measurable return on investment requires a unified vision and clear objectives. It must also take into account that objectives can vary over time and from show to show.

Candy DivinitasThus, at a minimum, your team should have a standard process for assessing and defining objectives for each show. Some key considerations may include:

  • Have we identified the best prospective customers expected to attend the show?
  • How will we qualify and capture customer interest?
  • What is our forecast — numbers of contacts, leads, opportunities and actual orders?
  • What are our key communication goals: new product introduction? Product demonstration? Showcase unique service or support capability? Special industry or market focus?
  • Customer intelligence: what do we want to learn from customers?
  • Market intelligence: what market trends do we hope to explore at the show?
  • Competitive intelligence: what are our competitors doing that present either threats or opportunities?
  • Media relations: are there editors, analysts, bloggers or other industry influencers that we want to meet?
  • Strategic outreach: who are the technology partners, distributors or other third-party players that we should spend time with?
  • How do we define success? What are the metrics, and how do we capture, evaluate and share them?

Just as each show requires its own new financial investment, each show also needs to have its own objectives, strategies, messages and measurements. This is key to establishing consistent success as well as for holding your team accountable.


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