Challenge: Tradeshows can be an effective component of a marketing plan, or they can be a black hole for time and money. The challenge comes in determining one from the other.
A number of years ago, tradeshows were a place where business deals were struck and sales contracts were signed. Since the dot-com burst and the 9/11 tragedy, there has been a general downturn in tradeshow attendance. There are divergent objectives from every source: attendees, exhibiting vendors, resellers, consultants, job seekers and others. How do you determine if whether or not to attend a show?
The primary benefits of a tradeshow for the exhibitor include a multitude of opportunities, such as: sales leads, reseller recruitment, press/analyst relations, employee recruitment, awards and competitive assessment. There are certainly additional advantages, but these cover the main benefits. Creating a list of all the direct and indirect costs for a show is relatively straight-forward: floor space, travel, booth rental/creation, travel, shipping, demo development, signage, etc. The challenge is quantifying the benefits before you agree to exhibit. Create a list of measures you will use to evaluate the show before you sign up, such as:
- Sales Leads/Opportunities: # leads, # opportunities and revenue
- Reseller development: # new resellers, training of current resellers, reseller program rollout
- Employee recruitment: # of interviews, # hires
- Awards: specific awards your organization will qualify for and apply for, with a good shot at winning
- Press/Analysts: # briefings, # articles,
- Consultants: # briefings, # sign ups
Once you decide to attend, you’ll need a detailed show plan that takes into account who is attending, their function and what you expect from them. You can’t achieve your goals without specific action plans designed to address each of the show dates.
Also, keep in mind there’s a benefit to continuity—attending the show year after year, that is. Your second attendance at the show will be much better than the first – as long as you take detailed notes and perform a post mortem with input by all involved – from sales, channels, marketing, etc. Generally speaking, I would recommend doing fewer shows and doing them more completely with the analysis above. Year over year, you will have a stable of shows that work very well for the company and can then experiment with a few new shows each year. Sure, some will be duds, but others will turn into long-term successes that will add significant value. At the end of each show, ask yourself – did we get the value we expected? This will guide not only your decision on whether to attend again, but also on which other shows may perform well in the future.
Lesson: Less is more. Select fewer shows but analyze them completely before attending, and perform a post mortem every time to see if you achieved your objectives.