Lead systems: An outside effort or do-it-yourself?

Now that you’ve decided to utilize a lead retrieval system for your next show, will you contract for the services of a registration company, or handle the process in-house? Making the wrong decision can have a serious impact on your bottom line. Consider the following factors:

  • What is your attendance?
    Most suppliers agree that the break-even point for using an outside firm is about 2,000 attendees for paper badges, and 5,000 for plastic. Although most registration companies will handle any size show? it may be difficult for smaller shows to cover the costs. Meeting these break-even points however, does not mean you must hire an outside firm — many associations with attendance as high as 20,000 still process in-house.
  • What do your exhibitors want?
    If your exhibitors are satisfied with just the attendee’s name and address, then you can probably handle lead retrieval in-house, depending on staff size and attendance. As you increase the retrievable information, you also increase data entry time, perhaps mandating the need for outside help. Survey exhibitors to find out exactly what they want.
  • What do you want?
    Lead systems can be invaluable for show management as well as exhibitors. You can gain important demographic information about attendees that will aid booth sales for next year’s show. Again, however, the more information you want, the more you may need outside help. Consider too that the information you need might just as easily be compiled from an exit survey at the show — at a much lower cost.
  • How much are you willing to pay?
    If you’ve already decided to use credit card badges, magnetic stripes or bar codes, then you should hire an outside company. Very few associations can afford the specialized equipment required, especially if it is used only once a year. With paper badges, it may be cheaper to hire temporary office help than to use an outside firm.
  • What is your staff size and how much time do they have?
    You may think you’re saving money in-house, but after factoring overtime pay, material costs and temporary help, you may be surprised to find you’re spending more. Also, if you find yourself doing your staff’s job so they can process leads, you are probably not making an efficient use of your own time.
  • Is control an issue?
    Unless you’re one of the lucky few who work in the same city as your registration company, you will be unable to supervise either the registration or lead retrieval process. Although most of these companies are very good, will you be comfortable with verbal confirmations that the work is being done?
  • What will your exhibitors use?
    You can spend considerable amounts for bar coding, but if your exhibitors don’t rent the “reading” equipment, you’ve wasted a lot of money. Be sure you know your exhibitors, and know what they want. If paper badges are their choice, then perhaps you can consider an in-house system.

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