setting up at a tradeshow

Tradeshow Trauma

Gee Ranasinha Marketing

setting up at a tradeshow

I had a discussion with a client today who wanted to know more about how we could help her company with their presence at an industry tradeshow planned for early next year. In common with many organizations, she was deliberating whether the enormous costs and resources would be worth it.

My first question to her was why she wanted to exhibit at the tradeshow. However, rather than give me tangibles, her answers seemed to be based on emotion – fear, primarily – rather than any concrete strategic or financial reason.

Reasons like “the industry will think that we’ve disappeared if we’re not there”, or “the trade media will think that we’re not a serious market player”.

Are you planning your tradeshow strategy because you feel that you have to be there, rather than because it makes commercial sense to your company?

The Continuing Decline In The Importance Of Tradeshows

In the 80s and 90s, exhibiting at tradeshows was one of the most popular – and successful – ways to capture business. Then along came the internet and many of the reasons for a potential client to visit an exhibition disappeared. Regardless of whether you believe that industry tradeshows still play a valid part in your marketing planning or not, it’s clear that the number of companies choosing to exhibit at many industry tradeshows continues to decline.

Today, there are many other ways of marketing your business value. Prospects go to tradeshows for different reasons, yet the way that tradeshows are organized is pretty much the same as it’s been for the last fifty years. Lower show attendences means you need a higher lead conversion rate to make sense of the whole thing. That may or may not be a realistic proposition for your particular business.

Don’t misunderstand me: depending on where your market lies, tradeshows may still be the best way of maintaining and attracting new business. But blindly signing up to exhibiting at a tradeshow every year because “we’ve always done it that way”, without logically evaluating whether it’s the best use of resources, seems to me to be a bit myopic.

I spoke to a company recently that had exhibited at a tradeshow earlier this year. They told me that they had got about sixty “A Class” sales leads at the show, but less than 15% of those leads were from companies that they were not already in talks with. I don’t know exactly how much it cost them to be at that tradeshow, but after having organized my previous company’s tradeshow presence for the past seven years I can hazard a pretty good guess. I estimate that each one of those new leads has cost that company about $16,000.

The best way of spending your marketing budget?

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About the Author
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Gee Ranasinha

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After founding a successful media production firm, Gee became worldwide director of marketing for a European software company. As well as CEO of KEXINO he’s an author, lecturer, husband, and father; and one hell of a nice bloke. He lives in a world of his own in Strasbourg, France, tolerated by his wife and young son. Find out more about Gee at


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