At the end of each year, we tend to reflect back on the work we’ve completed throughout the last 12 months and determine whether or not that work is deemed successful. While it can be easy to give a general statement of whether or not you feel you’ve performed at a high level over the year, it is not uncommon to realize that we let our goals go by the wayside and started acting without a plan based on our goals – especially when it comes to tradeshow performance.
When I look back and think about the different companies I’ve worked for and reflect on the performance at tradeshows, I realize we often went through the motions without establishing any real goals. Then, when we returned to the office on Monday and had to report on the show… the results were underwhelming. So underwhelming, in fact, that there was often talk about eliminating tradeshows from the marketing strategy all together.
That “solution” would ultimately be a disservice to your B2B operations. (check out this article to learn more about why exhibiting at tradeshows in B2B is still highly viable!)
OK, so why are tradeshows sometimes going wrong when we look back at our goals. There are a handful of reasons, but below are the three main reasons I’ve had personal experience with which created a sense of tradeshow disappointment.
One: the goals are set on only one measurable item (i.e. dollars), vs. a few measures that could exemplify success.
There have been many shows I’ve attended that result in little IMMEDIATE dollar transactions – but that doesn’t mean it was a failure. If the marketing & sales teams had established other goals, we could say it was a success. Other goals cold include:
  • Ratio of quality conversations over quantity of conversations
  • Amount of email addresses that were acquired for future email marketing campaigns
  • Quality of networking opportunities established for the possibility of future partnerships (including business aspects like distribution or new product/service development)
  • Conversion of leads within 90 days, 6 months, or a year (vs. within a week of the show)
Two: lack of planning.
With the amount of money spent in completing a tradeshow (booth expenses, travel, meals, time away from the office, etc.) it’s fair to state that it’s astonishing how often sales and marketing teams put nothing but last-minute effort into achieving a successful meeting.
Often we make the booth arrangement, hotel and flight plans, set a budget for meals and then leave it up to one to three unprepared sales reps to make the most out of a marketing effort that costs thousands.
I have personally witnessed sales reps be shocked at what was packed for them in terms of booth display and collateral. So the fact that the team meant to make a huge impact doesn’t even know what they have as “sales weapons”… management teams shouldn’t be too terribly shocked when the dollars spent were merely a very expensive 3-day advertisement.
The point I’m making here is you have to plan – no less than 90 days before a show – to make it really work. However, it goes back to goal-setting.
If your goal is to gain 50 new email addresses…. how do you plan to do it? Just grab people from the vendor hall aisles and force them to write down their information? That’s a little off-putting. Instead, maybe you could plan on having some content (like a new patient education video for their practice marketing/education resources) that they can only view if you send the link to their email address… so then they give you their email address in anticipation of seeing your great video!
Strategies like this and all others take serious, involved planning.
Three: establishing no goals at all and showing up with your fingers crossed.
This pitfall follows the same general narrative as No. 2.
With the issue stated above however, there may have been goals set, but the plan to achieve those goals was not thought through in advance.
What may be even worse, is setting no goals at all. The only reason I say, “may be” worse, is because if you don’t set any goals, then at least you can walk away saying you didn’t fail. But you also didn’t do anything.
Just like any task, simply going through the motions is not going to be enough to make the result great or successful. If it doesn’t fail completely, it will only be mediocre.
Set your goals. Determine the strategy to meet those goals. Put the elements in place to achieve them in enough time to meet your meeting deadline!
… and most of all – don’t half-@$$ it.