Does Sex Sell? Six Questions to Ask Before Hiring “Booth Babes”

There’s no doubt that sex sells; if it didn’t, beautiful women wouldn’t be pressed into service to sell everything from beverages to power tools. It’s easy to get the idea that the beautiful, half-naked woman is the ultimate salesperson-and if you want to get the public’s attention, you’d better hire one to sell for you.

“Booth babes” are not unusual on the exhibit floor, and it’s tempting for exhibitors to hire them as a quick and easy way to draw attention from competitors. But do these booth bombshells draw the right kind of attention-and are they a good idea for your business in particular? Here are six questions to ask before making the decision to hire booth babes to promote your product or service.

Who’s your audience? Booth babes are often seen at exhibits that are traditionally male-dominated-such as auto shows or tech conventions. But even in these realms, the decision to use booth babes is not an entirely safe one. Many women are repelled by booth babes, and even in historically male-dominated industries, there are still women in decision-making positions. When you use booth babes, you have to weigh the benefit of attracting attention from flocks of male attendees who may not be interested in your product against the drawback of offending the female CEO of a company you’d love to do business with.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that booth babes won’t work for your audience. You’ll need to do some careful market research before you decide. Don’t just research the regular attendee demographics; find out who’s in a decision-making position at the companies you’re courting as well. That female CEO at the male-dominated trade show might love your booth-and your company-if you’re the only one that didn’t hire models.

Does it complement your corporate image? Some corporate images are perfectly compatible with booth babes-Playboy and Maxim, for example. For others, such as Kellogg or Morgan Stanley, the connection may be more of a stretch. If you’re not in a “sexy” industry, a booth babe might dilute or distract from your company image. People who flock around a booth babe probably won’t be interested in breakfast cereal or investing.

What’s your goal? When deciding whether or not to hire booth babes, it’s important to consider your goals for the show. Do you just want to get your brochure in the hands of as many people as possible? If so, a booth babe might not be a bad idea. If you want to educate consumers, make sales contacts, or get the public to remember your brand, however, a booth babe might be a bad choice. Booth babes are great at getting attention and passing out brochures, but if you want someone who can discuss your product, engage potential customers, and forge business relationships, you may be better off relying on a good salesperson.

What’s your larger marketing plan? It’s usually not a good idea to rely on booth babes alone to market your product. Even in an industry that expects to see scantily clad women at exhibits, they shouldn’t be your only marketing plan. The most successful use of booth babes usually involves allowing the model to “front” the booth and attract attention, then funnel visitors to knowledgeable salespeople.

What are their skills? Whenever you hire outside talent to work your trade show booth, you must be very careful to hire the right person. An outside booth attendant may not know as much about your product-or have as much interest in selling it-as you or your employees. A good booth babe isn’t just a pretty face; she should also have some sales experience and a willingness to engage visitors about your product. Not all booth babes are skilled at this, so hire carefully.

Hiring beautiful women to work at your booth is a risk-and it can pay off for you, but only if you use this tactic under the right circumstances. The biggest drawback of using booth babes is that they do attract attention, but they can also distract. The people who show up at your booth may remember the name on the buxom model’s nametag, but they may not remember the name of your company. In many cases, a skilled sales staff will get you better results.