Choosing the Right Event for Your Brand

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Ian Sequeira
Ian Sequeira

VP, Research & Measurement

Exhibit Surveys

Fuel your event portfolio with high-octane market research

Award-winning social media scientist and author Dan Zarrella once said, “Marketing without data is like driving with your eyes closed.” In the brand experience category, without data gathered from research, you risk participating at events that sputter when it comes to connecting with the “right” attendees. On the other hand, well-researched events race to engagement victory almost every time.

How do you drive your brand to success at an event? Follow the road map below to find the most suitable trade show or exhibition for your organization. Best of all, this road map is easily executable.  

Align the needs of your company

Why exactly does your organization need to be at an event? The answer primarily requires an understanding and discovery of the goals and expectations of your organization for participation at an exhibition. Interview internal sales, marketing, and product managers to obtain background on marketing aims, competitive climate, and product details needed to select shows that are a good fit. Ideally, get upper management to provide a “big picture” view of what they want and then align this vision with specific goals of the organization for a booth: networking, product testing, data gathering, sales, etc.

If you’re thorough, you’ll end up with a solid foundation and direction for identifying events which best fit with your brand’s overall marketing objectives. This exploration is critical because if you’re off base at this stage, you’ll likely be off through the rest of this process. 

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Determine the needs of your audience

Research of customers and prospects will help you identify shows serving the market, learn their opinions on the value and importance of specific shows, and acquire feedback to develop and refine show objectives and strategy. 

Create a survey for customers and prospects and ask them which events they frequent and what they look for precisely in these events, among other explorative questions. Not every company has the budget or time for this type of research, but there is high value in obtaining this information if possible. Alternatively, an informal, qualitative approach where you pick the brains of clients over coffee or a phone call can be very useful too.

Finding the right trade shows or exhibitions

Equipped with valuable data and knowledge from both your organization and customers, it’s time to select the best trade show opportunities for your brand. There are many different sources for identifying potential events, some direct and others indirect. These include:

  •  Internet sites
  •  Trade publications
  •  Trade associations
  •  Direct mail from show producers
  •  Competitors (ask them directly or check their websites and social media channels)
  •  Association websites

Produce a list of shows from all the sources that match your company’s marketing objectives and strategy — and where your audiences frequent — making sure to categorize by market, industry, and vertical. Analyze the list for potential cross-over in shows for multi-product/division companies. Take a second (even third) pass to narrow down the list as much as possible.

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Get into the belly of the beast

Now, you should have a targeted list of suitable shows to explore.  Contact the show organizers of these events and ask for all pertinent show information (directory, attendance figures, space availability, cost per square foot, sponsorships, etc). If possible, talk to current exhibitors for their perspectives.

As a caveat, this step may be a difficult one. Why? Organizers, in many cases, don’t possess the kind of data you need, are reluctant to share with you, or have few standards for consistency of reporting event information. Also, many organizers and associations lack independent auditors certifying their information. However, whatever information you can collect will go miles towards achieving your informational goals. 

Depending on how sophisticated you want to get, this is the time to include additional criteria to your list of shows. For example, you may want to attach weights to each show for thought leadership, lead generation, media exposure, etc.

Decision time

Once you have all the data, it’s time to actually do something with it.. Make sure you can clearly answer the most basic questions: Should we exhibit? If so, to what extent? To what extent refers to the size of your investment — booth size, staffing, hospitality, etc. To answer these questions, consider primarily the target audience quantity and quality (hopefully gleaned from the show organizer data and your surveys). Present your findings to relevant stakeholders and decision makers in your organization, and this should lead to the possible choices after a few meetings. What’s more, you’ll likely be able to determine your overall marketing event strategy as well as your overarching strategy and objectives for future events and post-participation promotions. 

If you need a tool to help you quantify the success of your participation at a show, check out the ROI Toolkit.

By following this road map, you won’t be driving your event participation blindly, but with a clear sight that aligns to your brand’s vision. 

Looking for seamless audience research and segmentation? Learn more about our solutions.


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