It is unfortunate that a frequently heard justification used to exhibit at a trade show is “we’ve got to go or people will think we are having problems and can’t afford it.” And it is almost always the case that the sales force believes that trade shows never generate enough leads and that most of them are worthless anyway. Not a great start on a ROI discussion!
It is true that trade shows are expensive. Exhibit space, booth design (and storage, shipping. setup and teardown), custom signage and collateral for each show, hospitality events for your customers, attendee registration fees plus travel expenses add up to a tidy sum. Add in employee time away from their “real” job to man the booth, attend conference sessions, gather competitive intelligence and stopping by as many ‘hospitality sessions’ as possible and you have to ask yourself whether trade shows are worth it.
Selecting The Best Events
The first decision you must make is which trade show(s) you are going to attend. Large shows like the Consumer Electronics Show certainly attract a huge crowds, lots of press and are considered very prestigious. On the other hand, the number of attendees in your target market may be quite small. Small shows and industry conferences may attract only a couple hundred of attendees but every one of them is in your sweet spot. Your markets and product mix will generally lead to a mixture of both large and small events, each contributing to a combination of marketing goals and event ROI.
The Basic Contributors to Trade Show ROI
Lead Generation (New Opportunities)
Lead generation is the most visible component of trade show ROI. Critical to gathering as many high quality leads as possible is pre-show promotion to registered attendees, effective booth staff, lead capture and post-show follow-up (more on this in a future post). A lead-tracking or CRM system should be used to tabulate lead conversions to sales so that the total sales derived from the show can be calculated. Also, realize that if your product sales cycle is measured in months, the true show ROI may not be known for a while.
Advancing the Sales Cycle (Existing Opportunities)
As important as new lead generation, advancing existing opportunities through the sales cycle can be a large contributor to trade show ROI. Existing prospects in your sales pipeline can meet with executives, marketing and product personnel attending the show and typically accomplish sales tasks that would have required multiple sales calls. Product presentations, demonstrations, answering questions and discussing business issues can be accomplished with your trade show team. I suggest that any existing prospects the lead to sales contribute to the sales ROI generated by the show.
Increasing sales is the most basic (and most important) contributor to trade show ROI. In my next post, we will look at additional trade show activities that can actually contribute more ROI than sales.