After you’ve committed to the print media space or broadcast schedule, you go ahead and produce the ad, radio, or TV creative. You cut the corners where you can to keep cost down. Cheap photography, low production value, cheaper talent, etc. If you buy enough media, it’ll work.

But now you’re going to a trade show. Your best people, your best sales staff and senior staff are going to be face-to-face with your best customers—and your fiercest competitors. For those few days, your booth is going to be your corporate world headquarters. The customers you’ve had for years are going to see you—and those other guys at the same time. How does your exhibit look? You can’t make up the difference in media weight.

There’s a hard truth about marketing communications. Good work and good stuff costs a fair amount of money. But sometimes it’s not so much about not having the resources, as it is more about the mix. The monies spent to support direct sales have to spread across a lot of budget lines. You have to deal with and satisfy research, dealer and distributor materials, trade advertising, telemarketing, etc., etc. Particularly if you’re in a B2B category, you really need to be spending 20-25% of the budget in the trade show program.

But somebody, usually your boss, is going to ask if it’s worth it. As the trade show exhibit manager, did you review the metrics for what you supposedly accomplished at the show? Did you get what you expected from the show; number of contacts—new and existing, leads and demonstrations? How many sales were closed from contacts at the show in the subsequent year? And maybe most importantly, what is the anticipated lifetime value of the contacts made? Then apply those metrics against the cost of the show and the exhibit. With solid metrics as support, bosses are a lot more inclined to take the risk of upgrading.

Avoid sending your best people to a gunfight carrying only a knife?