Jefferson Davis, president of Competitive Edge, moderates a panel discussion with Larry Lee, sustainability coordinator for Hardie's Fresh Foods, and Mike O'Brien, vice president of sales and marketing for Monterey Mushrooms. Davis led this panel after giving a two-hour presentation to the BrandStorm audience earlier in the day. (Photo by Ashley Nickle)

Companies need to establish specific, measurable objectives for their trade show appearances to get the most bang for their buck on the show floor, consultant Jefferson Davis said Feb. 10 at the United Fresh Produce Association’s BrandStorm conference.

Davis, president of the firm Competitive Edge, said the average company spends 41% of its annual marketing spend on exhibit or event marketing. However, even with so much money tied to that area, 76% of exhibitors set no specific goals for trade shows, Davis said.

Everyone can tell you why they are there -- they want to develop new leads, they want to connect with current customers, or they want to get exposure for a new product.

“Reasons are not enough,” Davis said. “Starting point, but not enough.

“If you want to win this game, throw yourself right into the top 24%, step one and you’re there,” he said.

After a trade show, a company should have a clear picture of how the appearance moved it forward in the areas of sales, customer relationship management and marketing. Davis said the desired outcome should be the foundation of the exhibit plan.

“If you can define what success looks like beyond the show, at closing time, 90 days, 180 days, or whatever time horizon makes sense for you, now the end is clear,” Davis said. “Now all you have to do is reverse-engineer the outcome, which is the whole process we work on exhibiting by objectives.

“There’s only two ways we exhibit -- we either exhibit by objectives or we exhibit by hope,” Davis said. “Hope ain’t a strategy. Hope ain’t a plan. You might win once in a while with hope, but you’re not going to win consistently.”

In his two-hour presentation, Davis provided formulas designed to help companies set goals for booth interactions, evaluate performance based on those goals, and calculate the cost per booth interaction -- a measurement, if a company executes its trade show appearance well, that often supports exhibiting because field sales calls tend to be more expensive.

Davis also discussed hard dollar return on investment, which is revenue that can be tied totally or partly to interaction at the show, and soft dollar return on investment, which takes into account overall value, including money saved on generating leads through face-to-face conversations at the event.

In the course of the session, which was part of BrandStorm’s Exhibitor Storm Surge education lineup, Davis covered many other topics related to exhibiting, including marketing a company’s presence before the show, attracting the right people to the booth, ensuring the best visitor experience, managing leads and more.


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