Before you can build an exhibit that attracts leads or train your staff to solidify those leads, there’s one vital component to take care of: goal setting and planning. Don’t make the mistake of exhibiting just because your competitors are doing it. Instead, make plans based on specific goals, for the best chance at success.
Why Do Trade Show Goals Matter at All?
The most important reason to focus on goal-setting is that it improves your profitability. Attending trade shows means making big investments of both money and time. A clear set of measurable trade show objectives ensures you get the best return on your investments.
Having goals gives you a path to follow, so you can get the most out of exhibiting. As Malcolm Forbes once pointed out, “If you don’t know what you want to do, it’s harder to do it.” Without a clear and measurable goal, you’re drifting. You don’t know when you’ve achieved anything, so you don’t know what’s working and what isn’t. Without goals, you don’t know when to stop and try something new, or when to move on to the next step.
Another reason goals are so important is that without them, you don’t know what to focus on at the show. This can leave your team floundering, with no idea of what to do or how to prioritize. If you set specific goals for your team, they have built-in motivation and direction that helps them stay focused throughout the event.
Which Goals Are Important?
For trade shows and exhibitions, goals tend to focus on one or a combination of a few things:
- Lead generation
Each category breaks down into more specific goals. For instance,
- Awareness goals might include raising brand recognition or educating your audience.
- Networking goals include making new industry contacts, finding investors, or recruiting new staff.
- With lead generation, you might focus on finding new qualified leads or picking up new email subscribers.
Whatever your objectives are, they should be in sync with and support your corporate marketing plan. It’s good practice to start a round of goal-setting by consulting with your top management and marketing teams, to talk about the company’s aims for exhibiting. This way, you’ll make sure that your trade show plans integrate with overall marketing efforts.
Tips for Setting Trade Show Goals
All great exhibits start with a detailed plan and a list of well-defined goals. What makes goals “well-defined?” They should describe what you’re looking to get out of the show, what you’ll do to meet them, and how you’ll measure your success. Goals must also be realistic. Setting expectations is great, but if the bar is set so high that goals aren’t achievable, it’s stressful and demotivating instead of inspiring.
In other words, your goals should be:
In some cases, it’s hard to measure the results of your goals. It’s easy to see when you’ve increased your lead intake over last year or to add up the value of the new orders you got. It’s harder to quantify something like “brand awareness.” This happens over a longer time than just during a show. It’s also mixed in with whatever general branding and marketing campaigns you’re running. In this case, it can be more helpful to measure supportive targets, such as email address capture and other signs of visitor interest.
1. Don’t Spread Yourself Too Thin
Having a goal is good, but having multiple major goals isn’t always better. Setting too many major goals means you’re unlikely to have the time and resources to execute excellence on any of them. It’s better to stick with one; for instance, lead generation OR brand-building OR a product launch, rather than all three at once.
That doesn’t mean you can only do one thing at a show! It means you pick one or two things to focus on, putting most of your resources there. Some goals mesh well; product launches and brand awareness, for instance, go hand-in-hand. But, unless you have unlimited resources, it’s better to focus on one—or two—at the most.
2. Build on Past Success
It’s helpful if each new goal you set builds on a previous result. For instance, rather than aiming to increase new leads gained at a specific show, set a goal of increasing new leads by 15% or 20% more than at the same show last year. Adjust your goal to ensure it’s realistic. If 15% isn’t attainable in your industry, aim for a lesser increase, or to exceed last year’s total.
If you’re building up to your first show and don’t have previous numbers to build on, look at what others in your industry are doing to get an idea of how to start. Working with a professional trade show company will help too. Their experience and research will provide you with insights into the industry, so you can spend your time elsewhere. Then they’ll work with you to design a trade show exhibit that ties these insights and your goals into a neat bow.
3. Use Hard Numbers Whenever Possible
Goals work best when they’re well-defined, so it’s good to use hard numbers as much as you can. If you hope to attract new business, quantify the important parameters, such as the number of leads and the value of those leads
If possible, find out what expected attendance numbers are like. This can help you set more realistic goals.
Making specific goals is useful for another reason: It allows you to calculate the level of resources you’ll need to bring to the show. For instance, if lead generation is your goal, set a target number of leads you want to get. You can then plan what level of staffing and resources support you need to reach the target. This helps you avoid overspending and ensures your booth has all it needs to succeed.
Set Good Goals, Set Up a Great Booth, and Get Results!
You already know that a stellar trade show display can enhance your marketing efforts and provide measurable results. Now, start setting goals that help you focus your efforts where they’ll do the most good. Detailed, actionable, and realistic goals, with measurable results, ensure you get a great return on the investment you put into your trade show booth.