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Answer Three Questions Before Making Your Tradeshow Investment

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Tradeshows can be a boon for your bottom line or a bust for business.

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For most organizations, industry tradeshows can be a very effective tool for getting their brands, products or services noticed. A captive audience of willing prospects can provide a target-rich environment for growing your business.

Even if you’ve earmarked a portion of your annual budget for shows, there’s always the question of whether the money can be spent better elsewhere.

If you don’t want to answer that question, here are three others to ask before printing your logo on 5,000 stress balls.

Should we even be at the show?
There are myriad reasons for participating in tradeshows. They may be a primary revenue driver for the fiscal year or the ideal venue for capturing leads. They may be the best way to keep tabs on the competition or the easiest way to assess the general state of the industry.

All of these are good reasons – and there are many more – and you should aim for at least three of them when considering a tradeshow. If you can’t come up with three legitimate reasons to be at a show, you may want to reconsider the investment.

What is our strategy?
So, you’ve come up with three solid reasons to be at a tradeshow. Long before you break out the company credit card and secure some prime booth space, sit down with your colleagues and prepare a formal action plan for the show.

Identify what you’re trying to accomplish at the show. Is this about driving brand awareness or meeting 50 new prospects? Are you trying to close business or are you there to survey (read: spy) your closest competitors? Whatever your goals are, put them in writing and make sure everyone understands their role during and after the show wraps.

How will we measure our ROI?
It’s fairly easy to track expenses associated with a tradeshow. There’s exhibit space, booth tchotchkes, airfare, hotel rooms, meals and entertainment. Don’t forget to account for your people manning the booth. After all of that math, you just need to figure out what needs to happen to make it all worthwhile.

Do you need to land one big client to be successful? Will it take four smaller clients to break even? Unless your investment is strictly about raising brand awareness, there’s a number above and beyond breaking even that everyone should be aiming for at the tradeshow. Keep that number front and center with your staff.

Tradeshows can be a boon for your bottom line or a bust for business. Carefully evaluate each opportunity and approach them like any other organizational investment.

There’s actually a fourth question about tradeshows that people ask in certain company: What happens if we don’t go?

That’s a question for next season.