Perception vs. Reality
One of my best friends travels quite a bit for his job. We often joke about who travels more, but he has me beat by quite a distance.
Approximately 30-32 weeks a year, he’s on the road, and most of his travel is to Events, Conferences, and Trade Shows. These can range from a small regional show in Alaska where he has a table top display to the industry hardware show in Chicago where he has a 20′ x 50′ island exhibit.
He asked to meet this week to talk about their up and coming trade show program and to get some advice. They go to over 35 events or shows a year.
Without identifying the company, they are the nation’s largest provider of products in their market, selling to retailers like Wal-mart, Kroger, and Target, as well as most local and regional grocery chains.
Over the past two years, their ROI has dropped significantly; yet, their sales have continued to increase. They analyzed the problem and determined that the ROI shrinkage was directly related to increases in their event/show costs. In particular, costs associated with labor, show services, and drayage.
As he puts it, “We are at the point where we must decide between continuing to participate in large shows or hold private regional events in four or five cities a year. At the regional events, we would bring our customers in and show them our products and services.”
The numbers are staggering. Their sales have increased on average of 15 percent each year since 2008; yet it isn’t keeping pace with increases in their drayage, labor, and show services expenses.
And it was stunning to see the costs related to certain venues when compared side by side. For example, they compared a large show in Chicago vs. the same show in Orlando. Trust me I know the obvious reasons why some costs were lower, but overall the show services, labor, and drayage costs were 23 percent less in Orlando. And like all exhibitors, they do not determine the venue, so they have to decide whether to attend the show in Chicago.
He asked me my opinion about switching to large, privately-hosted, regional events. I have to be honest. I found myself recommending that they do just that. It gives them the same (if not better access to their clients), and they don’t have to deal with competitors.
Now, if you’re thinking, “What about the perception of them not being at the shows?” I agree, there is a risk there, but for some companies, such as those with a large foothold or who are the market leader, not participating may not matter.
I know certain cities and venues are trying to “fix” the costs associated with attending shows, but do they realize how much needs to be fixed? There is a perception that trade shows are too expensive, and that perception, even as the industry makes changes, will continue to linger.
How can we go about changing that perception as large cities and venues work on the reality?
Please share you comments and stories. Be well!