When building a strategic action plan for your trade show or event there are three questions that you need to ask:

1) Why are we going?
2) Who is our target audience?
3) How will we measure success?

With regard to question number 1, “Why are we going?” Don’t try to answer this one yourself, build a team if possible with representatives from both sales and marketing and don’t let them off the hook with simple answers like, “to get leads” or “for brand awareness”, or “to demonstrate a new product” Dig a little deeper –

•  How many qualified leads do we need to get for us to consider this successful? (Also ask them what makes a qualified lead)
•  If we get x number of qualified leads, what will be our potential ROI? (How many of the qualified leads that we bring back does the sales team think they can turn into sales? How much is an average sale?)
•  What do we want to find out about how our brand is being perceived?
•  What do we want the audience to know or to do when they see a demo of the new  product?

After you get the answer to the base question of what your goals are, be sure to ask why they are important so that you build strategies around relevant and meaningful objectives.

Once you’ve thoroughly answered question one, go on to the next question, “Who is our target audience?” Again, you want to make sure that you don’t let your team off with easy answers to this question (i.e. blanket answers like, doctors, electricians, mechanics, etc.) You might find, if you drill down that your sales team is targeting companies of a certain size (by number of employees or income), or in a specific region of the country or international, or companies that specialize in a particular procedure that your newest product addresses. This doesn’t mean that you won’t talk to others who come by your booth and possibly even get some good leads that fall outside of your defined target. But drilling down and creating a more defined target profile for a specific show helps you focus your strategies and bring back leads that are more likely to be followed up on quickly because they align with overall objectives.

Finally, answer question number three, “How will we measure success?” I’ll tell you right now, that if you haven’t answered the first two questions it’s hard to measure anything pertinent. So, if for example, you’ve answered questions one and two and have determined that one of your goals is to demonstrate a new product or service to 50 of your target audience (Question 1- What’s our goal) and, you’ve determined that you’re target audience is marketing managers (or higher) of companies with an annual revenue of 50M- 100M that specialize in xyz (Question 2 –who are we targeting) then you know that you’ll measure success by seeing how many of your target audience you get to the booth for a demonstration of your new product and whether you’ve “moved the needle” on where they are in the sales cycle. Not only can you measure the success of the tactics that you use to attract your target audience to the booth, but you can survey attendees to find out if they are indeed your target audience and if they are more inclined to visit the website, get more information, consider your product, or want a rep to contact them as a result of seeing the demo.

When you gather this kind of measurement and information you’ll be able to see if you’ve been successful at your stated goals, and/or what you might need to tweak, change or drop for future success. Just remember, you need to ask and answer all three questions (Why are we going? Who are we targeting? And, How will we measure success?) to build a more strategic action plan that will help you demonstrate the value of your program.

Susan BrauerAbout Susan Brauer
Susan, CME, is the President of Brauer Consulting Group (brauerconsulting.com) Susan has more than 20 years of experience in the trade show and events industry and works with organizations to help them set strategic, quantifiable objectives, promote and strengthen key corporate messages and demonstrate ROI for their face-to-face marketing programs.