Why Exhibiting Still Matters. Lessons from the HR Technology Conference

We recently invested in what is our company's first trade show booth. The exhibit is a brand new model from Skyline called the Reaction Banner Stand that looks really sharp and takes about 10 minutes to set-up (seriously). I recommend the exhibit for any company that needs a great looking and flexible 10 X 10 exhibit. Aside from the great appearance and easy set-up, the model allows you to easily create different panels for different shows, depending on what message you want to promote.

At HRmarketer.com, we like to practice what we preach when it comes to marketing and PR. This includes investments in search engine optimization (SEO), sending regular "Marketing" press releases (Marketing PR), direct marketing, advertising, speaking, placing byline articles, blogging, webcasts, podcasts, etc. What we were not doing until recently was trade show exhibiting.

Our first trade show was the 2006 HR Technology event that just recently took place in Chicago at the Navy Pier. In addition to exhibiting, we also sponsored the exhibitor's lounge. We really enjoyed the event and will most definitely return next year.

Our success at the HR Technology event reminded me of the importance of exhibiting. Here are five reasons why every vendor should exhibit:

1. You reach buyers that are not being reached through other marketing and PR activities. For a company of our size, we invest heavily in marketing and PR (over 15% of gross revenue) and have a prospect list of more than 7,000 companies. Since 2001, we have sold more than 450 HRmarketer.com memberships. We thought everyone in the space knew who we were. But at the HR Technology show, our sales reps reported that about 50% of our booth traffic "never heard of HRmarketer". And a good percentage of these companies wanted a demo and will likely buy an HRmarketer membership.

2. Face-to-face meetings with current prospects. Like many businesses today, most of our sales are made over the telephone without ever meeting the customer. However, for some companies it still takes a face-to-face meeting to close the deal, and trade shows are a very cost-effective way to have face-to-face meetings.

3. Face-to-face meetings with current customers. Putting a face to that voice on the phone is a great way to solidify a relationship. Again, tradeshows are a cost-effective place to meet a lot of customers.

4. Credibility. Having a trade show exhibit helps your company's credibility. As one vendor told me, "they may not notice when we exhibit but they definitely notice when we don't".

5. Industry Intelligence. From attending sessions to talking with thought leaders to visiting other exhibits, a trade show is a great place to boost your industry knowledge. Sure you can buy an exhibit-hall only pass but you are limited in what you can accomplish if you don't attend sessions and don't have an exhibit as a home base.

I believe it was Ogilvy who said that "half of every dollar you spend on advertising is wasted but we don't know which half". The same can be said of trade show exhibiting but in my book, it still pencils out. Or, to quote Woody Allen, "half of life is just showing up". We intend to show up and exhibit at quite a few HR trade shows in 2007.