We’re at Canada’s largest building and construction trade show, The Buildings Show, including Construct Canada. This massive (for Canada) event attracts about 30,000 people representing the design, construction, homebuilding, subtrade, and property managers, and other sectors of the buildings community.
Shows are costly, even with the advantage as publishers that we can trade out advertising for exhibit space. Over the years, we’ve done various things to develop new business. Sometimes I would have as many as four employees attending, all needing coverage for hotels, travel and meals. We worked on various show-related marketing initiatives.
Two years ago, however, we made an interesting discovery. Boiling down the show presence to the “basics” — that is a simple booth, with two of us attending — produced virtually the same net business results as the much more intensive efforts in previous years.
The reason: I think it is the 80/20 rule, especially the case for an established, relatively mature business and its relationships. There are relationships and connections, and people who will do business with us, and who won’t. And with the people interested in business we can meet informally and reconnect and build on the relationships. We don’t need to see “everyone” and we certainly don’t need to “attract” visitors to our booth.
Do the same rules apply if you have significantly new product, service, or innovation? Of course not — in fact shows like this can be powerful ways to demonstrate your capacity, especially if you offer tactile examples.
You might say we’re ignoring the rules of good showmanship and marketing; and I think many organizations, in doing something like what we are doing, end up paying truly large sums in costs for truly limited results. Yet sometimes just having a presence is what you need. You can connect and maintain your relationships with relatively little effort and reasonably modest resources if you effectively plan and manage both your show presence and budget.