If you’ve ever been to a trade show, or even seen coverage of one on the news, you know there tends to be more style than substance. Nothing embodies this more (pun intended) than the “Booth Babe”. While having a pretty girl is a sexy outfit may draw fanboys to your booth (and may drive away geek girls) do they increase business ($$$) and not just traffic at the booth?
This past week Las Vegas played host to the annual CES conference and concurrently, the annual chiding of tech companies by tech press for their time-honored tradition of using booth babes in marketing their wares.
It’s a pretty indefensible practice. The hiring of young, college-aged females to dress as provocatively as possible to help promote…um, Ultra HD TV sets, Android tablets and Internet-enabled toothbrushes. It’s a relic of old enterprises, but that’s just the way they like their world. But what nearly every critic has failed to mention is a real concrete business reason to end the practice.
Well, I do: Booth babes do NOT convert.
He has had anecdotal evidence of this for years, but no real evidence until recently when had the opportunity to test his theory in real life:
A few months out from attending a big SAP show, I was reviewing our staffing plans for our 10′ x 20′ booth. The preliminary plan was a sales rep, a systems engineer (sales guys that can actually demo), myself, and a couple of “marketing events consultants” (Protip: It’s frowned upon when you actually put “booth babes” as line item in your budget).I was also looking at our previous year’s lead-gen efforts and it was a paltry 150 or so leads. For an event where we’re spending over $70K, it’s not great ROI. In the enterprise world, we would easily spend up to $200 to acquire a qualified lead.
I never realized how much these guys spend on trade shows!
Then came a godsend. I received an email from the event organizer that free booth space was being offered to us in a different part of the show floor since we had been a good marketing partner in the past. Bingo. There was my chance to test a theory with the hopes of boosting our lead-gen results.
My theory from years of being a part of trade show staffs is that the booth babes we hired were actually a drag on lead-gen. Up to that time, it was all empirical evidence based on being at shows where we had money to hire booth babes and events where we didn’t. I noticed that we had always done better without the booth babes but it was just silly to suggest that we did better because we didn’t have hot babes at the booth. I mean, I had a better chance of convincing my co-workers that the sky was purple.
But here was my chance to put it to the test. So for one booth I flew in professional booth babe talent, and for the other booth I had asked another local agency for a couple of show contractors that knew the local area and had established people skills. I actually had to stress a couple of times that I was not looking for contractors whose only attribute was “smokin’.”
The results? They were great. The booth that was staffed with the booth babes generated a third of the foot traffic (as measured by conversations or demos with our reps) and less than half the leads (as measured by a badge swipe or a completed contact form) while the other team had a consistently packed booth that ultimately generated over 550 leads, over triple from the previous year.
So there’s your proof. Booth Babes. Do. Not. Work.
I really encourage you to read the full article. It’s definitely worth your time.