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Trade shows: When things don’t work out as planned

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Posted by , 22nd May 2018

Trade shows: when things don't work out

In life and in business things don’t always work out the way we planned. 

As we all know, things can go wrong even with the best preparation. Exhibiting and live events are definitely no exception to this rule.  

Logistics can conspire against you

Bits of your stand can get mislaid. Graphics can be sized incorrectly. Or perhaps worst of all, one or more of your exhibits doesn’t get delivered. 

And the farther you travel away from your home base, the greater the chance of something not arriving as planned. 

But, let’s assume that you experienced no logistical snafus. That everything and everyone turned-up as they were supposed to.

That the show went ahead without holdups of any kind. And yet, despite all that you feel that your participation in an event has not been successful. What do you do to make the best of this situation?

1. How bad is bad? Review things but be objective 

If you think that you didn’t have a good show you need to take an objective view of why that has become your end result.

This is assuming that on the face of things, the show appeared well attended.

Essentially, you need to find out if lack of success is due to the show or was it down to something that you, the exhibiting company, got wrong.  

If your company hasn’t had a great show but it would appear that everyone around you has, there has to be a reason and you need to know what that reason is.

To that end, review your company’s performance and review the performance of the show itself. Let’s start with the show.  

2. Review the show 

Here you are looking for the obvious things that might have affected results. The strongest clues to how a show has worked for exhibitors are;

A. The attendance figures

Was the attendance as expected?

The number of visitors to a show is ultimately not the most important thing. Quality of attendance or if you like, “visitor suitability” in relation to the show’s subject matter is far more important. 

Having said that, if there is a big drop in year-on-year visitor numbers, then this may be a reason why results are below expectation.

On the other hand, I’ve run shows with record numbers of visitors and still had exhibitor clients who were unhappy. Numbers are definitely not the only measure of success. 

B.  The level of re-booking for the next event    

The level of re-book for the next event can also help determine how the show went for other exhibitors.

The companies to check on first are your competitors. Have they re-booked? Have they increased or decreased the size of their stand? Has their stand moved to another part of the hall?

C. The demographic profile of attendees 

Completing this exercise will provide the most relevant picture of success for your business.

Trade shows are designed to appeal to targeted audiences. Organisers will know the job functions, the types of companies and geographic locations of the people that they most want to attend their events. 

They will publish these details in their sales materials. They will spend a lot of money trying to attract as many of those kinds of people as possible. Organiser success is wedded to yours.

Once an event has taken place, the registration details for attendees will be sitting in the organiser’s database. As an exhibitor, you can ask to see specific sets of data but without seeing the names of individual visitors. 

You should be able to review attendees by job title, by company name, product interest or geographic location.

Relate these stats to your objectives for the show (see next point). Was this the right audience profile for your business?

3. Review your company’s performance  

The place to start when reviewing your company’s performance is the objectives that were set for the show.

Were those objectives realistic and were they measurable? What assumptions were those objectives based on?

What percentage of the attendance did you see? How many of those specific job titles of interest to your business that attended the show, made it to your stand? How many if any of your top client prospects did you see?

When you compare your results with the organiser’s audience information you may find that you actually did better than you thought. If not, keep asking questions.

How did your stand perform?

Could the size of your stand or its design or layout have affected performance? Was it too small?  Should you have displayed a wider range of products or different products altogether? Was the stand too large and your team too small to work it effectively? 

Did the hall location work in your favour? What about any special attraction features that you employed?  Have your immediate show neighbours already re-booked and if so have they moved position on the floorplan?

How did your team perform?

If the show was busy but you have collected fewer leads than expected, it could mean that your stand team didn’t have enough visitor conversations. Ask yourself if that is a factor to consider in this review exercise.

I’ve been to many shows were stand staff don’t try to engage visitors who are walking past their stands. When you exhibit you need a team that will work the show. That will engage. 

If in doubt about the skills of the team you may need to consider some exhibition sales training before your next event.

Alternatively, you could employ agency staff skilled in working shows to support your presence. They will be proactive in talking to people and in starting conversations.

4. What’s happened to the leads you collected at the show?

The one mistake not to make is to neglect the leads that you did collect. This can happen in a small business when the owner or sales director writes-off the show and takes little or no further follow-up action.

Always follow-up because one decent sale can turn your ROI around. Record the sales status of the leads you took. Enter any leads that are “alive” into your database.

5.  Take a view

Once you have conducted a thorough review of the show and your company’s performance, you can take a view on whether to participate again.

There are times when events are no longer delivering the right audience for what your business. If that’s the case you need to find new shows. But before you go elsewhere, you do need to know that an event is truly no longer suitable for you.

Reviewing as suggested above will help you understand if that’s true.

On the other hand, when lack of success lies with your business, the review process should provide good clues about what should be done differently next time you exhibit.

Score your performance

You will find it helpful if you score aspects of exhibiting performance.

Leads collected. Stand team performance. Orders signed. Quotes requested. Success of your stand and displays. All can be scored based on a set of standards that determine high or low performance or success levels.

A system like this will greatly help your evaluation and review process as it replaces “feelings” with facts.  It will also make deciding where to spend your show budget much easier too.

Processes like the ones described above will put an end to mediocre results being generated when you exhibit. And that’s something that you and your business could definitely do without!

Posted in Measurement & Reporting  /  Staffing  /  Stand Management  /  Trade show marketing

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