As you continue to follow through on your 2017 travel plans, and perhaps start making new plans for 2018 that are aligned with your marketing budgets, these five questions will help you decide which conferences and trade shows are worthy of time on your agenda.
1. What did we gain from past trade shows?
Many companies automatically just sign up for the conferences they attended last year, but it’s wise to take a critical look at last year’s results. Rather than focusing solely on leads, look at successes. For example, you might have had 500 people enter to win a smartphone, but can you track customers earned specifically because of the show? Did you learn about new research or insight from a panel presentation that upped your marketing game? What was your return on investment?
Ruthlessly assess the validity of past shows, and realize that you don’t have to attend a conference just because “you always have,” or “everyone else does.”
2. Is there a new vertical market you hope to enter?
A small manufacturer expanding from the automotive to the truck market will have a spate of new shows to consider and balance with existing ones.
One of the best ways to determine if a show is worthy of your attention is by talking to your customers about the shows they attend, which can provide a window into the “must-do” shows in the new market where you are expanding.
You also might want to start small by sending one person to scout the show before you commit an entire team the subsequent year. This is particularly helpful in a new market, as your attendee can learn more about the industry and its players that will help make your expansion a success, while simultaneously determining if the conference would be a good addition to your schedule.
Then, look over past attendee lists to see if there are solid potential client opportunities. Don’t be too focused on numbers alone; if the show has smaller attendance but the attendees have the title and role of your ideal client, it might be the perfect event for you.
Finally, research the buzz on the conference by checking out past blog posts and Twitter remarks to get a behind-the-scenes look at attendee experiences.
4. Should you focus on a regional or national show?
Attending the marquee show in your industry might seem like a must, but don’t forget that can come with crazy travel costs and increased competition for both your message and potential meetings. However, if you’re trying to establish yourself as a national player or hoping to network with top execs at a major company, that could be the place to be.
On the other hand, focusing on a less-costly regional show will allow more staff to travel and might also make it possible to earn more face time with the customers with whom you most reliably do business. Identifying your goals will help you decide.
5. Who else in my industry is there?
Finally, consider your competitors’ game plan. If your chief competition is going all in on a certain show, you might decide it’s imperative for you to have a presence there as well. Conversely, you may decide to choose a different show on which to focus your attention and marketing dollars. Don't let your reaction to your frenemy drive your game plan, but don't ignore their plans altogether either.
About the Author
Cathie Ericson is a freelance writer covering business and consumer topics. She creates branded content for Fortune 500 companies, and her work has appeared in LearnVest, Costco Magazine, Forbes, TheGlassHammer.com and IDEA Fitness. Follow her @cathieericson.
All content provided herein is for educational purposes only. It is provided “as is” and neither the author nor Office Depot, Inc. warrant the accuracy of the information provided, nor do they assume any responsibility for errors, omissions or contrary interpretation of the subject matter herein.
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