Updating Your Goals For Your 2014 Trade Show Displays

Unlike a lot of blogs, we didn’t bother with a “new years resolutions” post because we all know those resolutions just get broken. However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be forming new goals for your trade show displays in 2014!vburst-flat-backlit-3x3

The trade show industry is always changing, and it’s necessary to have goals in mind which adapt to the current market if you want to keep having successful exposition appearances. This doesn’t mean you throw away your old metrics, but you should be updating them as time goes on.

So today, let’s talk metrics and benchmarks. What sort of indicators should you be focusing on in 2014?

Rethinking The Goals For Your 2014 Trade Show Displays

1 – Quantity, or Quality?

For many years, one of the stalwart proofs of a successful trade show display was the number of visitors served, or business cards harvested. It’s easy to see why, since it’s a simple way of demonstrating whether you reached more people with this show than you did in the one before.

However, raw visitorship is becoming a much less-important statistic to track. Ultimately, a relative handful of well-qualified leads is more likely to lead to sales than a bucket full of business cards from random passers-by. Too many uninterested, low-quality leads simply waste a sales team’s time.

Further (and more on this in a moment) the ability to put your trade show display online, with interactive features and Internet webcasts, means someone may not even need to visit in person at all to become a qualified lead.

Obviously, we’re not saying to ignore visitor statistics entirely, but the proof is in the pudding. Approaches that garner the most sales generally bring a better ROI than strategies (like raffles) aimed solely at creating foot traffic.

2 – Where In The Funnel Are You?

The concept of the lead-generation “funnel” is well-known in business today, but have you stopped to ponder where your expo displays fit into the funnel?

There’s really no “right answer” here. For some, their trade show displays are intended to booth awareness and outreach, a top-of-the-funnel approach. For others, the trade show is there to network one-on-one and close deals, putting it at the bottom of the funnel.

Whichever it is for your strategies, that should have a serious impact on the goals you set. Think realistically about the effects you’re looking for from your booth. If you’re measuring sales, the number of people taking literature doesn’t matter. If you’re doing outreach, the effectiveness of your trade show booth should be measured in terms of how many people it inspires to move further into the funnel, even they ultimately don’t convert.

3 – Increase Your Social Outreach

We’re willing to say this one flat-out: Whatever your online social engagement numbers were last year, they should be higher this year. Preferably much higher.

The extent to which social media is influencing how people research and purchase products really cannot be overstated. In fact, it’s likely that even current surveys may be underestimating the effect on people, since the influence of social media seems to be growing faster than statisticians can keep up with.

From networking with potential clients on LinkedIn, to using Twitter in recruiting bloggers to talk about your new products, social media has too many great promotional uses to ignore – and it’s effectively free, to boot.

We’d suggest targeting a 50% increase in social engagement, but the sky really is the limit here.

4 – Bring In More Online Visitors

There are a multitude of ways you can take your trade show display online:

  • Full pictures, 360-degree panoramas, or videos of your exposition booth.
  • the-blade-media-kioskDownloadable digital copies of your in-booth promotional literature.
  • Live simul-casts of presentations you give.
  • Ongoing hosted chat rooms or videoconferencing for discussion.
  • Android or iOS apps which recreate the in-booth experience.
  • Liveblogging or livetweeting about the event as a whole.
  • Encouraging visitors to post their own experiences online.

And that’s just the start. While a few of these options – like custom mobile app development – can end up costing substantial money, most can be accomplished with little or no extra expenditure, by using free services online.

Accumulating online “visitors” may even be more effective than gathering in-person leads. Online leads cost less per person, and require less facetime to establish. Further, website elements like effective landing pages can filter out serious leads from random visitors, decreasing the burden on your sales team.

If you aren’t tracking your online numbers, 2014 is the right time to start. If you’re already doing so, like social media, this should be a focus for your 2014 goals.

5 – Track Individual Staff Performance

This is a little more controversial, and it might not be something you’d want to bring up with your staff directly to prevent harmful competitions from cropping up. None the less, when you’re looking to get the most returns on a trade show display, bringing the best staff is an important consideration.

Your staff should be pulling their own weight, and those who engage fewer visitors and/or generate fewer leads probably should be left behind next time.

You may even want to consider hiring temporary booth staff. While the benefits and drawbacks are a bit complex, as we discussed in a previous blog, professional event staff often have the relevant experience necessary to create more and better visitor interactions.

Either way, your trade show goals should include goals for each staff member at the booth as well. While it’s nice to act like a trade show display is one big team effort, at the end of the day, your statistics should be more granular than that if you’re going to optimize for success.

6 – Use More Visitor Satisfaction Numbers

Finally, we should mention the growing trend in business everywhere to put increased focus on customer response and satisfaction. While it’s a somewhat subjective measurement, you may still have no better way of gauging how people actually felt about your booth and related activities.

Personally, we’re bigger fans of using post-show surveys, such as though email, than trying to quiz people while they’re standing in your booth. However you do it, though, you should be integrating visitor satisfaction in your overall metrics while looking to increase it.

For more detailed (if perhaps more humbling) feedback, try using free social media tracking services during the exposition, like Hootsuite, to see what people are saying about you when they think you’re not watching. Going back to what we said about social engagement, this is also great for finding conversations you can join into.

Better Metrics Leverage Your Trade Show Displays

Ultimately, your future trade show planning will only be as good as the research you’re basing your decision on. If it’s been a few years since you’ve thought about how you’re tracking the success of your expo booths, pull out your numbers and see which ones are still relevant.

Adapting your goals to meet changing conditions in the trade show arena is the first step towards improving your booth ROI in 2014.


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