FabTech 2009

Recently, I attended FabTech, a large trade show at McCormick Place in Chicago.  It got me thinking about how important these shows are and the value to a company when they attend.

If the economy is in a slump, it certainly isn’t evident at these shows.  A single booth is expensive and there were a large number of displays that used the space of ten or twenty booths.  The displays can be elaborate, from a small semi trailer, with the center cut out, to companies having couches and chairs for people to sit and rest.  And, the manpower that a company sends to these shows can be impressive.  While most booths had two to six workers manning a booth at one time, I counted over twenty red shirted exhibitors for an electric company.  You can imagine the size of that display.  And, they weren’t the only ones.

What else intrigued me was how companies got attendees to stop to see what products and services they supplied.  There were people out in the aisles grabbing anyone walking by to talk to.  Some companies did the exact opposite and sat down, watched everyone go by, and if someone actually stopped, then they would slowly rise and talk to them.

However, my favorites were the companies that had a gimmick to get people to stop.  This included a large bowls of candy or other treats, to a NASCAR racing car sitting at one display.

My favorite though was a double booth where in one was a camera where anyone could have their picture taken with two young girls dressed like construction workers in shorts or skirts.  The other part of the booth had six young, mostly blond, girls with their poster hung up behind them.  Now, that booth was always busy with attendees.  Everyone stopped there.

What is the quality of leads generated from these booths?  Just because I wanted a piece of candy, does that mean I want to buy the product?  I like racing, so does stopping to look at the car make me a good potential customer?  I can tell you that not one person I talked to had any idea what the company did that had all of the pretty girls.

Were those good leads?  The next step is what are those companies going to do with those leads, good and bad?  Most of us would assume that if a company is spending all of that time and money on a trade show, they would automatically follow up with any potential new customers.  Not even close.  Some statistics show that less than one third of those potential leads will ever be followed up on.  From my years of experience in sales in various industries, I am surprised that the percentage is that high.

One aspect of our business at Randolph Sterling is to do the follow up work for companies after these trade shows.  We separate the actual potential customers from the ones who stopped by to just to look at a pretty face or have a bite to eat.  We build relations with future customers and set appointments for our client’s sales force to sell their products/services to companies who are looking to do something now.

Art Crowley

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