WHAT TO DO WHEN YOUR BIGGEST TRADE SHOW TROUBLE IS INTERNAL
You might think your biggest trade show headache is getting your brand strap-line down to just 10 words on your graphics boards. Or trying to organise the logistics of moving all your kit, samples and literature from one end of the continent to the other in less than 24 hours between shows. Yet quite often, the biggest challenge facing project managers is getting buy-in from their senior team to invest in trade shows in the first place, and to unlock enough budget to give you half a chance of doing it well.
So if you’re convinced that your industry trade show is definitely the right thing to do, how do you convince your boss it is too?
- Align the Marketing Plan – trade shows and exhibitions work as part of an aligned marketing plan to hit a direct audience who have an interest in your product or service – they rarely work in isolation. Show how participating in a trade show can work to feed your sales pipeline in collaboration with all the other marketing activity your team has planned for the year.
- Do You Homework – when you’ve identified a target show(s) get as much detail as you can from the organisers about who attends, their buying authority, which organisations and industries they are from and what opportunities you have to extend your presence at the show beyond your stand footprint. Demonstrate that your ideal client will be attending the show and in a position to buy.
- Set SMART Objectives – the golden rule of trade shows is to start with setting some objectives that you can actually achieve and that deliver a contribution to your sales pipeline. You’re unlikely to be able to quote the potential cash return you’re going to get at this early stage but you can set some specifics around the number of samples you’re wanting to distribute, or the number of media interviews to schedule. However, as you participate in more trade shows you should be able to calculate an average return based on past conversions to sales. Show that you’ve thought more about how the trade show will contribute to building sustainable, profitable relationships as opposed to just turning up because it feels like the right thing to do.
- Share the Numbers – trade shows can often be about softer measures and intuition but senior colleagues might need evidence and insight to convince them of the value of investing. There has been lots of research conducted on the exhibitions industry for the very reason that people still need convincing that they deliver value. For example, did you know that 91% of visitors state that going to exhibitions impacts on their buying decisions (GraphicColour Exhibits). Or that 64% of stand visitors aren’t existing customers of the exhibitor & over half of visitors go on to make a purchase from an exhibitor within 12 months of a show (Display Wizard 2018). There is plenty of evidence out there that trade shows, when delivered effectively, make an impact on overall business performance – you just need to know where to look.
- Be Open & Honest – trade shows need resource – time, money and energy and if you don’t have sufficient of all of them it will show in the delivery. Being honest and up-front early on about what you need will help avoid difficult conversations later on as the costs mount. Research suggests that almost 40% of exhibitors said that escalating costs were one of their biggest challenges (Sang 2017). On average, if you’re booking a shell scheme you will need roughly double the cost of the space to deliver a show effectively – so if your space cost is £4,000 you will need about £8,000 to cover everything else that will need paying for.
- Be Pro-active – asking for double the cost of the shell space (triple if you’re booking space only) is going to sound like a big investment to your boss if you can’t articulate how that money is going to be spent or how it adds value. Work out a rough breakdown of how the budget will be allocated across each of the different trade show elements (stand design, power, storage, literature, staff etc.) and how each element will help deliver a consistent, aligned campaign that is about more than just 3 days on the floor.
- Don’t Forget The Follow-Up – only 13% of trade show leads ever get followed up so you can’t blame senior managers for being sceptical of investing in trade shows when they’ve previously failed to see any meaningful action at the end of it. Documenting how you’re going to categorise leads and the strategy for following up with each of them should go some way to alleviating their concerns about whether there will be any genuine return from the event.
Trade shows are easy targets for criticism and easier still to knock off the marketing plan when budgets are tight (or even when they’re not). Historically, trade shows have been poorly executed and weakly followed up leading to accusations of money-pits or jollies by those who don’t see their value. However, as part of an aligned marketing strategy and with the appropriate investment in time, money and resource, trade shows can make a huge contribution to your organisation’s sales pipeline. With some careful consideration, pre-planning and the crafting of a solid commercial story, you should be able to overcome your internal detractors and show how your brilliant execution can help build sales for many years to come.
Have you managed to overcome internal challenges and get the right budget and resource signed off to do you trade show brilliantly? How did you do it & what persuaded your internal team – we’d love to know your secret to success – why not drop a line to firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll share your story.