Management by Objectives
Written by Barry Siskind
One of the biggest challenges in almost any industry sector is developing reasonable, measurable objectives and measuring the impact of the trade show investment against these objectives. For companies that sell products directly on the show floor, this is an easier issue to overcome,...
Benchmarks for exhibit growth
“Great minds have purposes, others have wishes.”
Ask exhibitors why they invest in a trade show and you will hear:
· “We always do this show.”
· “We have to be there because our competition is there.”
· “My boss thought this might be a good place to be.”
· “If we don’t go our customers will miss us.”
· “We’re here because we’re here ...”
One of the biggest challenges in almost any industry sector is developing reasonable, measurable business objectives and measuring the impact of the trade show investment against these objectives. For companies that sell products directly on the show floor, this is an easier issue to overcome, given the immediate impact on sales. But for companies that market products with longer sales cycles, measurement is a more difficult exercise as new business can be directly or indirectly attributed to any one of a number of marketing activities.
In addition, with increased pressure to show a return on investment for marketing dollars, event marketers have been forced to become more strategic in their trade show participation with a much greater emphasis on demonstrating in tangible terms, how the investment has paid off. Without the metrics that will help you quantify and identify your strengths and weaknesses, you simply won’t have the information you need to make proper decisions about your exhibit program.
Objectives are the “fundamental strategy of business.” Business objectives must be set in all operational areas, including marketing, innovation, human resources, financial resources, physical resources, productivity, social responsibility, and profit requirements. However, establishing clear measurable and realistic objectives is not as easy as it sounds. You may believe exhibiting does not fall within your marketing activities; you may have conflicting goals among your exhibiting partners or you may have non-sales staff who do not see the value. So, let’s walk through the necessary steps to ensure that your next show has a clear focus.
Your first step is to gain insight into your organization’s “basic strategy objective.” This term, coined by management guru Peter Drucker in the early 1970s, is still something that organizations have trouble grasping. Your basic strategy objective answers questions such as: Why are we here? Who are we? What is our real purpose? Whether you are examining your purpose personally or corporately, the process is crucial because it examines the core of your being and establishes the logical beginning point of your discussion of objectives.
Some companies look only at profit. Obviously if there is no profit, the very survival of the corporation is at risk. However, an organization that defines itself only in terms of money and return on investment (ROI) is shallow.
Your basic strategy objective goes beyond profit to the very center of your corporate existence. When your business was formed, what purpose did your founders set out for themselves? What motivated them to choose their particular mode of business? Once you understand this, ask yourself if that original focus still has relevance in today’s economy.
Here are some recognizable, basic strategy objectives that will assist you in understanding this concept:
· Mary Kay Cosmetics: “We reach out to the heart and spirit of women, enabling personal growth and fulfillment for the women whose lives we touch.”
· Walt Disney Corporation: “To be the world’s leading producer and provider of entertainment and information.”
· IBM: To be the best service organization in the world.
· 3M: “To actively contribute to sustainable development through environmental protection, social responsibility and economic process.”
· McDonalds – “To be the world’s best quick service restaurant experience.”
· Wal-Mart: “To deliver quality products at outstanding values.”
All of these are examples of highly profitable corporations. In each case, their mission holds a greater purpose. Profit therefore becomes the result.
As Drucker explains, these basic strategy objectives are not real objectives. rather, they are intentions. The dictionary defines intention as “something that somebody plans to do or achieve.” Intentions become the rudder that steers a ship through the voyage and a statement that rallies the crew. It is motivational, purposeful, and fulfilling. Without a basic strategy objective, corporations tend to float aimlessly like a ship without a destination.
Setting basic strategy objectives is only the beginning. Unless you take the important next step—setting a clear direction on how to transform intentions into actions—basic strategy objectives will never be achieved. Your marketing plan answers the question, “How do we communicate our intentions to those who will benefit from its message?”
Your marketing mix may include print advertising, television, radio, direct mail, e-mail blasts, seminars, sponsorships, tele-marketing, signs, billboards, personal contacts, community involvement, as well as special events and trade shows. .” It is important that you choose which tool gives you the most bang for your buck.
Exhibits hold a special place in the marketing mix. Doug Ducate, CEO of the Centre for Exhibition Industry Research, has referred to exhibitions as “the last vestige of face-to-face marketing
Three Levels of Exhibit Objectives
As if things were not complicated enough, we now look at exhibiting objectives on three separate levels: corporate, departmental, and individual.
1. Corporate objectives
When visitors approach a well-known exhibitor, they recognize the name or brand. Reference to individual departments at this stage can lead to confusion. For example, if you are IBM with forty or fifty different departments, your public knows your word-mark, colors, and recognizes the look and feel of an IBM booth. At first glance, the difference between one department and another is irrelevant. Now here is where you have a delicate balancing act. Your objective at this level is corporate, but it must also be show-specific. While the corporate identity is crucial, it must also answer the question—What is IBM doing at this show? —which brings us to the second level of objectives.
2. Department objectives.
These objectives justify an individual department’s investment in the show. Such objectives are often focused on a specific product, service, or industry need. Whereas IBM has a corporate brand to support, individual departments may be promoting personal computers, property management services, small business solutions, or networking software.
These first two levels of objectives, corporate and departmental can be found in the following list of 100 reasons to exhibit. As you read through the list, identify those that fall into each category for your exhibit program. Ultimately, objectives fall into two basic categories that are appropriate for your exhibit program—sales and communication.
Sales objectives are those that lead directly to greater profitability. These include increasing sales, gathering qualified leads, and setting appointments. However, some exhibitors decide that sales are not for them and choose a communications objective, such as brand awareness, presence, education, and sampling.
100 Reasons for Exhibiting
1. Sell products and services
2. Gather qualified leads for post-show company follow-up
3. Introduce new products or services to a market
4. Demonstrate new products or services
5. Demonstrate new uses of existing products or services
6. Give your customers an opportunity to meet the experts
7. Give your CEO an opportunity to meet your customers
8. Meet your buyers face to face
9. Open new markets
10. See buyers not usually accessible to sales personnel
11. Find the decision makers
12. Understand your prospect’s decision-making process
13. Support the decision influencers
14. Be compared to the competition
15. Gather competitive intelligence
16. Solve customers’ problems
17. Obtain feedback on new products
18. Obtain feedback on existing products
19. Conduct market research
20. Find dealers, reps, and agents
21. Educate dealers, reps, and agents
22. Find personnel
23. Educate personnel
24. Develop leads for dealer, reps, and agents
25. Reinforce a company image
26. Establish a new company image
27. Create a customer database
28. Support your industry
29. Highlight new products, services, and initiatives to the media
30. Reinforce brand awareness
31. Launch new brand campaign
32. Distribute product samples
33. Handle customer complaints
34. Reinforce your marketing plans
35. Distribute product or service information
36. Conduct a sales meeting
37. Provide networking opportunities
38. Introduce a new promotion
39. Introduce a new service
40. Educate your customers
41. Introduce new techniques
42. Reposition your company in a market
43. Change the perception of your company in a market
44. Expose new employees to an industry
45. Learn new industry trends
46. Network with colleagues
47. Network with industry professionals
48. Showcase new products and services
49. Establish business relationships with international buyers
50. Introduce your CEO to the media
51. Support dealers, reps, and agents
52. Demonstrate your commitment to a market
53. Demonstrate your commitment to dealers, reps, and agents
54. Test international buying practices
55. Influence customer attitudes
56. Create high ROI opportunities
57. Uncover technology transfer opportunities
58. Find new business opportunities
59. Uncover joint venture opportunities
60. Unveil licensing opportunities
61. Find new business location possibilities
62. Determine the effectiveness of marketing and promotion campaigns
63. Host special industry hospitality events
64. Have company experts showcased at seminars and workshops
65. Market research for future product developments
66. Introduce new production methods
67. Use direct influence on decision makers
68. Build a database
69. Entertain special customers
70. Distribute promotional tools
71. Influence industry trends
72. Have a portable showroom
73. Showcase multiple uses for products and services
74. Interact with a highly targeted audience
75. Build sales force morale
76. Give your prospect an opportunity to experience your product/service
77. Open doors for future sales calls
78. Achieve immediate sales
79. Present live product demonstrations
80. Introduce support services
81. Offer behind-the-scenes personnel a chance to meet customers
82. Create a three-dimensional sales presentation
83. Introduce community awareness initiatives
84. Support current community awareness initiatives
85. Find other exhibiting opportunities
86. Attend educational sessions
87. Meet with industry spokespersons
88. Developing new marketing techniques
89. Demonstrate non-portable equipment
90. Overcome unfavorable publicity
91. Publicize company associations with community or industry groups
92. Explain the effects of corporate changes
93. Bring senior management closer to customers
94. Shorten the buying cycle
95. Train new personnel
96. Generate excitement for new products/services
97. Increase corporate profitability
98. Enhance word-of-mouth markets
99. Round out the corporate marketing mix
100. Reach out to customers and communities
3. Individual Objectives
The third level of objectives is individual. Often your booth staff will look for opportunities for personal growth. Remember, staff will want to know what’s in it for them. There are other ways to get leads or make sales than working at a show. Some staff come to shows feeling resentful about being pulled away from their territories, their regular jobs, or their families. Spending the time to find objectives that help your staff grow as individuals goes a long way toward creating a positive experience for them. Here is a sampling of possible personal objectives:
1. Uncover industry trends
2. Learn about new technologies
3. Attend industry events
4. Build a professional network
5. Introduce themselves to industry leaders
6. Meet organization executives
7. Talk to customers
8. Meet competitors
9. Talk to industry media
10. Develop new people skills
11. Develop camaraderie within departmental teams
12. Learn more about the scope of the corporation
You can expand on this list or, better yet, have your staff create their own. Recognizing all three levels of objectives, corporate, department, and individual, helps you, the exhibit manager, take the first important step toward creating a successful exhibit program.
Review the list of 100 corporate and departmental objectives and the twelve personal objectives, and identify those that can be applied to your exhibit program. You may find that your list includes a number of objectives in each category. This is a good first step. Now you need to get focused. Having five or ten corporate objectives is a recipe for disaster. You are simply trying to achieve too much with limited time and space. The tighter your focus, the greater your chances of success. Develop a short list of corporate objectives, and then narrow them down further to one or two that will justify the time, expense, and effort that you will invest to mount this display. These corporate objectives also become the engines that drive the basic strategy objective. By reducing your objectives to a precious few, you will focus your energies and resources on your real priorities. With too many objectives, you will run the risk of producing an unfocused, ill-conceived, and awkward attempt that prevents your efforts from delivering the results you want.
By focusing, you will have to make some tough decisions Leaving out some objectives will be difficult. However, leaving out something does not negate its importance, and the truth is that you may still be able to achieve it another way. Often one objective automatically leads to another. For example, you can create awareness by focusing on new product introduction.
The same argument applies to departmental and personal objectives. Trying to accomplish too much will lead to frustration and disappointment. The more narrow your focus, the better the chance you will have of a successful program.
Quantify Your Objectives
Objectives are of little value unless they are quantified.
Quantifying sets standards that can be measured and relates to the specifics of your show participation. Rather than looking for strictly anecdotal feedback, your information is empirical and comparable from one show to the next.
Quantifiable objectives can be checked periodically. You do not have to wait for the end of the show to know if you are on the right track. You can adapt your approach along the way to stay on track and achieve your goal. For example, your overall show objective is collecting quality leads and after determining traffic patterns, attendee habits, etc. you set your goal at fifteen leads per day. If, after the first day, you find that your results fall short of expectations, you have until opening time the next morning to identify the problem and fix it.
Perhaps your problem is in your display, or your competitors are out-exhibiting you, or you may have a terrible location, or maybe you just set the wrong objectives in the first place. The challenge is to identify the real problem and find a solution. This gives you a chance to make the rest of the show profitable and recover from a poor start.
Quantifiable objectives can be divided among your booth staff. This gives each person a specific target to aim for. At this point each exhibitor needs to ask, “How will I know if I have achieved my objectives?”
For most corporations, there are five (5) basic areas that are used to measure annual success: gross revenues, net profits, market share, Return on Investment (ROI) or Return on Objectives (ROO). While they may appear different on the surface, all five are basically just different ways of looking at your exhibit investment’s bottom line. While these objectives do not necessarily apply to all exhibiting situations, they should be considered because they serve as the benchmark by which companies ultimately measure their success.
A major challenge to quantify your objectives often occurs when you have objectives that focus on long-term brand development, shaping customer opinions and behaviors and increasing customer commitment. These objectives simply don’t fit into short-term periods of measurement. This is why in many cases, event organizers are placing more emphasis on “Return on Objectives”(ROO) to more accurately reflect the long-term impact of their trade show program.
For example, say your objective is to establish an image for your organization. Then say that the key messages behind this image are superior service, a helpful staff, and a twenty-four-hour customer hot line. Next you need to ask is “Who is my target audience?” Rarely will one exhibitor appeal to 100 percent of a show audience. Your audience is specific to you. You must create careful customer profiles that clearly identify your target audience. Now you can say to yourself “At the Builder’s Show, I want to meet residential builders who have multi-unit projects starting within the next twelve months and tell them about our superior service, helpful staff, and twenty-four-hour customer hot line.” See how specific you have become?
Will an increase in sales tell you if your target audience got the message? The answer is, yes, because if they understand what you are all about and if they agree with those messages, they will ultimately buy more from you.
You need to establish objectives that can be measured in the short term—two weeks after the show. Your actual business, depending on your individual sales cycle, could involve months or even years to show results, so you need to devise a simple mechanism to gather short-term information such as exit surveys, post-show telephone surveys, increased hits to your web site, and higher traffic for the twenty-four-hour hot line. All these techniques quantify results and tell you definitively whether or not your show was a success.
By establishing a benchmark and keeping a statistical tracking system, you will know your success ratios. For example, for every ten good qualified leads, how many will lead to business? Two? Three? Five? It is different for everyone. Once you know your success ratios, then the short-term objectives can be equated to long-term profit even if the sale is not yet completed. When it comes to exhibiting, it’s important to keep objectives short term.
You need to develop formal exhibit program Performance Indicators that reflect your corporate priorities. Then you will set benchmarks and goals for each Performance Indicator that can be compared from show-to-show and/or annually for measurement of progress. In measuring exhibit program success here are some key questions to ask:
- Are we increasing the prospects’ awareness of our products or services?
- Are the messages we communicate being heard and understood?
- Are we getting qualified contacts that lead to increased business opportunities?
- Have we allocated the proper resources to achieve or objectives?
To be successful in any business environment, customers need to be identified and cultivated to create a climate conducive to the sales process. The overriding objective is to generate quality leads, leading to business opportunities.
A strong brand is required to increase understanding and acceptance of your corporation’s commitment to quality, innovation and safety.
Of key importance in any trade show operation is the on going analysis and alignment of expenditures to ensure maximum value for dollar.
Be Realistic about Your Objectives
There is no point in reaching for the sky if it is not possible to do so. It can lead to frustration and disappointment. Knowing what is realistic is a matter of educated guesswork. Here is an example:
· Total show attendance: 5,000
· Percentage of attendees who fit into my customer profile: 10 percent or 500
· The average time it takes to talk to one attendee: ten minutes
· Number of active show hours (subtract inactive time such as when conferences are on, late afternoon or early morning downtimes or where you are located in the show): twenty hours
Therefore, boothers should be able to see six visitors per hour over twenty hours, which would equal 120 leads.
However, this is not a perfect world. You will be spending lots of time with visitors who are not qualified. In reality, at this show only one in ten visitors will actually fit your profile. In this example, you may be spending 90 percent of the time (or eighteen hours) talking to unqualified people. This leaves you with a realistic goal of twelve leads. It doesn’t sound like much, but in fact it could be very lucrative if indeed they are properly qualified. Remember these are not names in a ballot box, but people with whom you had a serious talk during which you gathered some useful information about their situation. These are people you will be following up with after the show is over.
Remember to determine if there are things you can do in your booth to increase its efficiency. Better signage, show promotions and sponsorships are worth consideration. By adding these additional elements to your plan, you can reduce the 90 percent downtime to perhaps 60 percent or 70 percent, yielding a healthier but realistic target of eighteen to twenty-four leads.
To respond to each of the exhibit program outcomes, a benchmark must first be established from which progress will be measured. Benchmarks come from previous experiences. However, for many exhibitors who have not done this in the past, this will be ground zero. This is the first day of the rest of your exhibit program, which means that your future programs will be measured against the benchmarks you set now.
The following provides three examples of how Benchmarks may be established and applied, using specific Performance Indicators and Measurement Tools:
Don’t attempt to set too many benchmarks. The process will become overly confusing and cumbersome. Instead, focus on the most important performance indicators and develop tools and processes that allow for effective measurement of these areas only.
Your benchmarks provide you with vital information that will guide your future program and allow you to make the continuous improvements needed to get the results great results.
All too often exhibitors take a shotgun approach to planning their face to face marketing efforts. Using a strategic approach lets you fit your exhibit marketing program into your overall marketing mix. It will guide you through the constant barrage of decisions you will be faced with and it will allow you to justify your exhibit expenditures year after year.
Barry Siskind is the author of Powerful Exhibit Marketing, Published by John Wiley and Sons ISBN 10 0-470-83469-2. Available through Amazon.com or www.siskindtraining.com.
Barry can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org