We are a young and privately funded company. While we occasionally eat something other than ramen noodles, we have a pretty tight marketing budget. When we evaluated how to participate at NAB this year, we had to take a hard look at the return on investment of exhibiting.
On the plus side, exhibiting at NAB would potentially increase awareness about our cloud video collaboration service. It would also make it easy to engage in lots of great conversations, as a good booth can draw people in.
The big negative of exhibiting at NAB is cost. The hard cost of a small booth is somewhere in the $5,000 range. Creating signage, promotional material, swag, etc. easily adds thousands more. After adding in flights, hotels, meals and entertainment for 3 people, we would easily be pushing into the $15,000-$20,000 range.
An equally large consideration for a startup is the opportunity cost. Spending a significant amount of time preparing for the event, and having all of us man the booth (this isn't a job for 1 person) means that time gets diverted away from improving the product, engaging in other marketing activities, and keeping the business moving forward. Everything gets put on hold for the big event.
There is also uncertainty around the true awareness generated by a booth. With so many exhibitors at NAB, smaller companies can be overshadowed by lavish booths from companies that have large brand marketing budgets. Sometimes you get lucky and get placement by a prime draw, and sometimes you get tucked away in a back corner.
Our Hypothesis: Meeting on the Floor Can Provide Similar Benefits to a Booth, Without the High Cost
Given the high cost of a booth and the uncertain return in terms of awareness and leads, we decided not to get one.
We believe that we can get much of the same impact by attending the event with a floor pass and directly meeting with potential customers, press, bloggers, strategic partners, and competitors. We will use the event to make customer connections, deepen our understanding of market trends, test distribution assumptions, and evaluate positioning of competitors.
Since we don't have a steady stream of people coming to a booth, the key consideration is making sure that we have lined up the meetings in advance, so that our time is spent consistently engaging with people. This means advance planning, but I believe that this is far less disruptive than preparing a booth.
Many of these activities are things that I do on a daily basis already, so there is little incremental work. The only real difference is that it's an opportunity to build or deepen relationships face to face versus over the phone and social media.
Come Meet ScreenLight at NAB
All of the above is to say that I will be at NAB and that I am really excited to speak with you and provide one-on-one demos. I will be using the latest in mobile booth technology to do this.
If you want to meet, please get in touch via phone, email, or twitter.
Think of me as your cloud collaboration concierge. Give me a call and I'll come meet you at a time and place that is convenient. Doesn't that sound much better than walking the length of several football fields just to speak with me.
I Will Update You On Our Success at NAB in a Follow Up Post
Since we are trying to measure the impact of all our marketing activities, I will report back to you on how things went at NAB.
While we can't run an A/B test comparing exhibiting with not exhibiting, we can talk about whether we met our objectives. We can also talk to other small companies that are exhibiting at NAB to get their perspective on the ROI of exhibiting.
I'm sure it's going to be a good news story about great meetings, lots of new insights, and leads that will be nurtured and strengthened after the event wraps up.
Hope to see you there!