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Top 3 Things Exhibit Marketers Wish Their Boss Knew

August 17, 2010

By Mike Thimmesch

As an exhibit marketer, there’s a lot you know about trade shows that your boss doesn’t.  But what do you most wish your boss and other senior managers knew about trade shows?

To find out, we asked exhibit marketers to tell us, as part of the survey Tradeshow Week did for our joint white paper, The Evolving Role Of Exhibit Marketers).

The answers were clear.  The top 3 things exhibit marketers want their bosses to know are:

  1. The value of trade shows
  2. How to exhibit better at trade shows
  3. How much effort it really takes to do trade shows

1.  The Value of Trade Shows

Exhibitor marketers praised how trade shows build awareness, relationships, memorability, and yes, generate leads.  They want their bosses to see the value of face-to-face marketing compared to direct selling, and how that can never be duplicated via the internet.  Many exhibitors wish their managers understood that the longer sales cycles for their industries delay results, but to be patient because those results will come.

Here, in their own words, is how exhibit marketers value trade shows, and what they wish their bosses understood about their value:

  • “At anywhere from $20 to $75 per contact per lead it is still by far the most cost-effective face-to-face contact option available.”
  • “Face-to-face connections are very beneficial for relationship-building.”
  • “The benefit is not strictly based on sales closed at show or within weeks of meeting someone at show.”
  • “It's a chance for interactive/experiential marketing that can make a long-term impression on attendees.”
  • “Sales cycle in our serving industries is long and it is extremely difficult to track results for an event today which will bring in revenue 3-5 years out.”
  • “Shows are effective in growing our business and travel to stay on top of market and developing conditions is essential.”
  • “That the Internet cannot replace the one-one interaction that takes place at trade shows and events.”
  • “That they are key to shifting and influencing our markets.”
  • “That you have to spend a little money to make money.”
  • “The importance of the newest exhibit display to attract attention.”
  • “The sales cycle from event to signed contract is typically 120-180 days, so the ROI can not be tracked immediately.”
  • “There are still people who want to see things up close and people face-to-face.  There needs to be a balance of shows, print and e-media.”
  • “There is much more to marketing than lead generation.  Brand awareness and marketing mix to reach prospects is important not just putting your eggs in one basket of electronic marketing.”
  • “Trade shows are critical to our success.  What other venue puts thousands of your customers directly in front of your key products and technologies for several days?”
  • “We can reach many more buyers and decision makers for much less cost than one-on-one sales calls.”


2.  How To Exhibit Better At Trade Shows

Exhibit marketers want to do better, but can’t.  They have new ideas and a more complete understanding of the entire trade show marketing process, but can’t always get their senior management to loosen the reins and let them experiment and innovate.

Here are some of the exhibiting methods and ideas exhibit marketers wish their bosses understood:

  • “Exhibitors do not have to do what they have always done.  We can make changes and it will not hinder our reputation at trade shows.”
  • “A better-planned trade show with pre- and post follow up by assigned personnel is a better investment than sending a large group to a show with no specific plan or message.”
  • “Being at the right show is very important as there are sooooooo many shows these days.”
  • “Can't be a once or twice thing.”
  • “Demonstrations are crucial.”
  • “If there is not fast and assertive lead follow-up, our time, effort, and money go to waste.
  • “If you do it, do it right or leave it.”
  • “Key prospect selection, on-site networking, follow-up and follow-through is much, much more important than anyone appreciates here.”
  • “Plan EARLY!”
  • “Sending a ton of product/literature doesn't always draw people into the booth.”
  • “The need for in-house communication and cooperation during site-specific planning.”
  • “The role politics plays in trade shows.  For example not going one year can drastically ruin booth placement for the following year.”
  • “We need more qualified demo people on our stand.”
  • “When you sign up for a booth, people need to be in the booth.”

3.  How Much Effort It Really Takes To Do Trade Shows

Finally, while exhibit marketers have said above that they value trade shows and want to do them better, they also want their bosses to understand that trade shows are harder than they look:

  • “Event planning involves 1001 relatively minor, though super-critical steps to ensure a smooth show.”
  • “Exhausting!”
  • “How much goes into the planning and logistics of getting us to a show.”
  • “It is part of a multi- prong marketing effort.”
  • “Takes more time than they think to get the details right.”
  • “That it's not a vacation.”
  • “That you only get out of a show, what you put into a show.”
  • “The amount of time it really takes to pull something together and the critical need to incorporate marketing strategy around the event - not just rely on the exhibit to do the work.
  • “The cost in money and time is great.”
  • “The length of time it takes to follow-up on leads and the importance of timely responses.”
  • “Things don't happen over night.”
  • “We work really, really hard and are not partying the whole time; just because something happens in southern California does not mean we're on vacation.”

What do you want your boss to know about trade shows?  If it’s in this article, maybe you could take your boss out to lunch, and offer this article for dessert.


The Evolving Role Of Exhibit Marketers

Learn how your job compares to your peers in The Evolving Role Of Exhibit Marketers, a 36-page white paper. Fill out the form now to request your free copy.


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