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Trade Shows: Show Or Trade?

Trade Shows: Show Or Trade?

Jul 17, 2013

Trade show budgets can consume upwards of 20% of a marketing budget. Add to that the man-hours consumed by planning the shows internally; add travel time, and you have a Goliath investment.

Is it worth it?

We asked three marketing directors representing medium- to large-sized healthcare companies to “share your experiences with trade show marketing and real-world advice on how to make trade shows more effective or efficient.”

  •  “I don’t care about the show. I care about driving sales. We spend 90% of our time and money getting face time with customers in private meetings.  The trade show floor is for our junior sales team to practice selling, not for landing accounts.”

LESSON: Focus planning time on individual customers, not the entire group.

  • “Each Sales Rep must, at minimum, hold meetings with two of his/her own customers each day. And, each day they have to meet with at least four customers from other reps’ territories.”

LESSON: Hold sales staff attendees accountable with daily measurable objectives.

  • “Having a sculptor create knee anatomy out of clay and our product demo cost us 1/100th the cost of our interactive joint displays. The sculptor attracted crowds, and customers keep asking if she’ll be back again next year (she comes every year now).”

LESSON: Trade show exhibits are about being remembered, not being noticed.

  •  “Our division head selects three staff members to attend each show as an ‘employee reward’. There is nothing worse than having three people sitting around asking what to do! Apparently my budget is an HR slush fund.”

LESSON: If the show doesn’t warrant your best sales and marketing talent, why attend in the first place?

  • “The only people who actually care about the “wow factor” with new display technology, etc., are the creative teams who sell them. I’m not selling TVs. I’m selling pharmaceuticals. We dropped the hoopla two years ago and now all my displays are designed around individual conversations, and that lands new business.”

LESSON: Do you think your customers will buy your product because it is better, or because your display is cooler?

  • “Never serve coffee, smoothies, or other food and drinks unless every person at the show is a hot prospect. It’s like buying a round for the house. Who does that?”

LESSON: Traffic does not mean sales.

Some sound advice from those in the trenches. The theme is clear: Focus on your people and your customers, not the show and showiness.

What are your experiences? Do you have a lesson you'd like to share?



3 Not-to-be-named marketing directors at a bar in DC

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