Next week, we will attend and exhibit at the Building Owners & Managers Association (BOMA) 2010 International Conference in Long Beach, CA. This is our 8th year at the event which serves the primary market we operate in.

When everything these days is driven by a need to justify expenses and deliver an ROI, there is a lot of discussion within the marketing departments of any business on the value of attending and exhibiting at association trade shows. There is a substantial cost both in real dollars and resource focus for a company to attend these shows.  In addition to the direct costs, there are opportunity costs.  Where else could you be spending these dollars and your time to more effectively reach your target audience?  These are valid concerns that should be evaluated.

However, that hard dollar evaluation doesn’t account for the ancillary benefits you receive by attending and exhibiting at a trade show.  There are also intangible costs for not attending that should be considered, including:

  • Meeting your customers in a “neutral” environment and having the opportunity to get to know them on a personal level.
  • The value of having many conversations in a single place.
  • Seeing what your competitors are talking about.
  • Meeting and developing relationships with potential partners.
  • The possible perception created by not being there.
  • Hearing firsthand what the issues are that your clients and prospective clients are concerned about.

A perfect example relates to the last point and being in the “know” in regards to client and industry concerns. We know that difficult economic times, coupled with an overall emphasis on “Green” operations over the past several years,  has lead many of our clients to consider energy data management systems to help them understand and better control their energy costs.  We have worked to support that effort by sponsoring a recent Webinar presented by eSite Energy on “Energy Management Systems that Reduce Costs”  and have released a White Paper this week called “It’s all about the Data: Demystifying Energy Data Management.”  Additionally, we have partnered and integrated with companies like Mach Energy for mutual clients like Normandy Real Estate Partners to take their energy use spike alerts and turn them into actionable requests delivered to a building engineer.

All of these actions resulted from conversations and information we picked up attending industry events over the past year.

So, while the hard dollar questions certainly need to be answered and will continue to drive many of our decisions, don’t forget to consider and balance those costs against the harder to measure, but often equally important “soft benefits” of attending and participating in industry trade shows.