Trade Show Planning: How Much Is It Really Costing You?

Approximately 20% of the 1.6 Million small to mid-sized businesses in the US can afford to have a dedicated Trade Show Manager.  That means that 1.28 Million business are leveraging existing personnel to fill that role.

The impact of this strategy is wide ranging.  It distracts key personnel from their main goals and objectives such as revenue generation and customer satisfaction.  It also increases overall costs due to last minute scheduling, bookings, shipping, sponsorships, etc.

Revenue and Expense Impact

There are two sides to the coin when it comes to the impact of planning, managing and executing on trade shows and events.  There is the lost revenue impact and the increased expense impact.  Let’s take the lost revenue impact first.

Companies that don’t have a trade show manager on staff will typically assign the responsibilities to trade show planning and execution to the Sales organization.  This seems to be a very logical and rational choice after all because Sales is the beneficiary of the event and they will be at the show. So why not let them plan, setup and tear down the show?

Sales organizations drive revenue to the company. They are by nature great at finding, engaging and closing customers and deals. Each day they spend on planning, managing and executing on trade shows and events is one less day they get to spend on finding new revenue opportunities for the company.

Data Points: The average company attends three trade shows a year in a 10×10 booth.  The combined total effort to  plan, manage and execute these shows is approximately 2.2 weeks. International show planning typically takes double this effort.

If your Sales Reps each have a $1M annual target, then your lost revenue opportunity is approximately $4,200 per day each.  How many days a year does your Sales team spend on trade show planning, management and execution?

The other aspect of lost revenue generation is directly attributed to the irreplaceable face-to-face time trade shows provide your sales team with.  There is no other venue where your sales team has direct access to a targeted set of prospects and clientele in a single location.  If your sales team is spending time in the planning, management and execution of a trade show, they are probably missing pre-show opportunities to: connect with potential attendees, drive booth traffic and presence, set appointments or otherwise execute on a complete outreach campaign.

The expense side of the coin is primarily driven efficient planning of the trade show and executing against the plan.

Data Point: The average company spends 20% – 30% more than budgeted for a trade show due to unplanned cost overruns.

Cost overruns due to delayed and last minute activities kill your budget. Bookings of trade show space, services, hotels, drayage, printing and shipping are the biggest contributors to a trade show’s overrun expenses.

Virtually all of these are completely avoidable, but are often missed simply due to the fact that the administration staff coordinating these activities are fully engaged with their primary activities. Drayage is an area where overruns often occur, but whose planning and management is more complex.  I’ll cover the costly area of drayage in a future brief.

One Way Or Another?

The reality is that you can maximize your trade show participation without sacrificing revenue opportunities or increasing your costs even if you don’t have a full time trade show manager.  You can do this by becoming fully versed in all of the intricacies of trade show management and planning. You could engage part-time with a certified professional trade show marketing manager leveraging a portion of the savings they will create for you. You can do both.

If you don’t have the budget to hire a professional or attend enough shows annually to realize the savings benefit from a certified professional, there’s several great articles I’d suggest you review before planning your next show.

This article written in 2009 during the recession is still relevant and worth a look as it explains some of the key aspects of an integrated marketing approach relative to trade shows.

While I don’t particularly like the Dummies series of publications this one for newbies has some valuable insights.

Finally, this article containing 12 tips for successfully shows has some great tips for the  do-it-yourself minded. Tip #12 is especially valuable.

The Best of Both Worlds

You can get the best of of both worlds when you engage with a certified professional trade show marketing manager.  Their job is to provide you with the flexible services you need when you need them to make you successful. The cost of these services is typically far less than the amount of increase costs and lost revenue opportunity you are experiencing today.

Hopefully this article helped you to better understand the hidden costs and revenue leakage associated with using sales and other personnel for in-house trade show marketing planning, management and execution and helped you formulate a strategy to reduce or eliminate them.

Are you with a company that successfully plans, manages and executes trade shows? Do you outsource, do it in-house, or use a combination of the two? What other areas of consideration would you add to this impact list? Do you have some tips and tricks on this topic that you’d like to share?