I hate trade shows as a marketing tactic.  Add up the cost of booth space, shipping, and travel, and the number of good leads you need to get to show any kind of ROI is too large to justify doing most shows.  And don’t even get me started on how hard it is to be heard above the noise of dozens of other companies battling for the scarce hung-over attention of attendees that are only walking the show floor because they heard there might be free food or booze around somewhere.  Here are 5 reasons to stop exhibiting at trade shows:

1/ There’s no ROI – Did you ever stop to wonder about those free food and booze parties/receptions they hold on the show floor to get attendees to go into the exhibit hall?  There is a clear message – people won’t go in there unless they are bribed to go!  How many high quality leads do you think you are going to get from a crowd of people that want to avoid you?  Not many.

2/ It’s hard to stand out – You can’t afford an Oracle-sized booth (and you’ll also miss out on the keynote talk and premium advertising that goes along with that). You’ll be in a tiny booth along the edges of the show where it’s easy to ignore you.  You could do something really creative to stand out like the company at SxSW that had their entire booth covered in brown paper.  I’d link to them but I can’t remember what they were called.

3/ No one will notice if you aren’t there – Some companies tell me that they know they can’t show ROI for a show but if they pull out, it will somehow send a signal that they are pulling out of a market completely.  Baloney.  Take it from a gal that’s been responsible for pulling out of somewhere around 100 trade shows – nobody ever notices.  The number of times I’ve gotten any negative feedback from a prospect, customer, press person, or anyone else because I pulled out of doing a show equals exactly zero.

4/ You could be doing other things.  Like selling stuff – Don’t forget to factor in the opportunity costs of doing the show which will include travel time and time it took to prepare for the show.  If you have limited folks on the team, remember that every minute they spend on the show is a minute they aren’t spending doing other things.  Things like driving revenue (see point #1).

5/ You could stand in front of the convention center handing out $100 bills and get more qualified leads – OK, OK, that’s the same as point number 1 but you get the idea…

That doesn’t mean there isn’t an opportunity to do something interesting at a show.  I’ve done customer and prospect events during shows that were much less expensive and more effective than exhibiting.  Speaking or simply attending a show can often get you access to the same number of interested customers at a much lower cost.  Just say no to the booth.

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