Are Trade Shows Worth The Investment?

This is a very typical question for marketers when planning next year Marketing Plan. This question has no an easy answer as far as there are not always clear evidences of the ROI (return on investment) of attending a trade show. In too many ocasions marketers have the feeling of being spending their company’s money and senior management time when they finally realize that the trade show is full of competitors and empty of customers.

So let’s start by the beginning. Setting clear goals and objectives for what you are trying to accomplish at a trade show is critical to your success. In my experience I’ve realized that the main goals for a company to attend a trade show as an exhibitor are:

·      Brand and product awareness
·      Sales leads
·      Networking and new business development

Of course there can be other goals like identifing new industry trends, sharing knowledge, benchmarking or employees training. Obviously for these purposes you don’t need to participate as an exhibitor. You can get them with a simple delegate pass and without renting a booth or a display.

Anyway my suggestion is to do your research very carefully and be sure that you attend a trade show where concentrations of your customers, distributors, etc might be.

In fact my first tip for someone who is not sure about the convenience of attending a trade conference is to go there as an attendee first and check if the visitors profile match with your business. In this point remember that quality of potential contacts is much more important than quantity.

If your goal is to get as much sales leads as possible it is critical that your sales people takes the ownership of this marketing activity and you have a plan to track and monitor the progress to sale. Believe or not most leads are never followed!

The role of the sales people is key. This means that your staff needs to know exactly what your company expects from them (in terms of quantity, quality, follow-up, etc.). From the marketer’s side it is very important to have an Action Plan for them  that includes training, sales presentations, brochures, videos, networking activities, speaking opportunities, etc.

We should end with a very obvious but often forgotten point: everything has to be planned in advance including a good communication plan. Invite you clients, suppliers and other relevant contacts to attend the show and be sure you give them all the information. Remember people don’t like to waste their time, so provide them a very clear reason to attend (a product launch, a networking dinner or a formal meeting with your senior management can be good alternatives). And of course use all your social media channels to increase your communication effectiveness.