Another (less-than-enthusiastic) perspective about construction trade shows

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Darren Lester, in the?Specifier Marketing 2.0 blog, pulls no punches in his analysis of the value, or in his opinion, lack of value, in construction trade show participation.

My personal conclusion is that exhibiting at the various industry trade shows are not that valuable to?SpecifiedBy – or certainly, we can achieve a lot more with less through other channels.

I?m sure there is a place within the industry for them, but I?ve experienced much more bad than good. It feels a tired format, surviving purely on the basis of, ?we?ve always done it?.

Poor organisation, stuffy venues, speakers reading bullets points off slides with too much text, crappy?wi-fi, gimmicky attention-seeking tactics and sales people who either don?t want to be there or behave like they?re on a market stall, harassing passers by, desperate for any attention they can attract ? this is the image I have?of industry events.

These are truly tough remarks — and he backs them by taking some dismal numbers about cost per lead, in his case, coming with a difference in ROI between trade shows at 14 per cent (for a high-priced building product) and more than 2,500 per cent, using online tools such as the service or pay-per-click advertising. (Nothing wrong with this, but obviously his remarks are self-serving.)

He developed a?simple spreadsheet to calculate ROI for trade shows. I’ve copied it on a Google Sheets?file so you can work with it as you wish (I hope he doesn’t mind this reuse — of course the original source-link is here for you to connect directly to

These thoughts are relevant the day after my return from the Buildings Show/Construct Canada in Toronto. Here, the show has grown into a massive multi-disciplined event. While the argument could be that it is “everything for everyone and therefore nothing for anyone specific,” in this case, the show organizers have aligned with various industry groups and associations and designed the event so the various segments have strong individual identities and focus — but all participants can check out the whole event, resulting in some interdisciplinary cross-fertilization.

Undoubtedly, our cost-per lead will be lower than some other exhibitors, as the business trade-out with show organizers saves us the cash cost of exhibit space and show services (carpets, chairs and things like that). However, it still takes significant budget resources to send two people for four days for this event. We’re pulling in the ROI data now; so far, it still looks like it is worthwhile for us.

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