The Trade Off with Trade Shows

April 11, 2017   /   by  Diane Callihan

Is Your Trade Show Marketing Paying Off?

Many B2B marketers love trade shows, events and conferences for valid reasons--beyond the free USB drives, Slinkys and stress balls. But trade shows are also expensive and time consuming, and many people question whether in today’s digital landscape they are worth it.

That’s a good question. According to a Marketing Profs survey, almost 50% of businesses don't measure the ROI of their tradeshow activity.

That means, every year, your business might be spending tens of thousands of dollars in registration fees, booth space, booth design, promotional items, and travel and shipping expenses, and not have anything but anecdotal evidence as to whether it paid off.

If you’re just using these events to check out the competition or learn more about your industry, that might be fine. But if trade shows comprise a big part of your marketing budget, you need them to generate leads and ultimately sales.

The Challenges of Tradeshows

One key challenge to generating leads at tradeshows is simply reach. Think of it this way. You go to an event that has 5,000 attendees. Great. How many of those attendees see your booth? Of those, how many stop to talk to you? Of those, how many people are qualified leads who are ready to buy? The numbers are not in your favor.

The cost per acquisition at a trade show may be much higher than digital marketing tactics such as email marketing or PPC, which can reach a much larger volume of people at a lower cost.

Additionally, inbound leads that come in via your website through content marketing, for example, are typically already part of the way to making a purchasing decision. They are actively seeking out a solution for something.

People at a trade show, however, show up on the date of the event. They may not actively need help with your products or services on that specific date. The sales cycle can take longer if you are starting from scratch.

So, if you’re going to spend a chunk of your marketing budget on trade shows, at a minimum you should do these three things:

  1. Set a measurable goal for the show. Whether it’s a specific number of qualified leads you collect, or the number of meetings you’re able to schedule, you need to have a measure of success.
  2. Enter, track and monitor your leads via a CRM or Marketing Automation Tool. Business cards in a fishbowl are not going to cut it. You need those precious leads in a system so that you can track who came from what show, and so you can effectively perform step 3.
  3. Nurture those leads over the long haul. As mentioned early, people at the trade show may not be ready to buy, so it’s important to nurture them so that when they are, they think of you. Set up drip email campaigns to touch base with them on a regular basis, send them resources they’re interested in, and keep your brand top of mind.

Trade shows do offer some unique benefits – you can actually meet with customers face-to-face and make a personal connection, strike up potential partnerships, learn the latest trends in your industry and more. Just make sure the benefits outweigh the costs.

Need help making the most of your trade show leads? Or interested in exploring options with higher ROI? Let’s Talk.

Diane Callihan

Diane Callihan

With more than 20 years of experience writing for some of the country’s top brands, Diane helped to shape Roger West’s content strategy, lead generation, and PR efforts as Director of Marketing. She currently serves as President of Callihan Content Creation.