Seeking Big Payoff Companies Pay Dearly for Tech Trade Show

This is a NY Times article highlighting the huge expenses associated with attending the CES show in Las Vegas. For anyone who has worked in technology companies, this isn’t big news.

What I have always found fascinating about this is that if you talk with most marketing people they will tell you that spending money at trade shows is probably the least effective application for your marketing dollars. Spending a million dollars for three days at CES for a small company is a big deal. You can do an awful lot of marketing and sales with a million dollars.

To add to the problem, most companies attending these events spend money very frivolously. Half of those attending look at these events as a big party. A time to socialize with remote friends and associates that you haven’t seen in a while. On top of that, it turns out that many of the people that the exhibitor brings with them are completely unnecessary to the success of the event. They actually add no value at all. This practice is so prevalent that if you actually buy the attendee list from the show organizers and do some analysis, you will find that over 50% of the attendees at the show are actually exhibitors. Drill down a bit further and you find that of the other 50% of attendees, there are probably less than 1% that could actually be a potential customer for your product.

So now the real question becomes whether you could spend the million dollars to get your message to that less than 1% potential customer some other way.

To me, that’s not even a question.

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