Tradeshows For An Integrator

Hi everyone,

We are putting some $$ for tradeshows focused on security systems and debating which ones are better. Our main objective is build brand awareness and generate leads in the local community that is 150-mile radius from our regional offices in Atlanta, Chicago, New York, and Houston.

Any feedback on which tradeshows are better than others?

Do mean to attend as an exhibitor?

Yes.. having a booth

For NY, ISC East is very NY centric and so is the ASIS NYC show.

As an integrator, the "well known" security shows are going to be of little benefit to you. ISC West is expensive, and probably out of your budget, and it attacts primarily other integrators. There are a good number of end-users in attendance, but the ratio of end-users to integrators is too low (IMO) to be worthwhile, and then a number of them are out of your target markets.

The big ASIS show is slightly more end-user focused, but it is still not exclusively an end-user show, and being that it is a security show, your visibility as an integrator gets watered down unless you have some very specific niche ("We are the cruise ship security specialists") in a segment that is not highly price sensitive.

Based on my experience working with lots of integrators over the years on trade shows, your best option is probably to look for shows in the areas that you have a presence in that align with specific area of expertise.

An example of the above, we've had a lot of integrators over the years that use our analytics to serve auto-dealerships. The basic pitch being that we use analytics and live remote monitoring to catch after-hours theives coming to steal parts from vehicles (airbags, spare tires, nav systems are all fairly portable and easy to sell). Sure, you can make that pitch as an integrator at ASIS and hope that some auto-dealership security people wander by. Or, you can setup shop at ASIS with your "full pitch", and hope that when the auto-dealership guy comes by you're not pitching your cruise-ship security business unit and he wanders off thinking you can't do much for him. But if you get a booth at a NADA show, you're going to be one of the few guys NOT offering all the same stuff as the others. You're going to stand out more. And you can focus your pitch and presentation to something that 90% of the attendees have an interest in, instead of something that 2% of the attendees have an interest in.

ISC East was mentioned above. That show is a little bit of a mixed bag (in a mostly-good way), but is still, IMO, too integrator focused (meaning that it's mostly manufacturers trying to sell to integrators) to be worthwhile exhibiting AS an integrator.

Some other thoughts:

1) Talk to the manufacturers that you have your best relationships with. Larger manufacturers will often help their better integrators with shops. It might be lending you equipment for demos, people to assist with the show, or even co-marketing dollars. In the past (at VideoIQ) I've given some of my larger integrators $5,000 or $10,000 in cash or "store credit" to help support their marketing efforts at targeted shows.

2) Make sure you FULLY understand the cost of doing a show. Really, you should already have a good handle on your basic COCA (cost of customer acquisition), so that you can determine if spending $20,000 on a show to get 100 leads and 10 deals is a worthwhile expense or not, relative to other ways you could spend that same $20,000. By FULL cost, I mean booth fees for floorspace, booth rental (or pop-up booth cost, I spent $5,000 on a pop-up booth recently and it's really nothing spectacular), cost for people attending (hotel, meals, time away from other work), electrical fees, internet fees, shipping fees, printing fees. A "small" show can easily be $10,000.

3) Make sure you have a good system in place already for tracking lead sources and conversion times. In line with the above, if you don't know where your leads are coming from, how long they take to close, or other data, it will be hard to measure your trade show impact.

4) Spend some time up front determining what you want to get out of a show before you sign up. EG: we want to launch our brand in the Chicago market and collect at least 250 new leads. To do this we will highlight our key strengths A, B, C, etc. Don't just say "we'll throw together a booth at the next scrapyard tradeshow and the customers will flock to use naturally".

5) Your show starts 8 weeks in advance of the exhibits. It takes a LOT of time to plan properly and ensure you have a polished appearance. Doing a half-assed setup, especially if other exhibitors have a clean and manicured appearance will make you look small and weak and will turn customers away from wanting to talk to you. You don't have to be the biggest booth there, but if you can't put in a solid showing, you might be best of skipping the show. You need to send emails to your contact list a couple of times in advance of the show, letting them know you'll be there, the standard "come see us" message you've probably gotten from manufacturers attending ISC West. After the show you send the "hope you made it to FooFest, it was a GREAT show for us (even if it was dead ;) ). Blah blah blah." This way even your customers or leads that did not attend the show see how your business in growing and doing new things like exhibiting. Leads that might not have had much engagement will see the nice picture you included of your booth and all your happy people staffing the booth and will assume you're a "solid" company.

6) Similar to the above, you don't want a location on the "outskirts" of the show (IMO). Try not to get lumped in with all the small booths from weird companies. It's kind of like real-estate Location, Location, Location. Doesn't have to be right upfront, but you can be elevated (or pulled down) by your exhibit neighbors.

7) Once you've signed up, talk to your manufacturer buddies again and see if you can get a local sales person or manufacturers rep to help man the booth with you. It helps to have more than 1 or 2 people, so that you can take shifts, handle conversations that crop up where a potential customer wants to get into a more detailed/drawn-out conversation about something, and so on.

I could probably write a book on this "How to do a security trade show", but the above are some good starter thoughts.

TL;DR Skip ASIS and ISC, look for regional events that are more vertical focused and hone your message for those shows.

I have seen local integrators with trade show booths at our regional ASIS shows, as well as at local chapter events for organizations such as IFMA (International Facility Management Association), BOMA (Building Owners and Managers Association), and CSI (Construction Specifications Institute). I'm not sure how well these work for the integrators, but suspect that the ROI is marginal at best.

Local organizations (including many of those mentioned above) are always looking for speakers and security technology is a hot topic right now. If I was an integrator again, I think that I would develop some generic presentations and get in front of as many groups as possible. As a consultant, I do this myself, and it is rare that I don't get one of two projects as the result of every presentation. I gave one presentation to a property managers group about four years ago and I am still getting calls from members of this one group.

@Undisclosed 2 - Great details and it totally makes sense. thanks so much for the info.

@Michael - I like your idea of providing presentation - value beyond just pushing 3rd party products.

As an integrator, I wouldn't see much value in ISC or ASIS etc. As an exhibitor at a trade show, you are effectively a supplier. The security trade shows are usually selling to integrators, at least in my experience and so your money would be wasted on attempting to advertise your services to your competitors.

I think you'd be better off focussing on other industries like education, hospitality etc.