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Outbound Sales vs. Tradeshows: A Vendor's Perspective on Industry Challenges

#outboundsalesmastery #realestateinvesting #revbranding retentionmastery Feb 15, 2024

In my dual roles as an astute employee focused on profit and culture, and as an entrepreneur who has rapidly expanded to cover all 50 U.S. States and many Canadian Provinces within less two years, while also launching a short-term rental management company among other software solutions, I've come to a significant realization: the traditional approach of investing in tradeshows for vendor visibility and sales is not as lucrative as a new vendor should believe.

One pivotal lesson from my journey is the importance of sales balance between attendees and vendors for optimal returns. However, this balance is often missing in tradeshows, where the attendee engagement rate in our sector is alarmingly low at 0.03%, in stark contrast to the 17% seen in other industries. For vendors, the financial outlay is considerable, with costs ranging from $5,000 for a basic booth and representative to an eye-watering $45,000 (considering ROI) for a high-visibility presence.

My entry into this industry as a pioneering young female entrepreneur was marked by high hopes tied to a hefty $64,000 investment in two major tradeshows my second year. Unfortunately, the experience did not live up to the hype due to inflated attendance rates, subpar setups (not ours), and a lack of genuine interest in the success of my burgeoning business from the organizers. Thankfully, my company's foundation in outbound sales strategies led us to remarkable profitability, with operational expenses below $15,000/mo yielding an average of $225,000/mo in new sales.

Further complicating the landscape, my efforts to organize a successful chapter formation event in Alabama, which outperformed neighboring associations in attendance and ~ vibe ~ , highlighted another issue: despite our success, further recognition to form our own chapter was misattributed, overshadowed by associations entrenched in unchecked corporate support and reputation management banking practices.

Amid these challenges lies a more pressing concern: the need for Human Resource reform within associations to safeguard young women from sexual harassment, a rampant problem contributing to the dismal average retention rate of less than one year for women in our industry. My own experiences, from being pressured into attending late-night parties by inebriated bosses at 24-26, to being groped under the table by an industry "leader" at 27 as I made my entrepreneurial debut while others stood-by, underscore the urgency of addressing this issue. The presence of allies, or "white knights," is commendable but insufficient to combat the systemic issues perpetuated by the industry's old guard and alarming lack of DEI.

This glaring problem calls for immediate action to foster a safer, more inclusive environment, ensuring that talent, regardless of gender, age, and race is nurtured and protected rather than exploited or marginalized. As I prepare to delve into the challenges faced by minorities in our industry, I pause to honor the fearless women entrepreneurs who have laid the groundwork for speaking out against private funding corruption, just as they have. Their bravery and resilience inspire ongoing efforts to foster a more inclusive and equitable industry landscape.

I'd like to emphasize that while tradeshows can yield profits, the margins are typically more modest and shouldn't be relied upon as the primary pillar for your business's early success. Additionally, I want to highlight the significance of donning steel-toed cowgirl boots, particularly in upscale dining settings, as an effective measure against unwelcome advances. If you're pondering the effectiveness of your current sales strategies or considering exploring outbound sales, I'm here to share my journey and the lessons learned, aiming to help you navigate these industry challenges without facing the hardships I endured in order to grow your business. 

Author: Maya Madden

RevSales, RevOps, RevBranding & RevRecruting

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