Getting SMART with Objectives

I’ve been thinking about my early days in trade shows and a particularly embarrassing moment which still makes me colour bright red and want to hide under the desk. Was it that time the CEO of our biggest customer turned up and I didn’t know who he was? Or that time I’d just slipped off my killer 10 inch heels for a second right as my boss walked onto the stand?

Nope, although both of those were pretty cringey, one of my earliest lessons was presenting to the senior management team after a show where everyone had heaped praise about how brilliant our stand looked, how well we’d done in getting so many journalists on our stand (thanks to the free drinks) and how we made the credible competition look amateur in comparison. I was preparing to bask in the admiration, take the applause and win my next promotion. That was right until the annoying, pesky finance director asked the dreaded question ‘Yes but what did you actually achieve?’ to which I confidently replied ‘Well we met lots of great visitors and our stand was the envy of the hall’. I wasn’t expecting the next question from the FD which was ‘So how much can I add to the sales forecast for this year based on the sales you’re going to achieve from the show?’ which of course, set off every other sales person in the room who had a sniff of earning some extra bonus. A relentless volley of ‘who, when, how much?’ came my way as the account managers started adding zero after zero to the bottom line. And I hadn’t a clue what the size of the return, if any, might be!

This scenario (which maybe you recognise) raises a whole host of questions right through the trade show Planning, Implementation & Evaluation (P.I.E.) process but one of the biggest lessons I learnt was that had I set some S.M.A.R.T. objectives, I could have managed expectations early on and given some indication of what the returns might be. For example, in that scenario, my S.M.A.R.T. objectives might have been:

  • To demonstrate the new widget to 5 existing customers who having seen it in action would most likely purchase it for their business
  • To invite and meet 10 interested prospects who could use our products in their business but currently don’t
  • To identify and engage with an additional 15 new leads who might be interested in our products but aren’t currently aware of them
  • To present the new widget and how it operates to the 7 leading trade magazines and secure a product review in their show coverage
  • To keep within the budget parameters set

Setting objectives such as these will help inform a number of other decisions and processes throughout the trade show campaign including pre-show marketing, identifying and filtering visitors and following up. But in managing internal stakeholders this would have enabled me to start putting some numbers to the potential (and realistic) level of business that might come from the show investment. 35 contact points might not sound a lot but in this scenario, with the known value of potential business, I would have been confident that if those objectives had been achieved and sales converted it would be more than enough to pay back the show investment. It also tempers any maverick sales manager who thinks that all 3,000 visitors are going to suddenly spend £1m each and keeps the champagne on ice!

So what’s the magic recipe for setting objectives for trade shows? It’s just being S.M.A.R.T. – knowing what you want to achieve and sense checking it’s realistic.

MACRO OBJECTIVES: The Big Marketing Idea – there can be a number of top-line reasons for investing in a show including:

  • Expanding into a new market (with an existing or new product)
  • Launching a new product or variant into an existing market
  • Building brand awareness (this is a toughie for setting S.M.A.R.T. objectives)
  • Filling the sales pipeline with prospects at different stages of the buying journey
  • To sell (not as common at modern trade show)

S.M.A.R.T. Objectives: breaking down the big idea into bite-sized chunks that state what, when and who you’re going to interact with and why. I’m sure you’re familiar with the acronym but as a refresher:

S= Specific (who, what, how many)

M= Measurable (defined numbers you can compare)

A= Achievable (hint: to meet ‘everyone’ is not achievable)

R= Realistic (hint: to meet ‘everyone’ is not realistic)

T= Timely (by when – presumably this will be during the show, but might be afterwards if it relates to press coverage etc).

You might have 4-5 S.M.A.R.T objectives per show, but beware of having too many more than that as you might be trying to juggle too many!

Setting S.M.A.R.T objectives for trade shows is hard work – no doubt about it! But it’s so worth it when it helps to make sure every decision you subsequently make is totally focused on achieving them! And even more worth it when you’ve absolutely smashed them and can wipe that smile off the pesky FD’s face!

If you’re grappling with setting your Trade Show objectives for 2019 why not give us a call and we can help you whip them into shape!

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