You are on page 1of 3

CONCEPTUAL FRAMEWORK Role of Trade Shows in the Industrial Communications Mix Personal selling is usually the largest component

of the business marketing communications mix (Lilien and Weinstein 1984). Like advertising, trade shows are typically viewed as complementary to direct selling activities. Trade shows can uncover previously unknown or inaccessible buying influences, project a favorable corporate image, provide product information, generate qualified leads for salespeople, handle customer complaints etc. (Hutt and Speh 1992, p. 481). In addition, trade shows can satisfy competitive objectives (e.g., gathering competitive intelligence) and serve to enhance employee morale. It is useful to examine the role of a trade show in the marketing communications mix, in terms of the stages involved in the buying and the selling processes (Figure 1). ___-________________--Figure 1 about here ____________________---Robinson, Faris and Wind (1967), and several other researchers have characterized the industrial buying process as a series of stages (see Wind and Thomas 1994). Buyers in these different stages (Column 1 of the figure) have different information needs (Column 2). This multi-stage process leads to different communications tasks for the seller (Column 3). Note that some of those tasks (like generating awareness) are performed more cost-effectively by impersonal marketing communications while others (like offering customization) by personal contact. Most suppliers, therefore, employ a mix of communication vehicles. In general, personal selling becomes more cost effective than the impersonal communication vehicles as the buyer moves closer to the supplier selection phase. Trade shows are somewhat of a mix between direct selling (usually there are some sales personnel at the booth) and advertising (the booth is designed to generate awareness, explain/demonstrate the product and answer key questions, even without the personal involvement of booth personnel). Trade shows can play a cost-effective role in the communications mix, especially in the early stages of the process -- need recognition,
3

development of product specifications and supplier search. The cost-effectiveness of trade shows

(ii) the proportion of booth visitors contacted by the booth salesperson and (iii) the proportion of contacts converted into leads (Gopalakrishna and Lilien 1992). the greater the carryover effect of one show on the other. 42. greater sales volume. A single trade show has varying effectiveness in helping this process flow.rms themselves) exhibited more products. Moriarty and Spekman 1984). had more customers. Descriptive studies have found that firms with complex. ranging from being unaware to seeking purchase reassurance. as have operational measures such as (i) the proportion of target audience attracted to a firm’s booth.diminishes as the buying process progresses toward evaluation and selection. multiple shows can have cumulative. Ford and Walker 1993. but increases in terms of providing feedback on product/service performance. we focus on . a selling-firm’s universe of current and prospective customers will be distributed among the phases in the first column of Figure 1. with high sales levels and high customer concentration were more likely to participate in trade shows (Lilien 1983). using the seller’s vocabulary. While researchers have acknowledged the importance of trade shows in the business marketing mix (Cavanaugh 1976. Similarly. less frequently purchased products.) At any time. We will comment on these ideas further later in the paper. 4 Based on the above. p. Conceptual measures of performance like audience activity and audience quality (Mlizzi and Lipps 1984. synergistic effects. Cavanaugh 1976) have been suggested. trade shows can be cost-effective in prospecting. We would expect that (a) the more the audience overlaps between two shows. had specified show objectives and had used fewer horizontal shows (Kerin and Cron 1987). they have also acknowledged that little systematic research about trade shows exists (Rosson and Seringhaus 1990). (b) the more the product mix at the two shows by the same exhibitor remains constant and (c) the closer the two shows are in time. qualifying prospects and even presenting the sales message (Churchill. while better performing firms (as rated by the G. Trade Show Performance . opening a relationship.

7 = __________________u____________u________~~~~~~~~-~-~-~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ size of target audience where “target audience” refers to the number of attendees at the show with an interest in the products exhibited by the firm. Note that v in the above framework provides a foundation for other objectives for trade show participation. but the first step--attracting the right booth visitors--is a necessary first step. proper training of booth staff etc.of a trade show and then relate it both to carryover effect of past shows. Though the target audience has a size given by (E(S)*Q. the attractiveness of participating in a show depends on E(S)*vo. For the firm. All attendees at the show are not in the relevant target audience for a given firm. etc). measured in terms of the total number of attendees). one particular dependent measure of the effectiveness contemporaneous decision variables as well as to the Consider a single show. objectives like handling complaints from current customers/dealers and generating quality sales leads from prospects both require the firm to first attract visitors to the booth and then make effective contact with them (handle complaints. only a fraction of that audience actually visits the f%m’s booth. turn visitors into leads. For example. rather they belong to one of two groups: those potentially interested in the products exhibited by the firm (~0) and those not interested (1 . These other objectives involve attention to issues like adequate booth stag.~0). . This proportion represents the “attraction efficiency” ($ of the booth. We define this performance index as: (1) number of attendees from target audience who visited the firm’s booth Attraction efficiency. The attraction efficiency indicates how effectively the booth is able to attract members of its target audience. We focus on v as the key dependent variable of interest in the model structure next. the expected number of potentially interested attendees at the show (where E(S) is the expected show size.