Reframing for 2018

December 12, 2017

As 2017 winds down, you’ll likely begin focusing on what to do to kick off the new year and set yourself and your team up for success. But too often, that means big things in January that dwindle as the year goes on.  Don’t let this happen to you! It is possible to create an atmosphere of ongoing successes and wins. Here are a few key strategies to help you do that with your trade show marketing program.

20x20 booth at a trade show event

  • Reframe your goals. There are two kinds of goals: realistic and unrealistic. A realistic goal would be to increase the number of leads you gather at a show by 15-20 percent over last year, while an unrealistic one is to come home with solid leads from 80-90 percent of attendees! There’s a lot to be said for setting goals that make you stretch beyond your comfort zone, but only within reason. Yes, you should be striving to gather more leads each year, but not at the expense of making sure they’re still well-qualified. Simply bringing home twice the number of names can ultimately create big headaches in the long run.
  • Know why meeting your goal matters. Why are you striving for that goal in the first place? What will it mean to you and your team? While you don’t want to focus too heavily on the negative consequences, understanding what they are can be a motivator. For example, by missing your goal will you be publicly humiliated within your company? Or might it mean funding for future trade shows will be cut? Reframe this into why you want to accomplish the goal — believe in what’s possible. For example, at one point in time no one believed runners could break the four-minute mile, but after someone finally did it, now runners break that barrier all the time.
  • Motivate everyone on your team to succeed. While this is especially important for your in-booth team, there are others along the way who may need some motivation. That can come in the form of friendly competition (such as a leaderboard for team members gathering leads) or rewards for everyone as each milestone is achieved. Which leads to …
  • Take time to celebrate your wins along the way. We all know that preparing for and exhibiting at a trade show is a marathon, not a sprint. But there are mile markers along the way where all the team players can be acknowledged for their contributions. You could even appoint someone who is gifted at positivity to be the team cheerleader, encouraging everyone on.
  • Focus on the progress, not how far you have to go. It’s amazing how looking backward gives you perspective on all you’ve accomplished. For example, earlier this year when I was working to finish my book, Exhibit Design That Works, I used a series of three “eat an elephant” monthly charts to track my progress. For several years, I’d worked from the opposite approach, with a bunch of checklists filled with tasks. But once I reversed it and instead wrote down what I accomplished each day, it suddenly felt like I was making progress, even when that day’s action was small. Which brings up another way to reframe …
  • Gamify your goals and tasks. Having that daily chart, along with the public accountability (sharing my progress on Facebook), made it into a competition where I didn’t want to lose. Sure some days were more impressive than others, but that wasn’t the point. My goal was to do something every day to move forward, as should yours be.
  • Don’t be afraid to challenge long-held beliefs or to ask for help as needed. “Because we’ve always done it this way” is never a good excuse. If something isn’t working, take time to evaluate why. Perhaps it’s because your audience has changed. Or maybe it’s simply because there’s a better or more efficient way of doing things now. And if you feel stuck, there’s always help available to offer a fresh perspective and expertise in specific areas. You can’t be expected to be an expert in all things trade show, so know where to turn when you hit a roadblock. That could mean calling on a design expert to revamp your display, a tech guru to automate or streamline things, or a strategic consultant who guides you through the entire trade show planning process (such as myself).

How are you reframing your trade show marketing strategy for 2018?

Marlys Arnold

With experiences as both an exhibitor and a show organizer, Marlys Arnold has a unique perspective on trade show exhibiting. As an exhibit marketing strategist, she travels the country consulting and training on how to create experiential exhibits that produce significantly higher numbers of qualified leads. She’s led workshops for events ranging from local consumer expos to some of the largest trade shows in the U.S. She hosts the Trade Show Insights blog/podcast, and is the author of Build a Better Trade Show Image, the Exhibitor Education Manifesto, and the ExhibitorEd Success System. Exhibit Design That Works (the first book in the YES: Your Exhibit Success series) debuted in July 2017. She’s also the founder of the Exhibit Marketers Café, an online education community.


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