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Accuracy Before Momentum — Plan Your Trade Shows Before They Run You Over

Peter Johnson, a California-based marketing guru, once lead off a workshop at the American Society of Training and Development with the pronouncement, “Accuracy before momentum will save many a marketing program.”  I have often thought of his program and how true his advice was for not only general marketers, but exhibit marketers as well.

We often go from show to show to show.  I talked with an exhibit manager who told me she had 130 trade shows this year.  That’s 2.5 shows per week to plan and see that it is executed effectively.  She can’t be at every show so she has to delegate the work.  How can she do anything but go from show to show?  Where’s the thinking time?  We are all falling into the “ready, fire, aim” syndrome.   We get caught up in the “I don’t have time to plan, only to do.”  When this happens we forsake accuracy for momentum.

Exhibit professionals are hit from every side – sales, marketing, technology and management.  They read about a new show and want to be there without considering these very important questions.  Accuracy before Momentum:

  1. Why are we going to this show?  What do we want to achieve by exhibiting?
  2. Who is our target audience at this show and will they be there?
  3. What messages do we want this audience to receive and how are we going to deliver them?
  4. What do we want as our measure of success when the show is over?

If we can answer these questions, then we are beginning the exhibit planning process with accuracy.  If we don’t take the time to look at these issues up front, we are only going for momentum.

The next step in creating an accurate environment is to conduct an exhibit market-planning workshop that is attended by a cross-section of the organization’s functions.  That way sales, marketing (advertising and pr), technology and management are buying-in from the outset rather than second-guessing the momentum when it is too late to change.  The best outcome of an exhibit marketing planning workshop is to assure that there are objectives for the event that are linked directly to the organization’s marketing mission.

These objectives then can be the foundation for your measures of success.  If you are exhibiting to generate leads for sales, then you will want to calculate your cost per lead.  If you are going to increase awareness of your brand, then you will want to measure the cost per visitor reached.  For each objective, your planning will allow you to generate a measure whether it is return on investment (sales) or return on objectives.

The advantage of accuracy before momentum is that you have a guide against which you can execute the exhibit plan.  One of the factors of 21st century life is that your environment will change.  It is not if, but when will it change and what will be the impact.  If you have planned for accuracy then you can regularly check your progress against your plan and if there is an environment or organizational change you can assess its impact and make the appropriate plan changes as you change courses.

Choosing Exhibit Staffers

Too often we have a staff that is at the show as a result of their being available or in the right location to be drafted for services.  But when accuracy precedes momentum, then staff is chosen for their skills in the unique exhibition environment, rather than their location or availability.

Planning Demos

We also find ourselves too often gaining incredible momentum before accuracy when we have demonstrations to reinforce the application and benefits of our products.  When we assume that the personnel can demo because they are technically competent, then we are in the “ready, fire, aim” mentality.  Demonstrations are successful when the demonstrator considers the audience, knowing to whom they are speaking and what needs they want to be addressed.  The demonstrator understands how their product can be presented to address the visitor’s needs and what the BIG IDEA is they want the visitor to remember when they leave the trade show exhibit.  This does not occur if we select demonstrators and only tell them what their timeslot is to work the exhibit.  Accuracy means planning, preparing and practicing the demo before the first visitor sets foot in the exhibit.

Picking Giveaways

The last area that is impacted by gaining too much momentum before achieving accuracy is the use of promotional products.  When we don’t consider the uses of this tool, we find ourselves just perusing catalogs and finding nice and nifty giveaways.  You want to identify why you are going before choosing a promotional product.  Is it to communicate or reinforce a message or reward a visitor for participating in a demo or recognize them for coming to visit you?  If you don’t need a tool to do any of these functions, then save your money.  If you have come to this conclusion, then you have practiced accuracy before gaining momentum.  If you have a nice and nifty item, we hope it gets home because the majority of those that are not useful and functional, taken and not given and are not judged as having a high perceived value are thrown away or left in hotel rooms for the housekeeper.

Accuracy before momentum is not just a slick phrase. It means that if your are going to rise above the competition, you need to think through and plan your event, not just show up and hope for the best.

Get more winning insights in the Successful Exhibiting Strategies for Uncertain Times White Paper.  This 16-page report outlines 16 proven strategies for going beyond just surviving to thriving at trade shows.

About the Author

Marc Goldberg, CME, Partner and Founder of Marketech Inc., brings over 35 years of cross functional marketing and management experience to his trade show seminars, conferences and measurement activities. Marc conducts programs at Exhibitor Show, TSEA’s TS2, Exhibit Marketing Institute and the Event Measurement Conference. Marc received his CME certification in 1999, from TSEA.

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