Cutting Down Your Trade Show Budget
by Susan Friedmann, CSP
The Tradeshow Coach
Whenever a recession or volatility threatens the
economy, companies immediately look at where they can cut budgets. Without
much forethought, the first to hit the block is inevitably training,
followed closely behind by marketing. Why? Both are viewed on the balance
sheet as expenditures rather than income generators, so obviously they’re
hot contenders for elimination.
This is a very myopic way of thinking, especially for companies who want to
remain globally competitive. Instead, at times like these when resources
are under severe scrutiny, look at this as a golden opportunity to analyze
your strategies. Put your activities under a microscope and closely examine
what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. Often during times of plenty,
the finance reins loosen up and some highly creative juggling takes place
when budgets exceed their estimations. Obviously, we enjoy the abundant
mentality and wish that it could last forever. But just as with all things
in the universe there has to be a balance, and shortages add stability to
plenty. Whenever highs exist, lows are inevitable.
So, instead of reacting to the highs and lows of the marketplace, what can
you do to maintain a steady balance? Marketing and training are definitely
keys to your success, so let’s examine five benefits and how they relate to
your tradeshow participation.
1. Analyze your weakest links
When you take time to look examine your operation in more detail, you often
discover that many of your actions are done out of habit rather than being
productive and profitable. Think about some of the shows that you attend.
How do they really fit into your marketing strategy? Are you attending them
just because you’ve always done so, or because your competition is there?
These are often your weak links, the shows that utilize unnecessary time and
energy. Think about doing away with the “nice to be at shows” and rather
opt at putting all your energy into the more profitable events that attract
larger quantities of your target market.
Another weak budgetary link is associated with excessive employee spending
at shows, such as dining at the finest restaurants and ordering the highest
priced items just because the boss is paying. Consider setting up a per
diem allowance and make employees accountable for expenses. You might even
reward them with the difference if they under spend their stipend.
2. Exhibit a global competitiveness mindset
To be a contender in the global marketplace and establish a vanguard
positioning, you have to be out there come rain or shine. And, tradeshows
signify an essential marketing strategy when it comes to visibility.
Exhibiting demonstrates that you’re a serious player in the industry.
However tough, it’s important to keep tradeshows as one of your major
promotional strategies. Rather consider reducing space than totally pulling
out a show, provided of course, that it’s the right show for you.
Unfortunately, if you stop exhibiting completely, the “buzz” on the show
floor says publicly that you must be in financial trouble. This may be
completely false, but it’s people’s perceptions that count. They’re the
reality they believe. As the old adage states, “out of sight, out of
mind.” And, since memorability is a key factor associated with exhibiting,
if you’re not seen, how can you possibly be remembered!
3. Focus on long-term results
Investing in both marketing and training means that you’re interested and
willing to focus on long-term results. Neither is designed to give a “quick
fix,” rather using them continuously in an organized and planned manner,
will produce results. They’re like a dripping faucet, so long as the drops
constantly fall into the tub, it will fill up. However, if you maintain a
“turn on, turn off” approach, that is train and market in times of plenty
and discontinue when there’s a shortage, then your results are likely to
mirror your actions. Look at how you can keep an operational equilibrium to
avoid the highs and the lows. Develop a consistent marketing and training
4. Inspire loyal workers
Often companies are reluctant to invest too much in training staff for fear
that once trained, they’ll leave for “greener pastures.” Since there are no
guarantees in life, that’s always going to be a risk, but does that mean you
shouldn’t develop your people to be the best they can be? Absolutely not!
The reasons employees leave may be many. Employees may leave because of
frustration or stress. They might feel unappreciated or undervalued. It
could be that they believe your company is heading for an iceberg and want
to "jump ship" before it sinks. Maybe they feel that their salaries are not
in line with the jobs they are performing. Or they could feel that they
don't have enough authority, growth opportunities, or direction in their
careers. Training is often the key to help inspire loyalty.
5. Improve performance
Employees are the backbone of your company. Without them, your company
cannot stay afloat. The relationship between employees and employers has to
be a partnership; if they feel their needs are being ignored, they will
leave you. But when both sides work on the same wavelength, share the same
goals and ideas, the company will be on the right track for success. What
better place than the tradeshow floor to exhibit this mentality. Your
exhibit staff represents your internal customer-service team and your
company ambassadors. They stand for your entire organization. These people
have the awesome responsibility of making or breaking future relationships
with attendees, prospects and customers. Their attitude, body language,
appearance, and knowledge help to create positive or negative perceptions in
the minds of visitors. Make sure that they’re well trained and can do what
you expect of them. Training shows that you recognize your team’s
importance in the company and look to develop their skills to improve
Exhibiting is a powerful extension of your company’s marketing strategy and
your people are the backbone of your company. Eliminating your marketing
and training budgets during times of recession is tantamount to
profitability suicide. So consider looking at other places to make those
Written by Susan A. Friedmann,CSP, The Tradeshow Coach, Lake
Placid, NY, author: “Meeting & Event Planning for Dummies,” working with
companies to improve their meeting and event success through coaching,
consulting and training. Go to
http://www.thetradeshowcoach.com to sign up for a free copy of
ExhibitSmart Tips of the Week.
© Copyright 2005, Peter DeLegge Consulting/Marketing
Today. All rights reserved.
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