Saturday, May 19, 2007

Secrets Revealed: How to Profit from Trade Shows

I’ve been joining trade shows for more than 8 years now and I had to learn everything from scratch.

Joining trade shows is an effective means of marketing products and services, especially when you have new stuff you want to introduce to your market. Aside from generating leads for sales, it also gives you a chance to test how your market will react to new products. A booth also helps you network and do PR for present and future use.

But, the key metrics to a successful trade show participation are: (1) ROI and; (2) PROFIT!

As a product manager to get budget approval I had to determine the number of accounts we had to close in order to break-even. I was always nervous about spending money for trade shows because I had to promise, no swear, to my boss that it was going to profit. I had to because I didn’t want to get beaten to a pulp. Yes, the pressure was that high. Anyway, I did, I always did.

Having a great looking booth (aesthetics) and appropriate collaterals is never enough. The secret really lies on tracking the development of your participation. And this is what you have to do:

(1) Define your success factors i.e. break-even point, goals.

(2) Brief your salespeople/booth attendants how many leads they have to generate or accounts to close. It’d be great if you already have the leads conversion rate.

(3) Make sure all the leads are logged into a visitors log. Encode everything and put it in a system.

(4) Determine conversion rate. In my past work we even created a salestracker system and had separate tags for trade show leads. That’s how we managed to determine the leads conversion rate per trade show. (So now I know which trade shows I should really join and which I shouldn’t). It doesn’t have to be really fancy, what’s important is that you can determine where your sales are coming from.

And remember, the system will not run by itself. You still need to monitor closely the movement of the leads generated from the trade show. After the show you have to closely monitor if your sales people are utilizing the leads. Breathe down their necks if needed (I used to LOL). Determine whether it is a hot lead, under negotiation or if the account declined. Tracking the reasons for decline will also help a lot in defining rejection points.

A successful trade show does not lay with a great product manager. It is a team effort. Motivation is important and if everyone has the same objectives, understand the objectives and has passion for the product, then your show will be quantitatively and qualitatively successful.

Trade shows don’t need to be boring. Have fun in it. Find out from “An Apple a Day” how.


  1. It is clear that you have a good grasp of the exhibiting process. I enjoyed reading this post, and I linked to it on our trade show blog. If you ever need a new trade show display, we would love to work with exhibitors like you. Best of luck at future shows.

  2. @andy - many thanks for the link! and i'm glad you enjoyed reading the post :)

  3. Those are some great tips thanks.