How The Billboard Effect Influences Your Tradeshow

Image by (michelle).

About a year ago, I learned about a term used in the hotel industry known as “The Billboard Effect.”

Defining The Billboard Effect

Chris Anderson Ph.D., assistant professor at Cornell University, conducted a study on the impact of hotel reservations for hotels with or without a presence on Expedia. During the study, four hotels were rotated on and off Expedia for a three month period.

Three Findings About The Billboard Effect

  • Hotel placement on Expedia resulted in a 20-percent increase in bookings on other channels
  • Reservations made on other channels (call center,, other sites) offset reservations made on Online Travel Agencies (OTAs)
  • Rates attained while being listed on Expedia were about 2% to 3% higher

My takeaway is that it is very common for buyers/shoppers to first visit a site that has rich information, conduct a search and then purchase direct. We all do it.

How The Billboard Effect Influences Tradeshow Decisions

Do you think the Billboard Effect has implications in the tradeshow industry?

I do.

I think that today’s tradeshow attendees first go online to visit the show’s exhibitor list. They conduct a search to see which exhibitors are attending and the products and services they offer. They then research the exhibitors they want to visit. If the online exhibitor list has a detailed exhibitor profile, the attendees stay on the site or click-thru to the exhibitor’s home page. If the site doesn’t offer that ability, they leave the trade show website and search the for the exhibitor’s homepage.

Three Big Ideas About Tradeshows And Exhibitor’s Involvement

Without conducting a research project, here are my thoughts about tradeshows, exhibits and the Billboard Effect:

1. The bigger your booth, sponsorship and ad investment, the greater the awareness you create.

Some of that will be immediately measurable, and some may lead to direct or indirect opportunities when the time is right.

2. Many shows provide visibility well beyond the event dates.

With online booth listings and buyer’s guides, these shows provide visibility throughout the year.

3. If exhibitors and sponsors are absent from a major industry show, they will never benefit from the Billboard Effect.

Show Organizers Need To Provide Meaning Metrics For Exhibitors

Bottom line is that today shows are competing against other marketing channels that often provide better forms of measurement.

As a show organizer, you need to help exhibitors with meaningful measurements to best compete against these other marketing channels. One way to do it is to think about the Billboard Effect.

Consider providing exhibitors with analytics like:

  • How many times did they appear in search results?
  • What were the keyword, category or products choices that yielded those results?
  • How many page views did their online listing get?
  • How many people clicked the exhibitors URL and went directly to their site?
  • How many people added the exhibitor to their must-see list (assuming you have a show itinerary planner)?
  • Comparison of their results to their key competitors.
  • Comparison of results to exhibitors with a bigger or smaller presence.

If you can create a good case for your show’s Billboard Effect, you will be armed with more ammo to close the sale. You’ll have the tools to sell consultatively vs. transactionally.

How do you think the Billboard Effect applies to trade shows? What recommendations do you have for exhibitors to capitalize on the billboard effect of your show?

Originally posted in and written by Dave Lutz.

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