Budgeting and planning is a continuous process, but it’s only part of the equation. One of the most important trade show best practices is getting feedback; after each show, you should do all of the following: solicit feedback from participants and key stakeholders, review the differences between expected performance and actual performance, and calibrate your models based on the changes you’ve made.
Best Practice #1: Soliciting Feedback
At a minimum level, you can solicit feedback using communication tools like Slack or setting up an internal survey. These methods however, don’t allow for a true discussion to occur, so we recommend having in-person or video conference meeting post-show. This is especially important if a core reason for show participation was not sales-based (e.g. your business development person felt the show was critical to attend although from a sales perspective the case was not very strong). This also the time to look for ways to improve for future periods – how might you reach more attendees? Should our materials change to resonate with this particular audience?
Best Practice #2: Tracking Performance
Tracking actual performance is tricky – partly because the sales process is almost never fully linear. How much value should you place on interaction at a trade show with someone who was already a lead? Would they have converted without talking to you at a show? Even in the world of digital marketing, where tracking is pervasive, there are ongoing debates about first-click vs. last-click attribution, and all the models in-between. As any marketer can (and should) tell you is that the “right” attribution model is the one that your company can agree to.
Getting stuck debating attribution models doesn’t help anyone, so we recommend starting as simply as possible – attribute as much as you can to the event even if it means that you run the risk of double-attribution. That is, if a website lead visited your trade show booth or talked to a salesperson at a show, attribute the eventual sale to both the website (or whatever channel brought them there) AND the trade show. While this may not be valid for revenue-modeling purposes (in which case choose one source of attribution), this is the clearest way of determining which shows actually drive value – even if it is not completely clear how much value they added.
If you insist on making more complicated models, run a sensitivity analysis or compare performance over time. Chances are, you won’t have enough data to make a meaningful analysis, so use simple formulas to avoid a false positive (believing a show does not work because your models discount the projected value).
If you are using a CRM (and you probably should), you will need to upload the leads gathered at the show to a campaign (this is how it works in Salesforce) that can track a cohort of leads to their eventual sales. We recommend allowing some time to pass after the show before pulling the final show numbers. This time should be equivalent to a little more than your average sales cycle to give those new sales an opportunity to close.
Best Practice #3: Updating the Model
Finally, we recommend continuing to refine your models based on the costs that you incur, and the results you see from the events you participate in. By getting ahead of budgeting, planning, and feedback post-show you’ll be well on your way to creating your own trade show best practices for your organization.
This article is part of our ebook “Building a Better Trade Show”. Download our free ebook today.