Two groups stare at the same half-filled glass of water and reach different conclusions. It’s always been that way as the optimists and pessimists wage their war of opinions. But lately, I have to admit, in the current world of exhibitions, the pessimists seem to be winning.
All the major indicators point to a clear pessimist’s victory: reduction in net square feet of exhibit space, a decline in professional attendance, a decrease in the number of exhibiting organizations, fallen revenue, lower consumer spending, reductions in travel and the GDP has plummeted, The only two indicators that have increased are show cancellations and unemployment. It’s been so gloomy in the economy that even the die-hard optimists are having trouble keeping a straight face.
Has this new world fueled by the pessimists left any expectation for hope? The answer is yes. Even those die hard pessimists have to admit that there is still a future for exhibitions. It’s just that we may have to wait for a year or two and see where the dust settles.
So, what can we do in the mean time. Sitting on our hands and waiting won’t help. Recession or not, companies still have some basic needs: profit, brand, production and shareholder equity. We can’t improve on any of these by taking a back-seat approach to face to face marketing.
So, while we wait to see where the world of exhibitions will unfold, here are a few things to consider doing.
1. Use the time to re-think your approach – Is face to face marketing important to the health of your corporation?
Face-to-face is probably the number one benefit of exhibit marketing. While social networking sites have grown in importance, the question you need to ask is whether there is still a need to meet your clients and customers in person.
2. Is measurement important?
Forget for a moment your perceived difficulty in measuring your success. If you could measure, would it be of help? If the answer is yes then your next step is to learn the techniques that will enable you to create real, quantifiable measurements.
3. What level of commitment does your organization dedicate to your exhibit program?
There are three levels of resources that are needed from your organization: money, people and equipment. If in the past your exhibit program has felt like the poor marketing cousin in your overall marketing program, now is a good time to reassess the attitudes of senior management. To obtain a commitment to resources in these difficult times ensure you have Return on Investment (ROI) and Return on Objectives (ROO) calculations.
4. What have you learned from your exhibiting experiences?
If you are among those exhibit managers who do not conduct a post-show evaluation then you are at a distinct disadvantage. An evaluation of your efforts goes beyond the number of leads collected or the number of people who came to your booth. What you should do is to think of all the information that would be helpful to you to be able to determine what is working and what is not in your program. With this information you will be in a strong position to make the correct recommendations for the future. Some of the things to consider measuring are: high-value leads collected, quality booth visitors, traffic patterns of the show, your sales cycle, success ratios, the use of sales tools such as lead retrieval systems and the time spent with high value visitors. The more you collect the stronger your ability to strengthen your program.
5. What do you plan to change in the future – once money loosens up?
The recession won’t last forever and the optimists will once again take charge. While you have the luxury of breathing space its time to go through your exhibit budget line by line to make sure you are getting the best bang for your buck. With a critical eye and a skeptical attitude you will be amazed at what you can uncover.
So pessimists your job is simple. Rather than throwing cold water on your exhibit program take the time to give it a serious make-over. Today the pessimists are the winners; tomorrow the optimists are ready to stage a healthy return.
By John Benson