A Marketers Generational Battle
I was never meant to be a salesman. I find direct selling to be very hard and somehow I often feel like I am to shy to do it. But sales pitches are daily burden for startup entrepreneurs (cf. Founders Must Turn Into Salesmen). And it turns to be very concrete when you participate to a trade fair. So when we decided to go and promote Novertur stand-by-stand at the 2013 EMO trade fair for metal working business, I had no choice but to get a grip on myself and turn into a very sweet version of Mr Blake (again, Founders Must Turn Into Salesman). Beyond the fact that the show was impressive with huge stands and big machine tools, the conclusions I draw from this experience is that turning an event’s presence into real sales is a big challenge, while companies could optimize their use of online marketing instead.
A stand at a trade fair will usually grant you presence in front of a targeted audience of potential customers – people heading to the fair being generally interested in your business area. It’s therefore a great way to be in direct contact with leads and to present your products. Of course, this presence has costs, starting with exhibition costs (exhibit fees, speaker costs, sponsorships, etc.) but including also transportation costs (equipment shipping), travel expenses, sales materials costs, and human resources (staff). A modest stand can easily cost up to 50,000 dollars. While I have no doubt that some of the participants are able to drive leads and generate positive ROI from such events, I still feel like the investment is important and risky. Furthermore, thanks to the Internet, companies now have a serious alternative with the same kind of presence anytime, anywhere, at lower cost.
In online marketing (pay-per-click or inbound marketing), we speak of impressions, clicks and conversions. The impressions are comparable to the number of person passing in front of your stand at a trade show as it measures the number of potential clients seeing one of your ads or the preview of your company profile on a network/marketplace. The click is the transformation of the interest triggered by your ad or profile preview into a visit of your website or profile – easily comparable to a visit of your stand. A conversion is the transformation of the objective you fix for a given campaign. In this case, a sale. In PPC marketing, such as AdWords, your costs will be generated on a cost-per-click basis, depending on the quality of your ad and your initial bid. Such click has no direct cost in inbound marketing, where you establish the presence of the company on the web and if possible at the right place like on a marketplace, or on a network such as Novertur, if you’re looking for B2B clients and partners overseas. If you are equipped with e-commerce, you may even close your deal online, very quickly.
The entire costs for such an activity starts with website’s costs (you can count $20,000 budget for that in Switzerland and probably half of it in other EU countries). Unlike your stand, your website is however perpetual and accessible from anywhere (even any device if it is responsive). Of course, you may also pay for the campaign (PPC/CPC) and you can fix a budget for that. For this campaign to be optimal, you need the resources to manage it, just like you need it to develop your web presence in inbound marketing. At some point SEO should take the lead over advertising, and you’ll only have to invest in time-resources. So if you think about it, while with a stand fair you will limit your audience to people going to the show, during the time of the show and take the risk that no one is interested in your stand, with online marketing you can control your budget (you pay on a click basis), you are open to anyone in the world using the internet, and you are present anytime.
Personally, I would carefully consider each cost and potential revenues. Because it is perhaps interesting and relevant to participate in some fairs. Maybe it is due to my difficulties with direct selling, but my feeling is that too many small and mid-sized enterprises overestimate the importance of shows. On the contrary, they underestimate or simply don’t understand the power of online marketing and online networks which are able to leverage important leads and sales quickly and from home. The web presence of most of the EMO 2013 participants reflects this perception.
Ultimately, considering online marketing before trade shows’ marketing probably depends on the generation of marketers we belong to.