Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Three-Year Plan

Most trade show and event programs are pretty much in place. They run themselves, mostly, because of the nature of the business and the tried-and-true expectations of management, suppliers, promoters, associations and trade show managers.

But what if you had to make over your program?

Relevance and reinvention are a way of life in the world today. How we shop, how we eat and how we work have been transformed by economic forces and technology. One of the best examples of an industry that has been transformed is photography. With digital cameras and being able to download and print images ourselves, the old-style photofinishing store is all but gone. We buy equipment and take classes on line rather than visit a camera store. However, more photos are shot by more people people than ever before.

So it is with the trade show industry. Revenues by general contractors are down 35 to 50 percent, traditional exhibit houses are downsizing, going out of business or looking for new revenue streams. And exhibitors are squeezed with being asked to do more with less budget and staff.

All these facts lead to reinvention: if you had to do it, could you reinvent your exhibit marketing program (let's call it what it is) in 3 years or less? Let's make a short list:

  1. Year 1: assess the show list, the properties, the budgets and history of the program. Maybe let it run as-is except where things are really out of whack. But watch and learn. Look ahead.
  2. Year 2: make changes where you are losing money, eliminate shows that are not targeted or relevant, reduce overhead and continue building with the strategic direction of the company. Start to include new ideas (captive customer events, new one-on-one sales tools). Look ahead.
  3. Year 3: out with the useless, in with the relevant. Eliminate the last of the poor-performing shows and unused properties, recast the budget, solidify those key internal relationships. Look ahead.
Sure, this is oversimplification, but it is a basic roadmap. Change takes time, particularly when you are new to a company or business. But change is inevitable, so get used to it.


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