Susan Friedman asked:
Continual improvement is a goal for many exhibitors. Knowing that tradeshows can play an integral role in a companyâ€™s marketing campaign, theyâ€™re committed to doing the best job they can this year — and a better one next year.
To continually improve, you have to have a very clear and concrete idea of where you are right now. An objective measurement of performance is the only way to plan for and achieve an improved result at subsequent shows. It serves as your baseline.
How do you get this baseline measurement? Itâ€™s a two part process, incorporating both measurable and intangible criteria. The combination of these two criteria gives you the most comprehensive picture possible of your performance.
Letâ€™s start with the measurable criteria. These are your goals and objectives, spelled out in black and white. If you say that you want to do $X in sales or collect Y number of leads, then you can compare your results against your goal. Itâ€™s simple. You met your goal, you exceeded your goal, or you fell short.
However, there are other factors in tradeshow performance to consider. These are the intangible, hard to measure things that affect your show: staff performance, booth design, general ambiance, and a host of other criteria. You need to know how youâ€™re performing before you can improve that performance.
Where can you get information on these intangible criteria? After all, thereâ€™s no magic ball where you can look and see how you did. Tradeshow exhibiting is not like Monday Night Football, with cameras tracking every move and instant replay only a moment away.
This is where a mystery shopperâ€™s services can be critical. By providing an objective, focused analysis of your exhibit, a mystery shopper can pinpoint weaknesses, identify strengths and on occasion, offer suggestions for improvement.
Itâ€™s important to take the mystery shopperâ€™s report into account. However, it is not the only point of view youâ€™ll want to consider. Often, valuable information can come from your booth staffers themselves. During your end-of-day debriefing session, go over what worked, what didnâ€™t, and what challenges arose during the day. Take time to meet with your staffers a short time after the show as well — giving them time to reflect upon the event and gain some perspective may yield up new insights.
Another source of information might be your customers. Offer your best accounts — and some new clients that you want to reinforce your relationship with — an opportunity to critique your teamâ€™s performance. This can be done as a simple e-mail survey or during a follow up phone call. Often, an attractive incentive item can persuade people to share their opinions with you when they would
otherwise keep quiet.
You may wish to offer an anonymous comment area on your organization website as well. Some people may very well have commentary to make, but fear to say anything as they feel it may jeopardize a profitable business or professional relationship. If you do this, be prepared for commentary thatâ€™s markedly harsher than youâ€™d otherwise get — people will say things behind the cloak of anonymity that theyâ€™d never dare voice otherwise. If you offer an anonymous option, though, you have to be fair about it — no sneaky tracking of IP addresses to later ferret out who said what!
Combining the mystery shopperâ€™s report the information garnered from your staffers and customers will give you the most comprehensive picture of the intangible factors that influence show performance. Coupled with the measurable criteria, youâ€™ve got your baseline measurement.
Collecting this information is only the first step. You have to consider what the information is saying and decide how it will influence your future actions. For example, if you find that youâ€™ve fallen short on the number of leads that you want to collect and your intangible criteria indicates that you had surly booth staffers reluctant to engage with the public, youâ€™ve got a clear cause and effect relationship spelled out for you –and an obvious point indicating where training is needed. Additionally, these reports have historical value: comparing this yearâ€™s reports with previous years will show you in black and white how the teamâ€™s performance has evolved over the years and the clear value of your training efforts.
Data in isolation is useless. If youâ€™re going to compile for reports just for the sake of compiling reports, donâ€™t bother. However, if youâ€™re going to use this information to identify problem areas and take actions to improve performance, youâ€™ll find your efforts well rewarded.