It’s puzzling to me how many exhibit managers that I meet exhibit one of the most curious dichotomies when it comes to solutions, budgets & event program value that I have come across. The strange conversation generally goes something like this:
Exhibit Manager: My manager has asked us to do research on how our exhibit program can provide more value to our company. So I am out surfing the web to see what kinds of products and programs are out there that can help us manage our sales lead logistics and help connect the dots between what happens at our exhibit booth and how the rest of the company operates day to day.
DigitalDean: That’s really great that you and your manager are so intent on providing and proving the maximum value to your company that tradeshows and conferences can deliver. Are there specific gaps that you are looking to fill?
ExhibitManager: Well our sales department claims that the money our firm spends on tradeshows would be better spent on trade publication advertising and better cellphones for our sales reps. They say that our sales department never gets truly qualified lead information back from our exhibits and that they would be better off just purchasing a list from the show organizers after the show is over. I am concerned as the CEO says that unless we can start proving that we provide value to the company, he will start cutting the tradeshow program back dramatically.
DigitalDean: Ok, do you have a formalized process and supporting systems in place to help you generate and then quickly deliver qualified leads from the show floor to the sales department?
ExhibitManager: No, what I usually do after the show is take all the lead boxes that we rent, download their data from each box, copy all the separate data from each box into one big Excel document and then email it back to my manager who counts the number of contacts and then emails that spreadsheet to sales. If I don’t have another show right away, I can usually get that work done in a week or so after the show.
DigitalDean: Ok, so with that process if someone visits the booth more than once, how do you know which of their contact records contains the correct or most recent information? Can you deliver both leads and qualification data directly to your sales force immediately after the show? I imagine that this is the kind of value that your CEO is looking for.
ExhibitManager: Well we really don’t and frankly I don’t have time to deal with that stuff. It takes too much of my time already. We have a really busy show program and I have to make sure that we get the correct graphics, literature & giveaways to the next show.
ExhibitManager: What I need is a single system that can manage sales leads generated by all of our shows across all of our divisions globally, manage them all from a single system, give us a single record for each person, no matter how many times they return to the booth, qualify that lead with specific questions and then automatically generate reports that go directly to our sales leaders.
DigitalDean: That’s great, we actually have that exact system. It’s called Leadature™ and it does everything you just described and so much more.
ExhibitManager: Ok, that sounds like just want my manager wants. Is it expensive?
DigitalDean: Actually, when you factor in all of the elements you just described, lead box rental, literature printing, literature shipping, literature drayage, wastage, your time in managing literature, your time in managing leads post show and the lost sales opportunities due to the extensive time lapse between the show and when your sales group gets the leads, it actually can save up to 80% of those aggregate costs for a company over the course of an annual program.
ExhibitManager: OH, well we only manage our budgets from show to show and have only a small amount for lead box rental budgeted for each show. My time and my group’s labor time is not counted as part of our program budgets and marketing pays for literature so even though Leadature might save our company money overall and even though it solves the issues I have been tasked with, if it’s more than the cost of my lead box budget then it’s just too expensive.
DigitalDean: Excuse me but I thought that you were looking for an overarching solution for the issues you spoke about. Would it not make sense that a solution like that would need to be budgeted on an annualized basis that factors in all the cost elements we detailed?
ExhibitManager: Yes, that’s correct but I break my budget up show by show so if a solution costs more than $300 then it’s too expensive. I sure hope that they don’t cut our $750k tradeshow budget though; I would hate to lose headcount in our department if we can’t deliver solid sales data and success metrics.