I had lunch with a friend of mine last week - one of the best recruiters I know. Obviously due to not many companies hiring, as effective as she is, she is not having an easy time getting paid for her services these days. She was however bragging about a company that she’s still working with. When I asked her how that company is doing, she responded saying “well, they had a great CES.”
I hear that all the time. ”We had a great CES” … “We had a great DAC” … “We had a great SEMI” ….. And I always wonder what that really means. To me it’s very comic because in none of these phrases the word “great” is defined, so no one is really wrong about the statement and it totally depends on their perspective and more importantly their (sometimes low) standards.
At the same time, I have heard a few VP’s of sales quoted saying “there are two types of leads: my contacts, and useless ones!” I actually found that statement more ludicrous than the “we had a great CES” statement [No wonder sales guys get such a bad rap!]. This statement is merely an attempt by some sales VP’s to explain why they can’t start sales engagements with people they don’t already have a relationship with. All a good sales guy needs to start an engagement is a phone number and phone. Nevertheless, the industry is full of sales guys who constantly sell themselves based on their rolodex - and unfortunately the industry is also full of VC’s who buy that [stuff].
What everyone seems to miss is something that I have been using in my consulting practice. There is a difference between “leads” and “touches”. Most people who visit your stand at the trade shows are “touches”. ”Leads” are those who 1) have understood your value proposition, and 2) would (at some point) fall in your target segment. In consumer marketing, the difference between the two is rather small: value propositions are easier to understand, and based on demographics it’s relatively simple to know when and how to approach the lead. In high tech marketing, the difference between the two is so large that it could cause startups to fail or larger companies to totally miss the market.
Unfortunately most marketing executives measure the success of a trade show by the number of “touches”. Touches cannot be counted on as whether a target audience is grasping your value proposition and more importantly how it all translates into sales activity. For the most part, the more gimmicky your stand is the more touches you’ll have. Touches just represents how many people came to the stand (for whatever reason). It could even include a lot of your competitors.
The real challenge is knowing shortly after a trade show who the leads were. This requires knowing every touch’s profile, behavior, and experience. If you knew someone who came to your stand was in the market for similar products, you’d immediately know that he or she is a lead. This information is however not readily available till months after traditional trade shows. So I personally believe the value of traditional trade shows gets diluted as more and more people (high quantity) attend them and as it becomes more and more difficult to know about the attendees (less quality).
What comes into picture is new technology. With online communities and their trade shows, the profile, background, experience, (purchase) behavior of visitors is readily available. These modern (online) trade shows also enable a wider reach, a 24/7 approach, and lower cost. A good example of these online community and trade shows is Xuropa. Xuropa has created a community of the individuals and companies in the electronic design ecosystem. It also hosts many trade show style stands, suites, and labs for companies to offer a view into their technology - but the real difference is that companies can easily see who the visitors are and quickly qualify the right ones from a touch to a leads.
“We had a great Xuropa” - people around the industry will soon be saying!
This post was written by Michael Sanie on February 11, 2009