With each New Year, Marketing Departments create and evaluate their annual budget. For many companies, trade shows are a significant expense, so it’s not uncommon for the CFO to ask, “Why are we participating in Show XYZ?” It’s a valid question and one that should be asked every year. If you’re dotting all your “i’s” and crossing all your “t’s” regarding expense control, planning, post-show follow-up, and measurement, this is an easy question to answer. You have the metrics.
However, many companies don’t know how to measure trade show ROI. Or don’t bother. But that’s a much longer discussion. There is an easier way to decide whether to exhibit, attend, or ignore Show XYZ. Arguably, it’s qualitative rather than quantitative, but if you can answer these, then you’ll know whether you shouldn’t be participating in that trade show.
Do your customers attend this show? That’s the most important reason. If they do, then you should be there in some capacity -- as an exhibitor, a hospitality suite, or a sponsored event. Your customers attend for any number of reasons, such as education, new products, visit colleagues, etc. When you are not there, it sends them a message. One you do not control.
Do your key suppliers participate in this show? They may be introducing new products or services which may be valuable to your company. Yes, you’ll hear about them eventually, but the delay may allow your competitors to get a jump on you. The truth is that supplier relationships, just like customer relationships, have a value that can’t be measured but always contributes to the bottom line. Like you, suppliers want their customers to visit them in their booth so they can talk about new products, opportunities, or any outstanding issues.
Some companies exhibit at a show simply because their main competitor(s) exhibits. It’s a reason, just not a great reason unless there’s a strategy behind it. Trade shows are an ideal place to evaluate your competitor’s product and marketing mix. How has it changed from the previous year? What segments are they targeting? Which are they ignoring? Don’t be shy about asking your customers and suppliers what they are hearing about your competitors. And don’t forget to attend the social events. They can be fertile ground for information about the competitive landscape.
There are lots of reasons to participate in trade shows. But in the end, it all comes down to three things: your customers, your suppliers, and your competitors. If you can justify those, then go! But do it right with a comprehensive trade show marketing plan, including key performance metrics. Still uncertain? Tap into an exhibit industry professional in your community.
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