Companies allocate significant resources each year on industry-trade-show-related expenses and labor in an effort to market their current offerings while also supporting future growth objectives. The purpose of the guidelines that follow is to bring greater strategic value to the trade shows in which you participate, with the ultimate goal of optimizing your return on the objectives that you (should) set for each event.
A company’s Trade Show Marketing Strategy is part of an integrated go-to-market strategy. For example, the messages you send from the booth graphics and text need to be aligned with those you send from the marketing collateral you hand out; what you promote on your web site; your ads in industry trade pubs; what’s stated in your proposals; etc.
You should be internally integrated. Key organizations (Marketing, Business Development, Communications, Operations, etc.) should work together in development of objectives, strategy, messaging, entertainment, sponsorships, etc. to maximize the effectiveness of each event. In addition, if appropriate, you should work with sister organizations to bring unified marketing and marketing communications to multi-group events.
Set objectives for each show you attend, whether you’re exhibiting or not. It is best to set one or two primary objectives, but not more than two so that you can keep the effort focused. For example: “Give X number of product demonstrations,” “Meet with X number of customers,” “Introduce a particular technology or service to a new market.”
Make sure your objectives are realistic and measurable, and mapped to your go-to-market strategy. For example, one major defense contractor, who goes to about 30 shows a year, doesn’t realistically expect to sell anything at a trade show. Instead, its primary objectives are centered on meeting specific people: “Conduct X meetings with customers” and “Establish X teaming arrangements with business partners.” These objectives are mapped to a longer term and bigger picture company-wide market strategy.
Link objectives to metrics to gauge the effectiveness of your preparations and execution. For example, the objective, “introduce a particular capability into a new market,” could be linked to the number of visitors to the booth and/or the number of demos given. You should understand that, cost-wise, trade shows are typically an inefficient venue for generating awareness, but are a highly effective venue for face-to-face contact with prospects and customers.
Determine an “At-Event-Strategy or Strategies” for each show you attend, based on the objective(s) and customer life-cycles of those attending. For example, you might demo a particular capability to a prospect or new customer, versus entertaining your core customers (e.g., golf outing, after-hours client event, etc.) Or, part of your event strategy might be an analysis of what your competitors are promoting at the show. Their marketing strategies and tactics are on display. This task should be assigned in the preshow strategy meeting and the results evaluated as frequently as practical.
Be accountable for the budget. Be clear about responsibilities regarding who will budget for exhibit space, exhibit logistics and meeting rooms. Plan for all associated items, such as customized exhibit graphics, marketing collateral, sponsorships, shipping, giveaways, etc.
Download a free copy of Exhibiting at a trade Show, Pre- and Post-Show Strategies, plus a formula for estimating staffing levels.
I think we can all agree that most any company would kill to have a brand name like Fender. Iconic products. Cult following. And a cool factor that’s off the charts. It’s brand heaven.
But heaven turned to hell when Fender lost a landmark trademark case that effectively allows other guitar makers to replicate the distinctive body shapes of the Stratocaster, Telecaster and Precision Bass electric guitars and basses. How could this happen?
Well, Fender never actually trademarked its two-dimensional body shapes. Company attorneys sought to rectify the situation in 2003, filing applications with the U.S. Patent and Trademark office. Then in 2004, a group of large and small guitar manufacturers and retailers, in a “David v. Goliath” action, formally opposed the applications. Finally, after five years of litigation and 20,000 pages of evidence, the United States Trademark Trial and Appeal Board — in a precedent-setting decision — overwhelmingly ruled in favor of the small manufacturers. This was not music to Fender’s ears. Any company is now free to produce sub-par knockoffs, and there’s nothing Fender can do about it. The ultimate cost to the company is incalculable.
Why should you care about what happened to a guitar company? Well, aerospace companies have intellectual property (IP) too. In many cases, it’s the foundation of the business. Let’s say you have a proprietary design for your company’s bestselling product, a unique aircraft component. What would happen if the product design or name was hijacked by a competitor, and you had no recourse because you lacked basic protection? This is any company’s worst nightmare.
The upside to covering your assets is considerable. A case in point: In 2007 and 2008, U.S. District Court awarded Innovative Solutions $23 million against Kollsman Inc., an Elbit Systems Ltd. subsidiary, as part of an intellectual property case that alleged misappropriation of company trade secrets relating to commercial air data computers, despite signed non-compete agreements. Ultimately, Elbit indicated that the ruling affected its second-quarter earnings to the tune of $10 million. Innovative Solutions walked away with a $23 million windfall. Nice.
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How much should your business be investing in marketing? The answer is, it depends, but these up-to-date industry benchmarks will help.