Compared with the ever-rising cost of a sales call, trade shows still appear to be a relatively cheap way to reach potential customers -- provided you've selected the right show (see " Trade-Show Stoppers," May 1992) and kept your total exhibit costs under control. If you're spending more than $142 per trade-show prospect, you may be spending too much, warns Richard Swandby, president of Exhibit Surveys, which polls some 18,000 attendees of 60 trade shows each year.

Swandby has found that the "exhibit cost per visitor reached" (how much it costs to reach the people who visit a booth and express interest in the product) remains the same for exhibitors from both small and large companies. How many visitors can you expect? On average, 16% of any trade-show audience may be interested in your product, says Swandby. However, an effective preshow promotion (see "Stretching the Trade-Show Budget," No. 05921421, May 1992) can increase traffic at your booth by as much as 33%, according to the Trade Show Bureau, in Denver.