white-paper is written for those that can remember back to how the world
of print advertising “used to be,” and can compare it to where trade
shows are now, and seemingly going.
Back in a world of print advertising when running ads in publications
was somewhat glamorous.
Back when ad
space sales reps had reputations and credibility.
publications were as thick as bricks from voluminous pages of
Back when it was
an honor for an advertiser to be visited by an ad space rep with
his/her publisher or editor in tow.
Back when 3
martini lunches clinched a 12-month schedule of advertising.
advertising effectiveness was measured by the “number” of sales
leads it generated, even though the lead follow-up blame-game
between marketing and sales existed then, as it does today.
by Richard Erschik
Then one day, to upset the status-quo, along came something called the
Internet and the world of trade publication advertising changed
Readers suddenly had another way to communicate with advertisers, other
than by circling a number on a Reader Service, or, returning a Business
Reply Card and waiting what took forever to be contacted by the
advertisers’ representative. (I.e. the lead follow-up problem.)
Using the Internet, a reader could now immediately acquire the
information they needed from an advertiser, simply by referencing the
advertiser’s website. And buyers began to know more about what they were
buying, than sellers knew about what they were selling.
Then the inevitable happened. The number of Reader Service Card
responses began to plummet and advertisers that noticed the reduction
(of leads) began dropping out of publications like flies.
In response to declining numbers of RSC leads, publications removed the
reader service cards to cut cost, but they really did it to hide the
problem. Then publishers drove the final nail into their coffins by
deviating from their ad space rate card pricing, and began bundling ad
Once off the rate card… ad space pricing became negotiable, ad space
sales people became negotiators, publications became a commodity, and
their death spiral began.
Just look at the thickness of trade publications today, and read the
enclosed requiem of one of the most prominent publications in the
If you can look back and relate to all of the above… enter the trade
show of today and reference the table below for the incredible
similarity between publications and trade shows. Not just as individual
media, but also the similarity between the people involved in each of
PUBLICATIONS ------------- TRADE SHOWS
Magazine Publisher = Show Organizer
Trade Publication = Trade Show
Ad Page Seller = Floor Space Seller
Ad Page (for leads) = Booth (for leads)
Reader = Attendee
Ad Manager = Exhibit Manager
Circulation = Attendance
Ad agency = Exhibit Builder
Consider how measurement and ROI have become the mantra of frustrated
exhibitors today, as the declining economy is forcing them to look
out-of-the box for alternative (less costly) ways of exhibiting.
Consider too that the Internet is in the picture again as an alternative
means for trade show attendees to acquire information from exhibitors in
the emerging “Virtual-World.” And as exhibitors investigate and consider
the virtual-world alternative, they are dropping out of trade shows like
flies. Sound familiar?
Considering all of that, look back at the very heart of the problem
(poor lead follow-up and no way to prove ROI) and what could
have been done as
the probable salvation to print advertising’s demise.
Since education is clearly the differentiating factor in business today,
instead of cutting the cost of the process, publishers could/should have
embarked on the mission of advertiser education to teach their
advertisers effective lead management solutions necessary to prove the
value of print advertising.
To ward off the trade show problem today, trade show organizers and
others simply need to increase exhibitor education. So why aren’t you?
Think about what happened in publishing. Publishers (space reps) sold
primarily to a person titled “ad manager.” The ad manager bought the ad
that generated leads that were simply turned over to their sales
department that did little/nothing with them. And upon the realization
that there was no ROI from the leads, or the advertising expenditure,
the advertising company’s CFO cut the advertising budget.
Now look at what’s happening in the world of trade shows today.
The show organizer sells exhibit floor space to a person titled “exhibit
manager.” The exhibit manager bought the floor space and the show
generates leads that are simply being turned over to the sales
department that does little/nothing with them. And upon the realization
that there is no ROI from the leads, or the trade show expenditure, the
exhibiting company’s CFO cuts the trade show budget.
And what are show organizers doing to try to fix the problem and salvage
exhibitors, today? Incredibly, they are moving off the rate-card of
floor-space cost. They are bundling services. And they are basically
doing everything publishers did -- instead of educating their exhibitors
about how to FIX the lead follow-up problem -- which is at the very root
of the problem, again.
education (Would have) = Advertiser retention
education (will) = Exhibitor retention
No one inside of exhibiting companies is teaching exhibit managers
today. They have opportunities to learn at various marketing conferences
and events, but travel budget cuts are now interfering with their
learning ability. There is no history inside of companies, and there are
very few mentors.
Like it or not, the burden of exhibitor education responsibly is falling
on show organizers and even exhibit builders if they want to retain
exhibitors. But, the education has to include exhibit managers,
exhibitor sales people, AND the exhibiting company’s CFO – who is
clearly making the final decision.
Progressive show organizers that provide results-based exhibitor
education stand a better chance of surviving the economic downturn than
those that don’t. And those that don’t will see more and more white
space on their show floor, like publishers saw on the pages of their
publications during their death-spiral.