Setting Realistic Goals for Your Tradeshow Program – Why It’s Important and How to Do It

Visitors at the Source Atlantique Exhibit.

A wise man once said that setting achievable goals is a determining factor in maintaining a healthy, productive, and happy life. Through experience I’ve come to realize that notion is directly linked to the likelihood of achieving success as well, for while aspiring to astonishing feats is certainly admirable in and of itself, along with it comes high risk of failure, and failure can be debilitating. The stars, after all, are a long, long way away, and shooting for them is too often little more than a fool’s errand. Conversely, striving for realistic objectives not only increases your chances of achieving success, it’s a catalyst for future successes because achieving one success is the best motivation for setting your sights on another.

Of course, that’s not to say that we should aim for mediocrity either. If anything’s more rewarding than achieving a goal you’ve set for yourself, it’s surpassing that goal. I’ve found that therein lies the best path to catching one of those elusive stars: set high but realistic expectations, then strive to exceed those expectations.

As with most guiding principles, setting yourself up for success by setting realistic goals is a personal practice that translates well to professional practices as well. Managing a trade show program is no exception. If you manage your company’s experiential marketing, clearly defining the company’s goals for exhibiting at trade shows and events is the first step in any well-executed, successful program. This entails research and assessment.

The question may seem obvious, but you’d be surprised how often the question of “Why are we exhibiting?” goes unaddressed or simply isn’t considered at all. If you don’t know why you’re at a trade show, then it follows that you won’t be able to assess the return on investment in your post show analysis. The reasons behind exhibiting at a trade show or event are myriad and include increasing brand awareness, keeping an eye on your competitors, selling your product directly to the public, developing sales leads, reinforcing bonds with existing partners and forging new ones, or any combination of the above.

And just as the rationales behind the decision to participate in a trade show or event vary greatly, so too varies the functions of the trade shows and events your company may consider exhibiting at. For instance, some shows and events aren’t open to the public at all so a goal that involves selling to the public is obviously not a reasonable expectation for such an event. Make sure the show or event you’re considering suits your needs.

Another key to managing expectations is looking into how well-attended the show is and who attends it. If yours is a business to business model, a show teeming with a public looking for free samples may not be worth your time. Conversely, an industry-only show won’t increase your brand awareness with the public. Ask past exhibitors about their experience– there’s nothing like hearing it from the horse’s mouth– or better yet, if time allows, walk the show as an attendee before committing to the show’s next cycle. You’ll know if the show is right for you the second you walk through the door.

Then there’s the X factor. Some of the reasons your company may exhibit are unquantifiable, such as connecting with existing clients and partners. Face-to-face time is generally considered invaluable in just about every industry, but you just can’t put a dollar amount on something like rapport, even though that’s often exactly what keeps a client in-house or lands a new one down the line. So it’s important to understand and clarify this consideration internally well in advance of show time. Ensure all the decision makers are comfortable investing in the intangible.

Once the research is done and the situation assessed, you’re armed with the knowledge needed to set realistic experiential marketing goals for you and your company. The next step is the execution and implementation of the exhibit itself. The importance of a killer exhibit can’t be underestimated, especially since it’s one of the key components that facilitate attaining the goals you’ve just set for your program. Developing an exhibit can seem daunting at first, but fear not, we’ll dive deeper into what that process looks like in our next newsletter. In the meantime, you might be interested in our new guidebook, a whitepaper chock-full of helpful hints for managing an experiential marketing program.

Nationwide 360 is a one-stop shop for comprehensive trade show solutions; these range from designing and crafting unique custom exhibits to providing trade show services. To learn more, give us a call today at 631-467-2034.

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