cancellation of COMDEX 2004

What does the cancellation of COMDEX 2004 mean? Is it that COMDEX is just too big, trying to appeal to everyone, while smaller shows offer more focus? Or is it because COMDEX itself is too expensive? Or have all trade shows become irrelevant for companies attempting to optimize their marketing spending?

Trade shows have always been a popular program in the marketing list. COMDEX was once a great show for computer manufacturers. It was started in 1979 as the Computer Dealers Exposition designed for hardware and software manufacturers to show their wares to dealers for the purpose of signing distribution contracts. But then IT people started coming, then consumers, and then anyone with a free pass could get it. In 20 years, COMDEX went from being a valuable manufacturers' business show to a consumer show-and-tell to an irrelevant expenditure.

In the 2004 study on Marketing Practices by softwareminds, trade shows are the most utilized marketing communications tactic--used by over 75% of us. We use shows primarily to generate leads (69%) and build awareness (29%). While shows were rated as one of the top three most effective tactics by half of the vendors responding, almost one-third plan to reduce their expenditures in the future. We're realizing that trade shows can rarely be justified by the leads generated. And too often, we burden the show with secondary objectives such as meeting press and analysts, trying to close big deals, gathering competitive intelligence, and so on. But in retrospect vendors wonder if the money was spent wisely once show costs including shipping, travel, printing, and tchotchkes are added up--not to mention the opportunity costs of using the time and money for other purposes. Appearing at a show has the appearance of "doing marketing." Sales and Development see our participation at a major show and say, "Finally, Marketing is doing something valuable."

But savvy marketers today are worrying less about appearances and employing tactics in support of a marketing strategy. Checklist marketing has never been particularly effective. Instead effective marketing programs result from an integrated strategy to achieve a specific corporate goal by leveraging our company assets.

Steve Johnson

Steve Johnson

Steve Johnson was a founding instructor at Pragmatic Institute, a role he held for more than 15 years before he left to start Under10 Playbook. In his return to Pragmatic Institute, Steve supports the complete learning path for product teams, ensuring they are fully armed for success. 

Over the course of his career, Steve has helped thousands of companies and tens of thousands of product professionals implement product management processes. He has worked in the high-tech arena since 1981, rising through the ranks from product manager to chief marketing officer. Steve has experience in technical, sales and marketing management positions at companies that specialize in both hardware and software. In addition, he is an author, speaker and advisor on product strategy and product management.

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