A SECTION FOR ENTREPRENEURS: Building to last - Show trade-offs

A SECTION FOR ENTREPRENEURS: Building to last - Show trade-offs - DILEMMA: Our marketing director has asked me to confirm the booking for this year's trade exhibition in Frankfurt. Although we always go, I've never been convinced it's worth the time and c

by PATRICK DUNNE works with 3i
Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

DILEMMA: Our marketing director has asked me to confirm the booking for this year's trade exhibition in Frankfurt. Although we always go, I've never been convinced it's worth the time and cost: pounds 200,000 seems like a lot of money. Should I be brave and tell him to cancel?

ISSUES: You're right, pounds 200,000 is a lot of money, and it may be better to spend the cash on something else. But if you are going to go, consider the following.

Trade shows are effective for many companies, which can measure the benefits in hard orders, leads generated or relationships strengthened. Others are driven to go by a 'we can't not do it' mentality. The fear of competitors having a field day, of de-motivating the sales force or sending the wrong signals to the marketplace are just too great. Doing things for negative reasons is seldom a good idea and isn't a great basis on which to spend pounds 200,000.

How good is your marketing director? Has he or she put forward a clear proposal articulating the costs and benefits, where your presence at the fair fits in the overall marketing strategy and confirming that it is within the budget? If marketing can't tell you the results from last year, you've got the answer.

If, after completing your analysis, you decide the exhibition is a sensible thing to do then your focus should be on maximising the impact of attending.

To do this requires more than an impressive stand. Your representatives will need clear objectives as well as useful market and competitive intelligence before they go, and a clear process for follow up afterwards. Decide on a PR plan and invite key existing and potential customers to attend your events at the show ahead of others. Remember, if they are busy seeing you they are not busy seeing your competitors.

If you are going to cut the exhibition then do it positively. Take other actions to motivate the sales force and ensure customers get the message that you're not in trouble.

ACTION

- Consider whether your marketing director is good enough.

- Then address the trade show. Insist on a proper analysis.

- Think about what else you could do with the money and time that the trade show involves.

- Leaders are brave, so if you think you should axe it, have the courage of your convictions and get on with it.

- If you go ahead, maximise the impact of your firm's presence.

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