Here we go, time to set up budgets for 2012! Yippee! Well, maybe that is a bit over-the-top in enthusiasm. Personally, this gypsy is not an accounting enthusiast, and budgets were like a bad dentist appointment for me. However, the best thing about budgets is really going through the shows that were done during the year and really seeing how much work was done and what accomplishments were made during the year. Also, the discovery of new shows on the horizon and working with teams to figure out the road map for the next year and possible new market segments to discover!
Try to always keep everyone working toward the same goal as they are each dependent upon each other to get a successful product development and release, actual sales, and ultimately customer retention. Often teams will disagree on costs as their budgets are also in question, marketing is often cut FIRST and looked upon as fluff, and certainly shows are a huge target.
Make your case!!!
Visibility and branding, having online presence is fantastic, but if you neglect the face-to-face business and the actual visibility of the product by media, analysts, investors, buyers, partners, and competitors (aka stakeholders); the product/service can be considered vapor ware or only talk, (just ask your competitors, they will be happy to tell everyone you are not at a show because your product/service does not actually exist). Buyers remember what they see or touch; what they read can often be only the first step.
Online shopping is great if you have a commodity product that is already been “viewed” and “tested” by others. Where does it start? By someone seeing and testing it somewhere, often at a show! Whether it is at a CES electronics show, a Chicago car show, or a LA hair show – people “human beings mostly” want to get their sensorial experience with a product or service before they buy it or recommend the product for purchase by their company. If you have products that are pieces or parts of other things such as a computer module for a plane, car, tank, cell phone, pace-maker – still engineers; mechanics; heart surgeons want to see what the product is and what make it something they would design with or use!
How to work a budget for shows is dependent upon your business model– some budgets include travel and staff numbers; others are purely show costs and logistics. In either case take a look at your costs from the previous year for each show, this includes shipping which is a large part of the costs. The shipping also has a glitch, should the shows be back-to-back, on short turn-around, and across the country or international. Take a look at the schedule and figure out where you can do double duty on the graphics or schedule bi-yearly or quarterly updates rather than show by show. Campaigns can add their own nuances with video and marketing collateral; keep the graphics general and build around it with “accessories”.
Now is also the time to touch base with your shipper and I&D company. Find out what the costs are going to do in the upcoming year. The rates will vary on the location but having that information will also give you a more accurate budget. Make sure to include some extra $$ for equipment rental; such as extra electrical for XYZ product demo, equipment replacement, should your crate be smashed or lost.
Shows to some are a big-ticket item that is unbearable to comprehend. This gypsy loves shows and can also be a bit baffled about having to rent a certain type of lighting (dependent upon the convention center rules) – at the hefty rate of $35/each per day! Use your gypsy smarts, go to the nearest home improvement/electronics store and buy them for much less. Now is also the time to do an equipment review and figure out what needs replacing or updating, get those costs in the budget. New wheels for that wagon, horse replacement, and of course a new paint job! This was a rough year!
Include your team! Talk to sales to validate shows, and make sure that you get the people who are not going to tell you that shows are a waste of their time and their feet hurt; if that is what you hear, make sure they are not on your show staff for the next year! Get the sales staff that knows how to work shows and include the engineers/speakers and get their feedback on past/new shows. Speaking slots are often tied to show exhibits and rightly so, you need to have the space on the show floor to back up your speaker and support their efforts so be selective on your speaking opportunities, make them worth everyone’s efforts.
Save dollars by planning early. Add $$ for those shows that come up out of the blue, at least 3 per year – also be ready should your company be an acquiring entity. Keep your team engaged because there are always those program/product managers that are in the know about product releases that can get into the mix on the show schedule.
Make sure the budget is ready for the red pen, at least twice. Do not get disheartened, for some reason that is the mode of operation and the game to get the budget done. I will not ever understand that process but there seems to be no way around it, as the reviews go through several hands, several times! Give yourself some padding – not absolutes on the numbers! Shows have no absolutes, remember? – “You are the willow you will bend not break” and that includes the bank!
Good luck gypsies – dig through that wagon and find your sword – you are now the Budgeteer defending your Show Budgets! :)