Why Are You Exhibiting?

Monday, February 19, 2018

Formulating your exhibiting goals and objectives to achieve results

By Candy Adams, CTSM|CEM|CMP|CMM
a.k.a. “The Booth Mom®
Trade Show Consulting


When I’m asked what the biggest mistake I see exhibitors make at trade shows, the answer is a no-brainer. For years, I’ve started every conversation with a new client with the same question:

“Pretend the show’s over. What happened? Did you get the results you wanted?”

I find out quickly what an exhibitor’s priorities are – or if they haven’t really given much thought to what specific results they want from their exhibit. At this point, they often have an epiphany: that although they know they’re not ecstatic with past shows’ outcomes, they hadn’t really pinpointed why. And this revelation can make the difference between a wise strategic investment and a large, wasted one-time expense.

To paraphrase Ben Franklin, “Exhibitors who fail to plan are planning to fail.” A successful exhibit starts with a strategic plan and a clear vision of the desired outcome.

So Why Exhibit?

The 10 most common reasons companies give for exhibiting are to:

  1.  Generate and gather qualified sales leads (a.k.a. “sales inquiries”) or sell their products or services. By customizing your qualifying questions and taking good notes on your conversations with prospects, you’re ready for productive post-show followup.
  1.  Promote new products. The word “new” is the most powerful word – and an attendee magnet – on the show floor since about ¾ of all attendees visit exhibits to keep current on industry products, services and trends.
  1.  Enhance corporate image (brand) and corporate message (awareness). Trade shows are a great place to establish your company as an industry leader, get the word out on what you have to offer, and share what sets you apart from your competitors. Your key message should be brief, compelling, and showcase the benefits (not features) of your product/service.
  1.  Educate your audience regarding your products and/or services. This can be done with in-booth activities like corporate theater presentations, demonstrations, or experiential activities that will increase your message’s memorability.
  1.  Cement existing client relationships with current customers and industry partners. Meetings with customers can create an opportunity to share your latest and greatest products and increase customer loyalty and retention, not to mention boosting incremental and repeat sales.
  2.  Conduct business meetings with high-profile attendees/prospects you can’t otherwise reach in the field. These get-togethers don’t have to be held in your booth during show hours; schedule 1-on-1 meetings before or after hours when you don’t have to rush.
  3.  Obtain press/media coverage that extends the show’s reach after the show’s over. It can also be used to establish credibility with prospects who didn’t attend the show.
  4.  Identify and recruit new distributors/dealers/representatives/employees. Don’t miss the opportunity to make contact where your industry’s distribution channel is all in one place. And some exhibitors provide their HR Department with space in their booth for recruiting activities.
  5.  Perform competitive and market research. Where else will your staff be able to find all your competitors in one place and evaluate their new offerings? Or if you want feedback on current products or future customer needs, use your exhibit for videotaping current-customer testimonials or holding mini focus groups.
  1. Attend educational conference sessions. This gives your staff the opportunity to stay current and meet prospects in sessions on topics that matter most to them.

Any of these 10 can be fine-tuned to help to reach your corporate marketing and sales goals, but to stay focused, most exhibitors hone this list down to their top 3 or 4 exhibiting goals and prioritize them.

Set Objectives, Budget and Implement

Next, quantify your written goals into more specific objectives. This includes determining how you’ll measure success and putting timeframes on those objectives that are time-sensitive. For example, if you set the goal of “Improve awareness in our target market” as your #1 reason for exhibiting, the objective for this goal could be “To promote our key message to our target audience of 200 CEOs before, during and after the show via integrated social media and email campaigns to reach each prospect a minimum of 4 times, from a month before the show to a month after the show.” After you’ve determined your show-specific objectives and drafted an implementation plan, allocate budget dollars to be spent meeting your top objectives.

Write it down!

All prioritized strategic goals, measurable objectives, tactics timeline, and budget that will support implementation should be put in writing and shared with your staff to gain their support and commitment.

Like the old saying goes, “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there.” But it won’t get you positive trade show ROI!

Need more information?
Candy Adams, CTSM | CEM | CMP | CMM
a.k.a. "The Booth Mom®"
Trade Show Consulting
938 Juniper Lane
Vista, CA 92081



About the Author

Candy Adams

Candy is a freelance hands-on exhibit project manager and consultant, exhibit staff and exhibit management trainer, dynamic speaker, and award-winning columnist for EXHIBITOR magazine. Reach her at CandyAdams@BoothMom.com or www.BoothMom.com/contact