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Throw your Performance Metrics out the Window

Barry Siskind


Is the practice of setting measurable and achievable sales objectives at a trade show the most effective way to plan? Think about it. Most exhibitors look to justify the exhibit expense by trying to fit their results into a neat ROI package. There are also exhibitors who acknowledge that their primary rationale for exhibiting is something other than selling. These exhibitors look to justify the expenditure with a ROO calculation which is guesswork at best. So does the quest for immediate measurable results still make sense? Maybe not.

Let’s look at a couple of examples:

This wildly successful on-line seller of shoes believes that if their employees are happy, their enthusiasm will rub off on the people they meet and if these people are happy they will buy shoes from Zappos. It’s a pretty simple concept, when everyone is happy everyone wins. In order to ensure that this “happiness in a box” concept is at the heart of their corporate culture, Zappos only wants employees who are connected to the company’s long-term vision.

The Zappos’ culture starts with the pre-hire training. Recently Zappos interviewed to fill 1,200 spots at their call-centre. These employees would earn $11.00 per hour and work long hours. Each candidate was asked to submit to a four week training program where they learned the company’s culture, strategy and process. After one week of training each recruit was offered $2,000 to leave &ndash no questions asked. $2,000 is a lot of money for someone earning $11.00 per hour, yet 97% of recruits turned the offer down. Why? In the Zappos culture, unlike other call centres, there are no metrics on the average time spent on the phone per customer or the amount of the sale. Instead each call centre employee only has to make sure the customer on the other end of the phone is happy.

Zappos is now one of Forbes best companies to work for and highly profitable.

West Jet

West Jet started in 1996. Today they fly to 80 destinations with a staff of 8,800 employees. Their mission is to “enrich the lives of everyone in West Jet’s world by providing safe, friendly and affordable air travel.” Notice not one word about profits, loads or numbers of customers. In fact West Jet’s customers aren’t customers at all, they are guests. West Jet’s advertisements focus on two words &ndash “Owners Care.” West Jet employees are also stockholders with a keen interest in ensuring their investment in the company is protected. West Jet was designated as a J.D. Power Customer Service Champion and ranked 3rd in Aon Hewitt’s best employers in Canada. In a decade where the entire airline industry teetered on the brink of doom, West Jet thrived.

These two examples show us that when front-line employees understand and embrace their company’s purpose &ndash performance is enhanced. I read a story once about a group of United States Senators who were visiting the NASA Center in the sixties and stopped to talk to a man with a broom. They asked about his job and he said, “I'm helping put a man on the moon.”

Understanding how employees contribute to their company’s purpose, gives each individual power over their actions. People who feel that their work matters understand the whole organization suffers if they underperform. Perhaps it’s time to step back and look at your corporate big picture and ensure that each member of the organization understands their role. When everyone is working on the same page, setting short-term sales goals based on numbers alone now seems a bit short sighted.

Trade show are no longer just a place to sell, they are a venue where buyers and sellers engage in meaningful conversations that lead to both parties being able to meet their own goals.

When you view your exhibit investment as an opportunity to engage lots of prospective customers in meaningful dialogue, success will follow. When each member of your staff understands their role and how they can contribute, they feel connected. When your corporate higher purpose becomes ingrained in your culture you ensure that each of your employees whether they work on the front lines at a trade show or in the shadows involved in administration or production, understand that they have an important job in ensuring that your organization lands on the moon.