Tradeshow Tipster - Making the Right Decisions

19 March 2003

With so many tradeshows and conferences popping up in the gaming industry, many companies find the task of determining which shows to participate in a daunting prospect. And let's face it, it's an important determination--one that can have a make-or-break effect on your company's bottom line.

The first mistake many companies make is putting off the participation decision until as late as possible. This is a sure way to instantly decrease the cost-effectiveness of any participation as you're likely to have missed deadlines and missed out on opportunities for promotion that go along with an exhibit package--so you've basically paid for promotional opportunities that no longer exist.

An effective tradeshow strategy is to determine which shows you want to participate in at least a year in advance. Settle on a budget for next year to find out which shows fit into that budget while simultaneously meeting your marketing goals for participation. Attend a tradeshow as a visitor the first year if you're not sure of the quality of the event or audience; this will give you great insight into the subtle differences of each event and allow you to more effectively plan your participation for next year.

No matter when you're doing the planning for your next tradeshow stand, make sure you have a plan in place for what you want to accomplish and what you want to get out of your participation. Set specific goals and assign people to attain them. Each teammate that represents your company in the stand needs to know his or her position and what duties that position carries. By knowing exactly what you want to get out of those dollars spent to be in an exhibit, you can more clearly see which tradeshows accomplish those goals and which fall short.

Once you have a team assembled and your goals in place, it's wise to consider the audience that you'll be meeting. Ask yourself which shows provide the most targeted audience for your company's products and services. Determine which shows attract the prospects that are most lucrative for your company. And stick to shows with respected organizers.

After you have evaluated the audience, you should have a better feel for the potential for sales. Armed with this analysis, you'll be better equipped to accurately determine whether the show will be cost-effective when you sum the entire cost of your participation. For many companies, the sales cycle is too long to be able to determine success or failure of an exhibit based only on immediate sales. Use a more thoughtful approach to gauging success or failure that takes into account the long sales cycle and better quantifies your cost per lead.

Another thing to consider is the current positioning of your company. If you're going through major upheavals in staff or long-term direction, exhibiting at the wrong time can lead to a backlash via word of mouth or client satisfaction. Think optimistically and make sure that the company is equipped to handle any and all leads stemming from the tradeshow.

Like any sound business decision, tradeshow participation requires a thoughtful approach and a plan of attack. Through adequate preparation and a clear vision of objectives, tradeshow participation can be the most productive and cost-effective marketing that your company does in any given year.