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editorial




 
e have all heard the phrase, "Everything is relative." That maxim holds true, even in the world of exhibits and events. In most cases, your post-show success is relative to your pre-show expectations.

So setting accurate and realistically attainable expectations is crucial, especially when attendance at many shows still lags below 2007 figures and every penny spent is as scrutinized as Bernie Madoff's ledger.

Unfortunately, too many exhibitors arbitrarily set their programs' objectives, or simply forget to recalibrate their goals to reflect the reality of today's economy and its impact on their respective industry sectors. But arbitrarily setting objectives, or simply cutting and pasting your objectives from the previous year's show, is akin to thinking you can continue a lavish lifestyle unchanged following a 15-percent salary cut.

The problem is, if you establish objectives without regard for fluctuations in attendance or your company's investment at a show, you are setting yourself up for failure. Even if you return home with a bounty of actionable leads, your efforts are still likely to be dubbed unsuccessful if you don't manage to obtain that 10-percent increase you were shooting for. And with budgets - not to mention head counts - potentially on the chopping block, you can't afford to have your program portrayed as a cost center that under delivers.

So when setting your goals for a show, consider any fluctuation in projected attendance figures and any variations with regard to your presence at that show. Are you decreasing your booth space? Cutting back on pre-show marketing? Opting out of a sponsorship? Any cutbacks could easily impact your returns.

Then, take into consideration the state of your industry sector. Do your buyers still have money to spend? Or are they walking the aisles without any intent to purchase? Your program can be, by all accounts, an impressive marketing machine. But if buyers aren't buying, your ROI is unlikely to reflect your Herculean efforts.

Once you've adjusted your objectives, manage internal stakeholders' expectations by informing them of your goals and your rationale behind them (especially if you plan to set the bar significantly lower than years past). Help them see that your expectations are evolving based on attendance, your budget, and your buyers - and that it's not an attempt to set the bar lower for your team.

You may also want to define your break-even point and communicate that to management. Your break-even point is the point at which your program pays for itself, and it can be determined any number of ways. The easiest way is to determine your company's average cost per lead across all marketing channels. Then, divide your total-show investment by that average, and the resulting figure represents the number of leads you need to collect in order to break even. Communicating your break-even point and your more aspirational objectives helps to illustrate that even if you fall short of those sky-high goals, your exhibit program is still likely pulling its weight.

Finally, communicate your objectives to your staffers, and keep them posted throughout the show on your progress. Just as a tie score can motivate a team to give it their all in the final seconds of the game, knowing you're 100 leads away from your break-even point on the show's closing day can motivate staffers to kick it into high gear and focus their waning energy on making your booth a success.

Everything may be relative, but if you're not relatively realistic when setting your objectives, you can expect to fail. So proactively establish the ruler by which success or failure is measured, and make sure everyone involved in your exhibit-marketing program knows what to expect.e

Travis Stanton, editor;
tstanton@exhibitormagazine.com

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