The ACM conference begins this week in Houston followed immediately by AAM. While we’re not exhibiting at ACM, Myrna will be wandering around meeting exhibitors, attending sessions, and preparing for the arrival of Betty and me over the weekend. The three of us will be exhibiting at AAM, booth 817.
AAM is a show that we look forward to every year. It’s a time to meet up with old friends, make new ones, and connect with others in our industry. For each show we attend, we set a few objectives for ourselves in order to keep us on track and not distracted by the open bar at the evening events or some local attraction that would take us away from our original reason for flying over 970 miles to attend the conference.
Our objectives typically involved the number of leads we need to collect, the number of meetings we want to have outside of the tradeshow booth, the number of dinners we’d like to have with others, and of course, the number of contracts we want to have signed within the year following the show. While we normally do not have much trouble meeting the first few objectives, the last one, the number of jobs within the year, is always the tricky one. Usually, it’s the only one we don’t come close to meeting.
We have gotten much better over the last couple of years at tracking our leads and knowing from where they came so, when a lead does turn into a project, we can usually pinpoint where we first learned of the lead and how long it took to go from a lead to a project. The speed at which most of our leads turn into projects is extremely slow. The sales cycle can last anywhere from three months to five years, which is a very hard concept for those outside our industry to comprehend. So, when you consider how much time it normally takes to get a signed contract, should we really beat ourselves up for not meeting that one objective? It’s a question we ask every year. After all, we have to consider our ROI and, given the fact that one job could potentially pay for the cost of our attendance, it’s an important factor.
However, there are other factors to consider, too. This show is an opportunity to meet more people in three days than we would in an entire year. Unless a client tells us three years later that “Hey, we met at AAM when it was in Houston and I’ve had you in mind for this project ever since,” we probably wouldn’t link that project to this show. Also, it’s simply a way to increase our brand awareness. It’s a way to let people know what we do and that we’re here to help when they have the funds in place to move forward on their project two, four, or six years from now. If we didn’t go, we’d miss out on these connections.
OK, now it’s your turn. What objectives do you set for yourself when you attend a tradeshow or other networking event? Do the other positives outweigh the fact that you may not get a contract right away or would you decide to stop attending that particular show or event?