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Capitalizing On Customer Events

Focusing on educational content and aggressive marketing can help integrators run successful customer expos.

For the Snader expo, Pearce usually sends out multiple email blasts and runs display ads in the Bay Area production and business press as well. For the corporate marketplace, she focuses on AV-related seminars; for video production, her ads focus on the exhibitors as well as seminars. In addition to asking her sales reps to make calls and distribute invitations, Pearce also runs ads in newsletters and on the websites of the various groups she sponsors.

Costs and benefits

The cost of these events can vary widely. Because Blair, Eberhardy, and Lopez usually run small seminars in their own facilities, the labor costs are typically the most significant.

Lopez says the opportunity cost — the cost of sales calls, service calls, and other work that occupies his staff while producing the event —can be substantial. “Everybody in the company gets involved,” he says. “The warehouse people, the support people, even the accounting people. We chase them out of their area so we can serve lunch there.”

For Pearce, the hard costs are much more significant — more than $100,000 to produce the Snader Expo. “And the labor going into the show drives the costs up much higher,” she says. “I have to start months in advance and rely heavily on our sales and technical staff.”

However, none of these companies reports a major hit to its marketing budget in promoting customer events. They typically find ways to charge vendors for the cost, either by selling booth space or asking for sponsorships. “The manufacturers are very good in that if they can't help us out with co-op, they give us credit memos on equipment purchases,” Lopez says.

These integrators also report that the benefits of these customer events far outweigh the costs. “Sometimes we'll get one sale that's worth all of the time that was put into the show,” Blair says.

Lopez agrees. “If I have 50 to 350 people come into our facility on any given day and they meet the people who take care of their needs — whether it's the sales person, the accounting people, or the various service people — I think that's a major success,” he says.

For Pearce, the networking aspect is key. “I know that a lot of relationships start at the show,” she says. “And while maybe the sales cycle is a month or two down the road, ultimately if we hadn't had the show to get someone introduced to the product, that sale would never have happened. We've done millions of dollars of business because of this trade show.”

Don Kreski is an independent marketing consultant with more than 24 years of experience in the pro AV industry. He holds an MBA in marketing and finance and can be reached at

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