Yesterday I was talking to a friend and fellow business owner. They were discussing doing a trade show in a few months and this got me to thinking. About 7-8 years ago trade shows were a big push in our marketing mix both for Brandwise and also for our clients. What I realized about 5 years ago was that trade shows although great when done properly, very often are not strategically planned and tend to waste a ton of money.
Brandwise has not done a trade show in that time due to expense. We had a great 10x10 display, lots of collateral, demonstrations and techniques to engage attendees, pre-show mailers and invitations, post-show follow-up mailers, etc., etc. What we didn't have though was the right audience or show locally. So to reach the proper audience I realized we were going to need to travel to some of the national shows. This is where the cost becomes quite expensive. Floorspace is a few thousand, travel for the people and booth could run into the thousands as well, then don't forget the hotel stay and meals. As you can see this bill is adding up pretty quickly.
Now back to my conversation yesterday. Likely my friend found a locally hosted "National" show. I do think there is a good chance the audience could be pretty good for him as well. So this is great right? Well maybe, but there are somethings missing. A solid website.
A website? You may be asking why do you need a solid website to do a trade show. Here is the deal The show is still going to be pricey since it is in the new Dallas Cowboys stadium. So the booth space is going to be up to a few thousand dollars. Then you need design for the booth display and the display purchase or rental probably another several grand. After you make all this investment in the upcoming show and you meet a few people and hand them your business card, what will these people do? Well if your collateral makes it to their home or their office chances are that they are going to weed through things and probably check out the sites of the people they are thinking of doing business with.
Now what happens if your site is less than stellar? That's right your pushed to the side and if there is one person with a solid site your collateral ends up in the trash.
So as this article title says, marketing has changed. We are more often telling people like my friend in this story… you know your best bet might be taking that investment and doing a solid website. For smaller companies, a really good website bring in a ton more leads than a poorly executed trade show. By investing the $3-5K in a solid website you are able to build ongoing leads if you are willing to work the site or for several thousand more you can outsource the work you are unable or unwilling to do.
I would put a website and online marketing system like this up against any yellow pages ads or other form of advertising, direct mail and even trade shows. What I recommend is setting the website and strategic online marketing (inbound marketing) as the foundation of your marketing efforts. Then once the site starts generating leads and new business, then you should start looking into other things like direct mail and trade shows, but not before.
I would love to hear what you think or if you have experienced similar things in your marketing efforts. Have you dropped trade shows to beef up your website? Have you done trade shows that flopped? Do you have a weak website, but found trade shows to be highly successful and think this article is bunk? If so tell us why.