Home & Dry
This is the final part in my mini-series of posts on the subject of successful trade show exhibiting and it's all about evaluation and follow-up.
There's always so much to think about in the lead up to a show, that sometimes businesses forget to think about how they'll decide whether the show has worked for them or not. You might not worry, you might believe that you'll just be able to tell by some strange sixth business sense if it was worth your trouble.
But there are better ways to be objective. If you started the process with targets, then once the show has finished, it's time to decide how many of those goals were reached. Now is the time to call all the people involved in setting up and running the show together and listen to their thoughts and opinions. Think about what worked well and what didn't. What did you see other people doing that would be a good idea for you in future? By taking the time to evaluate now, while everyone's thoughts are fresh, you'll capture a much better quality oi response than if you wait a few weeks.
If you were careful in recording details of all the visitors to your stand, now you'll be able to quantify the results. How much did the trade fair cost you per visit? If you have results from previous years, you'll be able to compare this event with others - all very useful information.
Immediately after the show, it's essential to follow-up all enquiries. There is nothing guaranteed to turn a potential customer off more than to delay your response, but you'd be surprised how many companies fall at this hurdle. I'm particularly disappointed by those businesses who plead 'being at the show' for their tardiness. Let's face it, when you're in business, you go that extra mile, so whenever possible, find a way to follow-up immediately, even if it's just a 'thank you for your interest, we're working on your request and we'll contact you very soon with full details' type response. If you're at a show that lasts for a few days, don't wait until the show is over before you make these follow-ups; either do it yourself on the day in your hotel room before dinner, or have someone in your team able to do it for you.
Keep a note of visitor numbers by the day so you will know how to staff the stand if you choose to do it again.
Once you have actually made all the follow-ups, do another round of evaluation. This time, work out how much new business you've generated from the show contacts. This is ultimately going to indicate the cost/benefit to your business. Is it worth it? Is it worth doing it again?
The exhaustion that follows a trade show can be almost overwhelming, especially the ones that last for three or more days and it is just so easy to push evaluation stages out of your mind, but please don't, please close the circle and make this final stage an integral part of your exhibition process.
Sometimes what you discover is that it has been a very expensive exercise that hasn't delivered what you wanted. If that's the case, it's much better to know that and have facts to support it, than to have a 'gut feel'. At least with a thorough evaluation, you'll have the basis for deciding what to do differently next time. Which ever way you look at it, it's the essential last piece in the puzzle.
If you missed any of the other posts in this series, here are links to them.
Part One - To Exhibit or Not to Exhibit, that is the question
Part Two - Getting Started
Part Three - Creating A Brilliant Exhibition Stand
Part Four - All Present & Correct
Part Five - Tell Them You're There