The above are only some of the benefits you can gain by
attending a trade show, provided adequate planning is done to make the most of your visit.
It has been said that if you return with only one good idea, the cost of attending a
trade show is justifiable. It has also been said that ideas without action are worthless.
So, if you dont think you will act on the new ideas, there is no point attending
a trade show! New ideas will lead to new products and solutions, and new products and
solutions (properly marketed) will lead to new market share and new revenue. I learned in
an MBA course that progressive companies are those in which 50 percent or more of gross
revenue comes from new products. In short, companies will not prosper for long if they are
not led by a visionary who can conceive new ideas (which can be inspired by attending
trade shows). The reason is simple: as competition attempts to grab more and more of your
market share, you need a fresh infusion of new products to drive back that competition,
allowing you to prosper with higher margins.
Over the years, I have attended countless trade shows where, sadly, I have found few
people who truly make the most of their show attendance. I can separate show attendees
into three categories:
- There are those who attend a trade show and do nothing with
what they learn.
- There are those who flounder at a trade show and return with
few, if any, ideas of substance to do something with.
- And, there are those who do everything right and return with
plenty of and plenty of contacts gained through aggressive networking. They also
benefit from experts information gleaned from seminar presentations at such
Unscrambling The Maze
Over the years, I have done a great deal of thinking about how to
help attendees get the most from trade shows. My concept, which was intriguing enough to
prompt a Harvard professor of marketing call me to express his agreement with the theory,
is called the "1/3 Rule." Here is the concept behind the "rule": About
the only way you can make the most of your attendance at a convention is to establish a
set of objectives before attending a show. These could be meeting a maximum number of
exhibitors and FINDING OUT WHAT IS NEW or researching to see what the competition is up to and/or what
products could either render your products obsolete or substantially enhance your
business. An equally worthwhile objective is to learn what new concepts or findings are
presented by industry leaders in the conferences.
The 1/3 Rule
1/3 of knowledge comes from visiting every relevant
exhibitor of interest to you, asking them what is new, discussing with them your major
problems or challenges, and asking for their guidance.
1/3 of knowledge comes from networking with your peers,
with the speakers and the industry visionaries.
It is vitally important to notice that the information that
you will gain from one of the above enumerated 1/3s will be different from the information
you will gain from the next 1/3, and so on.
- 1/3 of knowledge at a trade show comes from attending the
In other words, in the conferences, you will learn from the
experiences of the speaker, who is considered to be an industry expert. Speakers can
inform you not only about the theoretical concept, but also from a personal view. In the
second case, you will learn from the experience of a vendor of a technology or service
(i.e., CTI technology or outsourcing teleservices). While you will learn a different
perspective from the vendors, the information learned in the conferences will be
Last but not least, the information you gain by networking with your colleagues by
asking, "How did you solve this problem?" will bring yet another perspective
that is totally different from the above mentioned two perspectives.
In this case, you are learning from the firsthand experience of a colleague, who, no
doubt, has gone this road before. Given the enormous cost of capital investment involved,
one cannot afford to simply learn from the experiences of a colleague without having the
benefits of checks and balances by virtue of learning different sets of techniques and
solutions from the first and second part of the 1/3 rule.
Exhibitors Point Of View
The exhibitors have a totally different agenda. Obviously, they
come to the convention to sell their goods and services and meet qualified prospects
(attendees). While exhibit marketing has proven over and over again to be the most
cost-effective way to market a product or service, the management of many companies still
regards exhibiting at a trade show a non-essential part of their marketing program. I have
come to realize this fact by observing many ill-advised marketing managers simply
eliminate trade shows from their marketing plan as soon as there is an economic adversity
in the marketplace.
This is by far the most unwise decision any marketing manager, director or vice
president can make! Given that trade show marketing is indeed the most cost-effective way
to market and given that in bad economic times a company loses between 50 to 75 percent of
its customers, it becomes rather obvious that cutting back trade show exhibits,
advertising and promotion budgets makes no sense at all. Yet time and time again, over 80
percent of marketing managers do just that, thus there are record bankruptcies during
recessions and bad economic times. We have learned that to be successful, you need not be
a copycat. Following others success requires vision and above all, often going
against the grain. In other words, the best time to leapfrog over your competition is to
market as aggressively as possible when the competition does not.
There are those who think exhibit marketing means just showing up
as an exhibitor in a convention without any pre-show marketing or planning and without
following any of the 29 guidelines I once wrote in a past editorial entitled, "Successful Marketing at a Trade Show is a Two-Way Streetquot; which I provided in this column in my June and August editorials in
Because these guidelines are so vitally important, I decided to repeat them again for
Remember, you and several hundred exhibitors are competing for attendees
attention. The better the job of pre-show marketing you do, the greater the amount of
traffic at your booth. This is simply the logic behind trade show marketing.
Checklist For Successful Trade Show Participation
For successful exhibiting, ask yourself these 15 vital questions
before you exhibit at any trade show:
- Do your booth graphics grab attention quickly?
- Do your graphics communicate in a few seconds what type of product or service you offer?
- Do your graphics give the attendees a good reason to stop by and examine your products or services?
- Do your booth design and graphics communicate a benefit for any attendee to stop by your
- Have you advertised in the leading industry publication(s) inviting readers to visit
your booth? Did you offer them a FREE V.I.P. Pass to do so?
- Have you called all of your top 100 customers and invited them to attend the show and
visit your booth with complimentary V.I.P. Passes as your guest?
- Does your company have name recognition? For example
would the attendee know what
you sell by simply seeing your companys name? (i.e., CocaCola sells soft drinks;
McDonalds sells hamburgers, etc.)
- Have you taken the right people, who are well trained in exhibit marketing, to the show with you? (See
Telemarketing magazines "Publishers Outlook," January 8
- Remember, this is vitally important. 9) Have you sent several mailings to your database, each time giving
them a new, important reason why they must visit your booth?
- Are you visible everywhere as a company?
- Do you regularly get
your message across through your advertising?
- Do you come up with a major new attraction or "attention-grabbing idea" in
your booth to make YOU STAND ABOVE THE CROWD?
- Do you sponsor events at the show to draw all delegates attention to your booth?
- Does your booth staff have proper "boothmanship"? Are they sitting around
talking among themselves, reading newspapers, smoking, eating or drinking or talking to
the office instead of aggressively seeking out customers from the aisles 100 percent of
- Last but not least, is there anything in (or about) your booth that would encourage a
potential customer to come to your booth instead of (or in addition to) your competitors?
If your answer is positive to most or all of the above questions (and we certainly hope it
is), chances are, you will have a very successful trade show. If it is not, do not expect
to have a successful show, and when that happens, dont blame the show sponsor for
your own failure for not giving the attendees a good reason (or any reason) to visit your
The Plain Facts About Trade Show Marketing
The Trade Show Bureau, a leading trade show educational
organization, has conducted research on trade show exhibiting. The following 14 points are
some of the Bureaus findings.
Trade shows draw quality audiences.<
According to the Bureaus research, 86 percent of trade show
visitors have buying influence, and 59 percent plan to purchase within a year.
Only 17 percent have previously been called on by an exhibitors salesperson.
Trade show visitors spend quality time on the exhibit floor.
The Bureaus findings show that over a two-day period, more
than one-third of trade show visitors spend more than eight hours at exhibits, with the
average visitor spending 21 quality minutes at each of 17 exhibits
Trade shows influence sales.
According to the Bureau, at one trade show, 90 percent of the
resellers bought one or more of the product types on display within nine months after the
show, and 91 percent planned additional purchases in the following 12 months.
New products and developments attract people to trade
The Bureaus research shows that 50 percent of trade show
visitors attend trade shows to see new products and developments.
Trade show visitors hold top positions.
Almost one-third (29 percent) of trade show visitors hold top
management positions owners, partners and presidents.
Trade show visitors have buying power. <
The majority (86 percent) of trade show attendees have buying
power. Eighty three percent know exactly what they want to purchase.
Trade shows reach prospects for less than the cost of sales calls.
According to the Bureaus research, in 1987, the exhibit
cost per visitor at trade shows was slightly more than half the cost of a sales call.
Trade shows reach unknown prospects.
Eighty-three percent of trade show attendees have not
been visited by exhibitors salespeople.
Exhibitors who place six full-page ads pull 56 percent more visitors than
Booth personnel should be knowledgeable, friendly and approachable not overly
Insufficient product knowledge is the major complaint among
attendees asked to rate booth personnel. Another common complaint is overly aggressive
Trade show leads reduce sales calls and closing costs.
The research shows that the average number of follow up sales
calls needed to close a qualified trade show lead is only 0.8, and closing costs are
reduced by almost 75 percent over closing costs without leads.
Larger exhibit sizes generate more traffic.
The Bureaus research shows that the greater an
exhibits size in number of booths, the higher percentage of show traffic that stops
Up to 33 percent of the visitors to a booth were there as a result of pre-show
Over 50 percent of trade show leads dont require a sales call to close. For 54 percent of the orders placed after a trade show, a personal
visit by a salesperson was not required.
In short, positively nothing produces a return on investment from your marketing dollars like trade
show marketing! (Please also read the "Publishers Outlook" column from the
January 1989 issue of Telemarketing magazine to learn more about bringing the
right kind of people to your booth.) I look forward to
seeing you at CTI EXPO in Baltimore, MD, May 19-22 and
in San Jose, CA, Dec. 1-4 1998.
Executive Group Publisher