Success is always measurable. That is why one integral piece of every competent trade show master plan is performance metrics, or more simply, a clear statement of event goals, objectives, and targets, as well as the actual performance results recorded. Performance metrics should be assembled before the show, and recorded during and after the show, followed by considerable analysis. After all, how do you measure the value of the trade show exhibit and the return on the event investment if there are no metrics set up?
Let’s now take a look at a strong starting point for developing performance metrics.
I. Pre-show: As mentioned, performance metrics are decided upon well before the event begins, during the planning stages. A meeting, or series of meetings, that include both decision-makers and marketing managers should be set to discuss the following items:
a. Objectives – Trade show objectives differ from goals in that objectives are more of a statement or synopsis, whereas goals are specific, measurable targets. Objectives might also be referred to as a marketing declaration.
i. Intent – Intent is exactly what the company’s purpose is for entering the trade show (the “why”). For example, the intent might be to showcase a new product or service, or perhaps to explore a new market or demographic, using the show as a direct campaign for that intent.
ii. Message – The message, on the other hand, is how the intent is conveyed, including display graphics, and all trade show ingredients. For example, the message in showcasing a new product could be an illustration of its chief benefit, through graphics, text, kiosks, banners, presentations, and the like.
b. Goals – Goals are specific targets, measuring pre-conceived categories of (booth/show) performance. The exhibiting company may elect to measure any number of results and observations of the trade show. Some of those might be:
i. Visitors to booth – This would be an estimate of the total number of people that visit the trade show booth, as a percentage of total attendees of the event.
ii. Number of leads – This is the total number of new qualified leads generated at the booth during the show. This too might be reflected as a percentage of total visitors to the exhibit.
iii. Number of converted leads – This is the total number of qualified leads that are actually converted to new clients, customers, or perhaps direct sales at the exhibit. Here again, this might be expressed as a percentage of total leads.
c. Competitive evaluation checklist – During the planning stages of the master plan, it is a useful idea to design a tool that helps measure your direct competitors’ performance at the show. This might be a competitive evaluation checklist that estimates some of your competitors’ performance metrics as they compare to your performance. More than likely, this will largely be a visual estimate and key observations.
II. During-show: Over the course of the open trade show, performance metrics can begin to be recorded for subsequent evaluation/analysis.
a. Competitive evaluation – At some point during the show, the pre-designed competitive evaluation checklist should be exercised. This could be done by a single evaluator, or a small team of individual evaluators, observing the competitive set of booths.
b. Third party booth and show evaluation – It is often useful in the overall analysis of performance to enlist a third party – preferably without bias – to evaluate your booth, as well as overall trade show observations.
c. Recording of leads and conversions – The recording of complete lead information (on each prospect) is executed during the show, in addition to documenting direct conversions to new clients, or sales, from the event.
III. Post-show: After the show, it is time to tally up results and evaluate the trade show and your own booth/exhibit performance. This information will directly relate to recognizing the return on the event investment, as well as what was learned from the show for use in the future.
a. Qualitative analysis – This is an evaluation of the quality of the show itself as it relates to marketing objectives, the quality of the actual leads gained, and the performance quality and ranking of your exhibit, as compared to the competition.
b. Quantitative analysis – This is an examination of the quantity of leads and conversions, as well as attendance figures, and exhibit- visitor numbers.
c. Exit interviews – A pre-designed exit interview (for both attendees and staff) is a valuable tool to augment the quantitative and qualitative analysis. These will be a bit arbitrary, because the information gained will stem solely from observations.
i. Attendees – This means performing exit interviews with a strong cross-section of people that attended the show and recording their thoughts, concerns, and general observations.
ii. Staff – A different exit interview could be pre-designed and implemented to extract useful information from the staff that manned the company’s exhibit.
As was stated, success is always measurable. But in order to do so, a measuring barometer has to be conceived, constructed, and applied at strategic points. This article is an attempt to provide a beginning idea as to how to shape a performance metrics strategy for your next trade show exhibit opportunity.