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“Before You Hit The Venue” – Chapter 4 – Getting Your Exhibition Objectives Clear

Stephan Murtagh, the Exhibition Guy in his book titled Before You Hit The Venue gives insights on all aspects of Exhibiting in an Exhibition.

The book will be published in TFT in a series for the benefit of its reader. Enjoy and do write back to us with your feedback.


Chapter 4 

Getting Your Exhibition Objectives Clear

One of the biggest mistakes companies make when doing an exhibition is to go there without a plan or real objectives. This is akin to going to war without a plan. Armies that do that get obliterated and in the same vein going to an exhibition without a clear plan or objectives is really living in hope it will work. The downside to this is that you can’t work out your ROI or ROO (Objectives) if you don’t know what they are. The objectives can take many formats but knowing what they are is the first step. Very often people say we are going there to make lots of or the most sales…. great but how many is lots?  When you are doing your projections for the business year you don’ t put in a vague sales number…. you put in a real number so everyone knows what to aim for. Maybe you have certain KPIs in your business. Why are Exhibitions not the same? As mentioned at the beginning of this book you can have many objectives, and all can be measurable and should be…. So, consider the list below as a target objective for your next show…

  • How many existing clients do we want to meet?
  • How many new prospects do we want to engage with?
  • How many actual leads do we need per day…per rep?
  • What 3 key feedback issues do we need to get from visitors about product XYZ?
  • How many appointments do we need to make for the first week after the show?
  • Do we want to meet potential new distributors and if so how many?
  • Can we use this as a recruitment drive and if so how many interviews do we need to set up?

I published an article some time ago on LinkedIn about this very issue and it seemed to resonate with people, so I will replicate it below to show you what I mean…

ROI is a good acquaintance but ROO is your friend
LinkedIn – Stephan Murtagh

The whole concept of ROI in Exhibitions has been really overplayed and I believe the term is fundamentally flawed because it focuses purely on sales made from shows when there is so much more to it than that…. enter stage left…ROO – Return on Objectives!

Yes, I totally agree that monitoring the return on investment from doing an exhibition is difficult and very often this is one of the reasons why shows are dismissed as a waste of time. I get that, but I also get that there are numerous ways to evaluate success and not purely on the number of leads you get. In reality it takes some time after the event is over to really make a true and realistic evaluation and just because it’s not immediately seen as a success doesn’t mean it isn’t. I would also say the converse can be true also where a company gets lots of leads, but these don’t turn into real business. I just wanted to highlight a few things that may let you look at Exhibitions in a different way and change the perception of ROI which will offer you ROO as a better yardstick of success.

Yes, I appreciate solid sales are one of the key markers, but they are not the only ones and to dismiss the others is to dismiss future business possibilities but also changes you can make in your own business for future profitability. Exhibitions for example are one of the only marketing channels where you can get first hand marketing research with a quantity of people in one place at one time on why people DON’T buy your product…this may seem like a strange one but this information arms you with how you can develop your product to where they WILL buy it. You simply don’t get this from magazines, Articles, or other forms of promotion.

Back to the focus of this article…. let’s consider ROI…what return are you looking for and what can an exhibition provide…these have a value and whilst it may not be an immediate value, it is most certainly future value. Your business is not solely about today but rather a pipeline for the future also.

So, take a fictitious company YSC Ltd – Furniture Manufacturer selling a new range of High end domestic units, there ROI could look something like this…

ROI – Actual sales – Sell 15 units (5 per day).
ROO – Got 15 new clients who will buy again
ROI – Post show appointments (3 real appointments per day per rep – 4 reps = 12 appts)
ROO – Time saving for reps trying to get appointments on the phone
ROI – Qualified leads (6 per Day per rep – 3 of which end up with business) 
ROO – Quality leads saves time
ROI – Meeting with current customers (Target meeting 10 existing customers for a non-sales chat)
ROO – Increased our Company profile & re-assured our current clients
ROI –  Meeting with new customers (Target to meet total of 25 new customers)
ROO – Increased our profile directly
ROI – Amount of time saving (Reps time in office getting the above!)
ROO – More time for other projects
ROI – Sourcing/meeting new distributors (Met 3 possible distributors – 2 No – 1 Very exciting)
ROO – Built a longer-term relationship
ROI – Hiring new team members (Met 4 people looking for jobs – 3 not a fit – 1 strong fit)
ROO – Potential saving on recruitment agency fee
ROI – Conducting Marketing Research (Got strong feedback that clients wanted a version in blue)         
ROO – Got immediate feedback positive & negative

The real point here is that the ROI of any Exhibition can be judged on many other things rather than cold hard sales. There are many facets and advantages to exhibiting over traditional promotions and ROI is not solely about money but also the return you get from having more time…more time to develop other facets and parts of your business.

Exhibitions are the only marketing channel that offer these in one time in one place with buyers who are interested in that market sector and to focus the sole success on ROI just omits all the other objectives and possibilities of what exhibiting can do for your business. So next time you are looking at ROI, maybe adopt the ROO model and let it expand on what you really can and really have achieved.

ROI is good and has been your friend…. Maybe it’s time to meet your best mate!

In speaking to companies who have done shows over many years, the ones who do the best and return, are the ones that set out with the objective of doing the show with an objective! Don’t fall into the trap that it will all just come together…. if you have a real plan you will get real results.

Write down the 5 Objectives you want to achieve at your next exhibition…. Be specific!