Every year Lawn and Garden industry buyers and vendors find themselves going to tradeshows. Buyers attend these shows in pursuit of new products to sell in their stores. Vendors attend in search of buyers who will get their products in front of customers. More than emails, phone calls, and contact forms, buyers and vendors believe that face-to-face interaction with real people is key to successful, sealed, win/win deals. Beyond the belief that face-to-face is important, there is general pressure to attend these shows—“You have to be there!”—without any qualification besides, “This is what we do, we attend tradeshows!”
But this begs the question: do tradeshows work? Do they get you that face-to-face time that is so critical in win/win relationships? For many, the question goes unasked because they assume there is no alternative to the traditional tradeshow model. But with thousands and thousands of dollars being spent on flights, fancy booths, handouts, giveaways, and tradeshow registration and entrance fees, several questions demands to be answered:
● Can you win at a tradeshow?
● What’s all the buzz about “face-to-face” and how valuable is it towards my bottom line?
● How does setting up a booth at a tradeshow equate to the right buyer stopping by at the right time, and does that lead to a closed deal?
● What’s the point of attending a tradeshow? Is it just a publicity maneuver?
● What’s the ROI of a tradeshow? Can I even measure it?
● Are all tradeshows created equal? Are there different formats? What options do I have?
In part one of this Series, we will answer some of these questions and provide a framework for the impact that tradeshows have on your bottom line. If you want to have a better idea of the factors that matter with a tradeshow investment, then read on.
– Part 1 – Can You Win at a Tradeshow? A Cost/Benefit Analysis of Tradeshows
Can you even win at a tradeshow event? The short is answer is: “Of course you can!” But every short answer has a long answer behind it. The long answer is that “It depends on your budget,” and “What do you mean by winning?”
What’s Your Budget?
Tradeshow organizers make their money by creating an event with a limited amount of space and with booth locations of varying size, quality, and relative price. Essentially, booths in prime locations will get vastly more foot traffic than booths that are “stuck out in the boondocks”, and those booths cost prime dollars as well. Vendors also compete for foot traffic by designing booths of ever increasing complexity and extravagance, some going so far as to build multiple levels and private conference rooms right into their massive spaces. Of course, all of this is to attract as many people as possible into your space and in front of your sales people. So, inevitably, the competition factor must be considered when you consider a tradeshow booth purchase. In other words, your ability to compete largely influences whether you “win” or not at a tradeshow. And more importantly, your marketing budget largely influences your ability to compete. Do you have the money to hold your own in a game in which big players are willing to spend up to $60,000 on booth construction and $100,000 on a prime booth space location, as well as attractions, give-aways, show promotions, etc?
(source: exhibitusa.com) Even for just the average exhibitor attendee, after paying for the space, booth and graphics, travel and expenses, show services, and shipping you would spend $12,700 on an event in which you had a 10×10 booth. (source: exhibitusa.com) Lawn and Garden industry small business vendors need an opportunity that levels the playing field and provides everyone with the face-to-face interaction that prime real estate and booth complexity produce, removing the need for massive marketing budgets in order to compete with the big players. Competing in the big leagues can be tough.
What do you mean by “winning”?
Is winning seeing existing customers to show them new products? Is it seeing new companies? Is it socializing with people you know and attending out of the habit of attending a particular show? According to a Deloitte and Touche study for the Center for Exhibition Industry Research, a poll of exhibitors found these seven tradeshow objectives to most closely align with their company’s marketing objectives:
● 63% Promote Company Capabilities / Awareness
● 51% Introduce New Products
● 46% Sales Leads from New Prospect
● 36% Sales leads from Present Customers
● 31% Enter New Markets
● 21% Generate Immediate Sales Orders
● 16% Public Relations source: creativetraining.com
How do the numbers above match with your own expectations and goals? Out of these, what do you think is a winning scenario at an event? Your company is going to have it’s own, unique marketing profile and objectives and it will be important for you to determine your’s before deciding which tradeshows will best help you achieve your goals. None the less, confirm that these big box, multi-million dollar shows actually allow you to meet your criteria for winning before you shell out the investment. $12,000 or more is a lot to pay for a loss.
As we conclude Part 1, we come away with two truths: Tradeshows are worth it because they provide the opportunity for face-to-face interactions—the thing we as sales and businessmen and women are all looking for at the end of the day. And secondly, to get worthwhile face-to-face interaction, you need to put a lot of money, time, and resources down upfront. But we also come away with a question. Ultimately, tradeshow value comes down to the bottom line: whether or not a particular show, or any show, is worth it financially. So the practical question we walk away with is, “How do I measure my return on investment?”
In part 2 of this blog series coming next week, we will discuss just this: the complicated question of tradeshow ROI, as well as the perceived and concrete value in face-to-face interaction at tradeshows. We will touch on some of the variability in quality and quantity of face-to-face interactions that can be found at various events. In the meantime, consider why it is that you attend—and pay for handsomely—the events you attend each year, and if they are really aligning with your definition of winning a tradeshow.