According to CEIR research, companies “spend” 40.3% of their annual marketing budget on exhibit/event marketing.

Unfortunately, for too many companies, it ends up as exactly that… a big expense.

While there should be no question that tradeshows are an extremely effective marketing, sales, and customer relationship management channel, in my 26 years as a Tradeshow Productivity Consultant, I ask every exhibiting company I come in contact with three questions:

  1. Why do you exhibit?
  2. How much do you spend?
  3. On a scale of 1 to 10, how satisfied are you with what you are getting for your spend?

Too often the answers to “why do you exhibit?” include things like: “we’ve exhibited at that show for years”, “we’re in the industry, so we’re expected to be there”, “what would the market or the competition think if we didn’t exhibit?” and other vague answers like; market presence, visibility and awareness, generate leads, introduce a new product, and so on.

As you can imagine, the amount spent runs the gamut. But amazingly, on the scale of satisfaction question, in 26 years, I’ve never had a company tell me higher than six. 

So this raises an interesting question,

Why aren’t companies getting more from the big investment of human and financial capital they make in tradeshows?

I believe it comes down to two simple things: Perspectives and Practices.

  1. PERSPECTIVES:  How a company answers the question “why do you exhibit?” reveals a lot about how they “see” tradeshows. Most of the answers above reveal what I call a “necessary evil” perspective. With a necessary evil perspective, companies will unconsciously approach the show with a “get through” the show, versus “get from” the show paradigm.
  2. PRACTICES:  The typical exhibitor spends 95% of their pre-show time on managing show logistics and operations. Things like; book the space, get the booth, the graphics, the products, ship it, set it up, tear it down, send it home, do all this on time and on budget. And while all this is necessary, the only thing guarantees is that you show up… It doesn’t guarantee you get anything from the big investment.

To ensure your exhibiting program does not end up as “expensive appearances” there are two very specific outcomes everybody on your exhibiting team must be aware of and focus attention and effort on.

  1. Making sure every dollar and every hour invested visibly and directly supports your company’s core business objectives.
  2. Delivering measurable financial value, beyond cost.

To achieve these two important outcomes, I’ve identified five strategic practices every exhibiting company must execute around. Over the next five articles, I will reveal and detail each of these five strategic practices.