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Strategic Planning FAQs for Exhibits, Events, and Brand Experiences

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Everything you wanted to know – answered!

Anybody who has spent time in a business setting has heard how important strategic planning is.

While the popularity of strategic planning may be obvious, figuring out how to succeed at strategic planning has been a bit more muddled. Fortunately, Freeman is here to provide you with everything you need to know, from understanding what strategic planning actually entails to how you can use it to give the effectiveness of your events and brand experiences a major upgrade.

Q: What is strategic planning?

A: Strategic planning is the process of identifying the desired end result for your business and developing a well-thought-out, multichannel approach for achieving it. Every stage of a strategic plan should have clear strategies that guide messaging, media, and measurement; connect marketing to your audiences; and drive short- and long-term brand results.

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Q: How does strategic planning relate to brand experience?

A: Events and brand experiences connect audiences with brands. For any brand experience — whether a trade show, a corporate event, or an exhibit — to reach its full potential, it must be done thoughtfully and purposefully. Ensure every part of your brand experience supports your strategic plan by:

  1. Establishing a company goal and understanding how brand experience helps you work toward that goal.
  2. Identifying the target audience and delivering on their expectations.
  3. Measuring success based on predetermined KPIs

Strategic planning lets you invest wisely in brand experience and ensure each element of the brand experience strategy and event-specific objectives support your overarching business goals.

Q: Why should my organization go through the strategic planning process?

A: There are many demands on your budgeting dollar, and you must ensure you’re maximizing resources and spending each of those dollars wisely. Through strategic planning — which includes prioritizing event calendars, maximizing sponsorships, and setting event-specific KPIs — you can establish the SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, time bound) goals that ensure a solid ROI and move you closer to your target goal.

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Q: How often should I revisit my strategic plan?

A: Once you’ve established your strategic plan, it’s important to revisit it quarterly (at a minimum, annually) to ensure it’s still valid, to confirm that it’s still taking you in the right direction, and to make any adjustments based on changing market or business conditions. You may find you need to clarify your message or redesign your strategies to meet your established goals.

Q: Who must be involved in the strategic planning process?

A: Top-level executives often lead the strategic planning process, but anyone who holds key insights into the customers’, exhibitors’, and attendees’ needs should be involved. This includes:

  • Client-facing staff
  • Marketing personnel
  • The C-suite

Q: How does strategic planning help align my brand experiences with my organization’s business goals?

A: Brands and organizations need to do more than just generate buzz with their events. They need to create experiences that further the organization. Strategic planning ensures that each event works toward accomplishing specific marketing and business goals.

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Q: How can strategic planning help maximize my budget?

A: Through strategic planning, you can make the smart investments in brand experiences that maximize resources and drive results.

As you’re establishing budgets, focus on targeted portfolio planning to help you:

  • Identify high-value opportunities
  • Maximize sponsorship opportunities
  • Focus your investments on high-value events
  • Align events with your marketing and business initiatives
  • Generate the ROI that justifies your decisions

Q: Can inexpensive solutions still drive engagement?

A: Not every aspect of a memorable event has to be a budget-buster. These solutions can drive engagement without adding to the bottom line.

  • Crowdsourcing lets attendees offer innovative ideas for future events.
  • Recycling event materials with a simple refresh offers value without additional expense.
  • Leveraging social media through targeted calls to action can encourage cost-effective interaction among brands and attendees.
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Q: How can I keep my audience in mind when it comes to strategic planning?

A: As you refine your brand experience plan, conduct thorough audience research to ensure you really know your target market. Dive deep to:

  • Break out potential attendees, exhibitors, and sponsors
  • Identify the individual wants, needs, and challenges of each audience segment and generation
  • Understand your audience’s expectations and their level of importance

Q: How can I prove the success of my strategic plan?

A: Success can’t be determined simply by the number of attendees or initial feedback. Instead, use these three steps to objectively evaluate an event and determine its success.

  1. Measure. Identify the key questions that will shape your measurement strategy (see examples below) and how you’ll answer them.
  2. Debrief. Analyze the results from preidentified KPIs, and look at the larger trends at play to identify successes and areas for improvement
  3. Implement. Use the resulting data to test new planning efforts and business and marketing goals, then circle back to Step 1 to fine-tune your strategies.
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Q: What questions should I ask to shape my measurement strategy?

A: Measurements at the event level should ladder up to your overall event strategy and business and marketing goals. So when evaluating the success of your event and progress toward these goals, ask questions like:

  • Did you attract and engage your target audience?
  • Were you more or less successful than your competitors in doing so?
  • Did the in-booth experience deliver key messages?
  • How effectively did the event achieve your objectives for the event?
  • Was the event on-budget?
  • Did the results achieved justify the budget?

Q: How many variables must I analyze to get useful data?

A: There’s no one right answer. Analyze too many variables, and you’ll end up with too much information, making it hard to extract useful insights. But if you fail to analyze enough, you won’t have enough data to draw solid conclusions. The numbers depend on your event and your objectives.

Q: How do I leverage my strategic plan post-event?

A: Successful marketers know that today’s events can live on long after the show closes, so it’s critical to use strategic planning efforts to maximize the post-event brand experience. Engage attendees and maximize connections year-round using strategies like:

  • Reliving highlights on social media
  • Establishing a drip campaign to promote content
  • Asking influencers to recap lesson
  • Promoting your next event

Is your event strategy ready to succeed? Take our quiz to find out!

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