Booth babes: Good for show, not for sales

If you’ve ever been to any sort of convention or promotional event, you’ve probably already encountered them. Tall, attractive, wearing heavy make-up, and often clad in sexy or revealing clothing, they’re there to sell the latest cars, laptops, or smartphones to the male audience.

Or at least, to make them look.

These so-called “booth babes” are a common sight at most conventions, especially tech-focused ones.

While nobody seems to be particularly proud of the fact that relying on models and sex appeal to promote products isn’t exactly the most gender-sensitive method of advertising, numerous companies do it every year anyway.

However, if Spencer Chen of Frontback were to be believed, companies would probably do much better with a different – and less controversial – tactic, sales-wise.

Booth babes: a boo-boo?

Chen, who currently works as the camera app company’s head of marketing and growth, wrote a detailed and insightful piece about the topic on TechCrunch talking about an earlier experiment he conducted.

Way back when he was still part of a major public software company’s product marketing group, Chen wanted to examine the relationship between employing booth babes – called “marketing events consultants” in the professional environment, he reveals – for promotional events and actual sales generated on a mathematical level.

At the time, Chen had noticed that their ROI (return of investment) at previous events was somewhat disappointing, considering that they were spending more than $70K for their promotional efforts. Chen had his suspicions, but decided that he needed more proof before he could present a solid case to the powers that be.

“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,” reveals Chen in his essay. “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.”

'Booth babes do NOT convert'

Chen saw an opportunity to test his hypothesis when his company was allowed to occupy two booths at different ends of a large tech convention. He enlisted professional booth babes to serve as presenters for one booth, and assigned “show contractors that knew the local area and had established people skills” (instead of the typical “smokin’” representatives) for the other.

Amusingly, Chen got more than what he bargained for when he received reports that the other booth had two “grandmothers” as contractors - a far cry from what their other spot had to offer in terms of booth presenters.

When the results came in, however, Chen was validated.

“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,” writes Chen.

Chen was eventually able to convince his surprised co-workers, especially when they saw the numbers. The truth was undeniable.

“Booth babes don’t convert.”

A factual approach to a fierce argument

Chen cites four reasons why booth babes seem to generate fewer sales. For starters, booth babes tend to intimidate convention-goers, simply by virtue of their lovely looks. "I think it’s just human nature for guys to be a little nervous around hot girls," says Chen.

Additionally, Chen noticed that booth babes were less likely to put any actual effort into talking to people about products and services than the more trained and knowledgeable representatives.

The third and fourth reasons seem to go hand-in-hand. High-level executives who already have a set agenda for going to tech expos (and more importantly, control over their companies’ budgets) don’t really pay much attention to booth babes. On the other hand, “newbies” and low-level employees with no big-time spending power were the types of leads that the pretty presenters consistently generated; Chen refers to them as "low-quality leads."

Chen advocates discarding the “dog-and-pony show” approach in tech shows and demonstrations.

“The new startup enterprise players are obviously changing much of this mindset where the product is the only thing that matters and sales people now facilitate the deal, not close it,” observes Chen.—TJD, GMA News

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