Tag Archives: CeBit

CeBIT versus Woodstock – tradeshows revisited

This year’s CeBIT was a shadow of its former self, according to a presenter and agency owner who has escorted clients there for over a decade. Meanwhile, another senior marketing executive I spoke to claimed exhibiting at the show was a success for her company because “CeBIT is not for leads”. This ‘bigger picture’ thought was supported by an insightful comment from HP marketing vet Peter Chargin, who raised the importance of knowledge gathered on the ground by attendees. Good point I missed and it made me think.

So if conferences are not for leads, but for brand presence and education, has the world changed?

Some claim, with a lot of validity, that the ‘live’ experience of shows and learning is what the trade show is really about. This is certainly true for the army of press and bloggers who descend on trade shows, they learn a lot. But actual sales need more than awareness, they need persuasion. This is why Salesforce and Siebel are used for telemarketing more often than campaign management – people buy from people not emails. Even PR management tools like Response Source and Vocus just help good old human interaction, they should facilitate handcrafted emails and calls from persuasive PR professionals (like Positive). Use them as spam tools and they are counter-productive.

So then why the downer on conferences if they tick so many boxes? Physical interaction – tick, educating while selling -tick, potential new customer awareness – tick. What does not work is the economics. Why pay for booth space, why not just do speaking slots?

I think I have a better idea, or rather my bright friends at Brighttalk.com, had one. To be honest though, the Brightvocalists did not realise it at first, until, in a truly Twitter-like way, they remodelled their business plan. From a sort of online AGM tool they came up with virtual conferences. So now you have all the knowledge sharing you could need, full control over how your brand is conveyed and even some ‘accidental’ leads as it is promoted to the firm’s half million users. Whether or not, the ‘webcasting reinvented’ users Brighttalk claims all love your content, that’s a lot of potential bag-fillers passing your virtual booth – for free.

We need yet more innovation. Half day physical conferences, impromptu conferences (Twestivals not Flashcrowds, for safety reasons) and much much more online innovation (Brighttalk, Webex etc.). Music festivals people spend days at, but industry conferences? Can anyone honestly say the ‘Good Old Days’ of CeBIT were really like being at Woodstock?

Let’s discuss your opinions by emailing pmaher@positivemarketing.org and to learn more about how we can help check out www.positivemarketing.org

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Industry conferences, huh, what are they good for..?

Talking to the Head of Marketing of a fast-growing US software company the other day, reminded me about the trade-offs and decisions such companies have to make every day. Should they attend that prestigious European vendor-run conference, or buy more clicks for that hot keyword their online campaign?

The chance to meet around 5,000 attendees, hand-deliver brochures and demo software live on the stand and maybe brief press and analysts, seemed tempting. Not so the $50,000 bill for floor space

Of course that is just the start of the costs, there is the re-branded booth and literature to ship, the staff air fare, accommodation and catering and the expenses bill. But perhaps the greatest worry is the opportunity cost of having a sales team unable to visit potential customers for the duration of the show. A genuine dilemma – this year more than ever.

For the large vendors who have built brands and have partners to keep happy, European shows such as CeBIT, SAPPHIRE and Macworld make sense. They build loyalty, prove the momentum of their company and allow them to announce their latest offerings, literally, on a Big Stage. Indeed, due to the number of staff in one place, large vendors can and frequently do, piggyback internal meetings onto these events. But the value of attending is less clear cut for the smaller guys – especially these days.

In 2009, even vendor conferences are trying to break even and it is the partners who pay most for these shows, through sponsorships, booth rentals and even tickets for their staff. One show I worked on had plenty of partners and only 33% end user attendees. With that sort of ratio of prospects, the economics, not to say the carbon footprint, looks questionable.

There is a ton of value in networking with like-minded colleagues in this ‘specialist’ industry. When else can you use so many acronyms socially and not need to explain yourself? But while there is plenty of after-hours business transacted over cocktails, perhaps though we should be honest and call a sales junkets, sales junkets. If we really are ‘Tech educating’ customers and staff, what about all those wonderful free carbon-free web conferencing technologies? The same goes for internal meetings paid for by the ‘punters’.

Let the big brands spend their own money on brand-building. For those on a budget, grass-roots local campaigns, events and webinars, though hard to execute, not as ‘glamourous’ and requiring a lot of planning, put you in control of your own destiny and in front of your own prospects. They also save you from the sight of your best sales guys staring at Blackberries at the end of a long and deserted exhibition hall aisle.

Perhaps one positive from the downturn, is a focus on marketing that gets results, not betting big on someone else’s event bill.