Developing SMART Objectives for Exhibiting at European Trade Shows
When discussing the pro’s and con’s in the business rational of exhibiting at a trade show abroad, the answers are – mainly depending on individual corporate tradition – often oddly formulaic. It’s either – we never do trade shows abroad, too expensive, too complicated, not interesting enough for us. Or the opposite – we always go to show XYZ, all our competitors are there, we’re expected to be.
Neither one is the best approach. For deciding if and where to participate at a European, and thus often international, trade show the same analytical tools should be applied as to any other business decision.
First of all: How would this fit into your overall business strategy? Start with defining the strategic goals your business wants to reach by attending a European trade show.
That could be entering a new market, expanding your distribution base on the EU market, finding new customers, or simply selling a new product line or service on a large market.
Next to those classic ROI driven goals pertaining to the “success in numbers” business strategy do not overlook that an exhibit at a European trade show can be an excellent way of reaching goals in specific business departments – be it:
Marketing: like establishing, penetrating or re-vamping a brand image
Human Relations: an outstanding opportunity for team building, checking leadership or international potential in your team – but also recruiting qualified and interesting new employees
Communications: transmitting your message unfiltered with immediate feed-back, deepening relations with partners and customers by establishing trust through face-to-face
communication, improving media presence on target markets
By defining your goals – Which market do you want to enter? Who are the customers you want to address? Where does brand image need a boost? – you can already pre-select which trade shows in Europe are relevant for you.
SMART Objectives for Trade Shows
Based on that pre-selection, set out to determine the SMART objectives for your European trade show exhibit in all fields in which you want to achieve them. This is when exact planning starts, when figures, numbers and dates come into play:
S = Specific
Enumerate exactly what you want to achieve by attending the trade show. Opt for detailed action: Gain new distributors. Increase our sales to B2B-customers in European markets, N, A and F. Introduce altered brand image to European customers.
Verbs for precise operation are required here!
M = Measurable
Make sure you have an exact dimension in which you can measure your success. With sales that is relatively easy – you can count the number of contracts or new distributors afterwards. Your finance department might well set this objective for you – like x-number of sales to cover the cost of exhibiting. Not always popular, but a good ratio for planning precisely like how many visits need to be scheduled to close a deal. With more abstract goals and objectives it will be more difficult – like how do you measure whether a visitor has registered a new brand image? Quantifying such effects requires exact definition beforehand – and preparing a monitoring system for during and after the trade show.
A = Attainable
Trying to assess attainability from a distance and for the different context of a European trade show, this might not be quite as easy. Every trade show organizer publishes its “success data” online – but often these need some verification and double-checking as to what exactly is measured. Who attends, for how long and which decision making competencies do they have? Is it a “closed shop” show only for people from the industry – or is it open to the general public (at least part time).
Next to the information provided by the trade show, you can check with partners who have attended, media reports which often reflect the atmosphere and audience, or with the trade show industry’s information data bases.
R = Relevant
The second chance to double-check whether you are looking at the right trade show for your business goals and objectives. Do your defined objectives match the theme, exhibitor pool, audience and schedule/information program of the trade show?
Is it more a sales or an educational show? More B2B or end consumer oriented? Only for a certain region in Europe or with even world-wide appeal?
After comparing notes on all these aspects you can tell whether this is the right European trade show for your company – or if it would be better to check other options.
T = Time oriented/sensitive
Objectives for trade show exhibits need to be sub-divided according to phases:
First of all, what needs to be done immediately and before the show. Apart from the actual preparation of the exhibit this pertains to laying the groundwork for achieving your objectives at the show itself. Like advertising, mailings to potential customers, special LinkedIn campaigns, follow-up on ensuring attendance of key clients, etc. But also training your staff for the exhibition, etc.
Then there are the objectives you want to reach at the or in timely connection to the show itself – like number of valuable leads or sales contracts, etc.
And then there are those longer term – to potentially indefinite – objectives matter: Like surveying penetrating of new brand-image for example 3 months later with visitors. Or asking partners before the next trade show exhibit is planned on how they remember your last one and what they would suggest.