Your Trade Show Budget
Trade shows present a company with an excellent opportunity to demonstrate its products and services to a qualified and actively interested audience. Nowhere else are there likely to be so many potential buyers available for face-to-face, meaningful sales dialogue.
Why, then, are so many companies tentative about the returns they get from attending trade shows, and constantly skeptical about their future participation?
As many put it: "We don't really get much out of it but we're afraid NOT to be seen there!"
Our premise is that, if you have identified a trade show as an appropriate forum in which to exhibit your products and services, if you aren't going to give it your best effort, you run a big risk of actually hurting yourself by participating at all.
While there are many contributing factors, there are at least five serious issues that all too many participants fail to address fully, and that impact the results of their trade show investment. They are as follows:
Many companies that participate in exhibits simply don't have a trade show section in their formal marketing plan.
Without a clear plan for a conference, how can the various activities and application of corporate resources be counted? How can the people responsible for the activity be held accountable?
Of course, the true R.O.S.I. (Return On Show Investment) often varies widely from one exposition to another. The way to get maximum value is to have individual plans and R.O.I. objectives for each specific show.
Few companies really budget properly. In fact, some don't budget formally at all. They leave their trade show accounting in the lap of an assistant and bury the costs in the overall sales budget.
Unfortunately, trade show exhibiting is an expensive and complex undertaking. Contractual and display costs add to travel and out-of-pocket expenses. And, while sales personnel may "put in their time" on the floor, unless they generate at least the same level of activity at the conference as they would elsewhere, the opportunity cost must be added to the total as well. Accounting for all these costs is a critically important step in planning a serious trade show marketing effort.
Of course, without first dealing with the issues of "customer value" and "allowable lead cost," any attempt at budgeting will be a guess at best.
Preparation for participation in an exhibition or at a conference can include a great many logistical factors and impact a number of corporate disciplines. (We've heard it compared to rounding up animals for a voyage on The Ark!) Proper tracking of leads, often the main purpose of the conference, rarely takes place without a clear plan and systematic execution at the event.
At the "on site" level, a complete plan for lead generation and tracking activities would include booth staffing/training, "event" management (demonstrations, drawings, etc.), out-of-booth activities (public relations activities, hospitality suites), publicity and announcements, de-briefing and evaluation procedures. Each of these is a major topic in itself.
One of the most common mistakes in trade show management is failing to communicate with customers, prospects and influential people who will (or could) be in attendance. People who neglect this step, or do it poorly, might be better advised to spend their money on a lotto drawing!
A vital part of successful exposition marketing is to have a thoroughly planned and carefully executed pre-show communications program that...
Of course, things don't always work out the way you plan. Some people attend with a new title or agenda, and many you didn't have on your list just show up. A good plan contains a schedule of follow-up communications packages (a communications matrix) to send out after the trade show to address both expected and unexpected developments.
Every prospect who comes to your exhibit should receive an orchestrated set of follow-up communications...e-mails, letters, fulfillment of literature requests, telephone response and, if appropriate, in-person sales calls.
People who come to the exhibit and can't be readily identified as prospects should receive a different set of communications designed to qualify their interest and quantify their buying power.
Another set of communications should be directed at probable prospects who did not visit the exhibit...including those who did not attend the trade show at all. (A special newsletter might be one way of pointing out what they missed.)
Results of leads generated before, during and after the show need to be managed all the way through to the close. Compile sales data and use it to project future outcome. This is the way to justify your trade show investment.