In a previous post, I talked about the most typical measures of trade show payback (ROI) – increased sales. In this post, I’ll cover additional things that you can do at trade shows that may actually contribute more value to your overall marketing programs that increased sales!
Companies can increase brand exposure in several ways. A stand-out booth design and a creative, interesting exhibit or demonstration can cause show attendees to notice you. The show also offers sponsorships for everything from ads in the show program to tote bags to happy hour on the show floor. These brand builder expenses should be considered (and measured) as advertising expenses and can be more cost effective than print advertising.
Several brand building activities cost you nothing. Make sure that you have a great listing in the exhibitor directory. Companies that simply provide their company name and address are missing an opportunity. Minimally, include your elevator pitch. Better yet, include some of your marketing messages appropriate to the show. Also, contribute something (anything!) to the show daily newspaper. Something interesting (and not loaded with superlatives about your product) is always appropriate – how about an application story!
If the trade show is appropriate for your company, then there is a very high probability that most of your customers will send representatives to the event. With a little planning and work by your sales force, setting up account meetings at industry events is both straight forward and very useful. This is particularly useful if the attendees (from both sides) are from the senior management team. It is not unusual for companies to hold 3 to 5 meetings per day and over a 4 day show this could mean 12 to 20 meetings. Calculate the contribution to ROI for customer meetings by considering what it would have cost for your personnel to travel to the customer site to hold the same meetings.
Partnerships and Alliances
Similar to customer meetings, meeting with existing partners and establishing new partner relationships is much easier at industry events. An added benefit, trade shows are an opportunity for more people on your marketing and sales teams meet with the partner’s marketing, business development and sales people. Calculate the contribution to ROI the same way we did for customers meetings.
Media and Industry Analyst Meetings
For any trade show that you attend, your PR team will be all over the opportunities to meet with press, industry analysts and other industry influential. Any opportunity to put your management and product marketing people in front of these people should be taken advantage of. Remember that these people want useful briefings, not sales pitches. Calculate the ROI of this activity the same way you calculate it for PR.
Thought leadership is sometimes considered part of brand building or PR, but I believe it should stand on its own. Speaking engagements, particularly keynotes and other “main tent” presentations are powerful thought leadership opportunities. These are opportunities to earn “industry visionary” and “technology innovator” credentials. A side effect of being a speaker is that frequently people that turn into sales opportunities come up to talk with you after that show, as do interested journalists and analysts.
While most shows do not require that you pay for a booth in order to be a speaker, it is frequently the case that your company gets higher consideration from the show organizers when you are an exhibitor or paying attendee.
Calculate the ROI contribution the same way you do for brand building and PR.
Effective Show Execution
Part of calculating show ROI is managing your costs effectively. Tips for how best to manage costs are covered in the trade show execution section of Get Schooled.
Are Trade Shows Worth It?
The answer is a resounding YES. As always, you will need to compare the expense of the show with some other activity (or combination of activities) that achieve the same results. When you take full advantage of all of the contributors to ROI mentioned here and manage your execution expenses well, trade show are an incredibly effective marketing tool. That’s why trade show marketing is an increasingly popular marketing activity and the number of shows is growing.