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Top 3 Things Exhibit Marketers Wish Their Boss Knew

As an exhibit marketer, there’s a lot you’ve learned about trade shows.  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 their bosses are in the way.  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 the value of shows, how to do shows better, or that doing trade shows right takes more effort than it looks, maybe you could take your boss out to lunch, and offer this article for dessert.  If it’s not in this article, let us know what you’d like your boss to know about trade shows in the comment box below.

Learn more about how exhibit marketers like you have adapted to today’s changes by getting your own copy of The Evolving Role Of Exhibit Marketersthe new 36-page White Paper from Skyline Exhibits and Tradeshow Week MagazineGet your free copy by clicking here now.


About the Author

Mike Thimmesch is the Principal at Thimmesch Marketing. For over 25 years, he has created and implemented innovative marketing, lead generation, and exhibiting strategies that profitably grow company sales and brand awareness. Mike rose to Director level at Skyline Exhibits, where he helped generate over a half million leads, resulting in over $1 billion in sales. He published 11 industry white papers and eight exhibiting books, presented over 100 trade show webinars, and wrote over 200 exhibit marketing blog posts.

4 responses to “Top 3 Things Exhibit Marketers Wish Their Boss Knew

  1. Great survey as usual Mike, But I wonder…why do their bosses not know this? Why have they not communicated it? Or is it more a case of there is no hard data being provided by the exhibit marketer to their bosses to back up these great points above.

    1. Hello Traci,

      Thanks for your comment, Traci, and your perceptive questions. I have a theory to explain why the bosses of exhibit marketers don’t understand these three points:

      People are imperfect.
      Management is made up of people.
      Do the math.

      Seriously though, looking at each point:

      1. The Value of Trade Shows: Bosses may not fully understand their value because they are too focused on getting immediate results and can’t wait for their lengthy b2b sales cycle to play out, they may be hypnotized by the bright shiny object of electronic marketing, or as you say they don’t measure where their sales come from and so they default to cost per lead (often expensive for trade shows) versus cost per face-to-face contact or even ROI.
      2. How To Exhibit Better At Trade Shows: A coach I know once said “Practice doesn’t make perfect, practice makes permanent.” It’s all too possible to have a boss that wants to keep doing trade shows the way they’ve always done it, rather than try new things, or heaven forbid, actually make changes based on measurement and feedback.
      3. How Much Effort It Really Takes To Do Trade Shows: In today’s “streamlined” marketing departments, it seems like everyone is now doing the job that two or three people used to do. Exhibit marketers may be too scared to speak up about their workload, knowing there are plenty of unemployed marketing folk out there willing to shoulder their burden. And the job itself includes so many little details to touch that individually look simple, but add up to a tidal wave of organization and double-checking stress. Bosses may just not believe it’s that hard.

      Certainly exhibit marketers can help themselves by better communicating the overall value of trade shows, the need to experiment to improve, and what the breadth of activities they are doing to market their company at trade shows. Even better, demonstrate how their activities are directly growing sales, enhancing their brand, and reducing costs, or else their boss will stop listening.

  2. I’m all for 1, 2 AND 3. However, what’s critical is that Exhibit marketers/Events managers find a way to measure the value in milestones. Find ways to measure:impressions or experience, comparison of exhibit CPL with the CPL of other channels/programs, total opportunity cost with the opportunity cost of other marketing/f2f selling methods, how shows provide uplift to integrated communications plans, the value of the 1:1 interaction, “key” to shifting and influencing our markets.

    My team perform both customer appreciation and research work at events at which we exhibit; they set associated targets and measure them. These are two ways they prove the value of exhibiting. And the business thanks them for it.

    1. Bravo, Karen, for putting so much thought and effort into measuring multiple ways trade shows add value, and then reporting that value to your management. I bet that pro-active effort pays off in less pushback about the value of shows. And puts you in the upper echelon of exhibitors.

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