When it comes to marketing expenditures, trade shows are often the biggest line item in the budget. This means that justifying their cost and gathering data to prove their success is incredibly important to your overall marketing efforts. While it’s easy to think that a trade show can be difficult to justify, there are several important pieces of information to gather to justify this major expenditure to your boss or upper management. And, sometimes it’s not just about justifying the spend, but many executives disproportionately emphasize and focus on digital marketing and social media. These are certainly important tools but cannot replace face to face interactions.
Create a Golden Thread
A cohesive, connected brand message is crucial to communicating with customers and prospects. There are millions of messages bombarding us and vying for our attention, making it all the more important to create a connected, consistent message. Consider the pre, during, and post show experience for your audience: each serves as a touch point to communicate your unique offering. From advertising and sponsorship opportunities to signage and collateral, everything adds up to making a connection. Those connections lead to a positive association with your brand and ultimately, customers buying what you’re selling.
Collect Real-Time Data
Technology is a game changer for events like trade shows. This means it is easier than ever to collect and analyze your attendee’s behavior before, during, and after the show. Not only can this shape your strategy for the event itself, but it can help you when it’s time to qualify leads, improve your lead generation, and even lead to a better overall marketing strategy for your company. If your event has an app, consider using it to gauge social activity like the use of hashtags, check-ins, and much more. Social engagement isn’t easily related to ROI, but it will help you understand what is or isn’t working with your strategy—and how you can fix it mid-show or next time around.
Make the Connection
The best way to justify event/trade show spend is to tie it back to company revenue. While this can get murky with events, it’s not impossible. Gathering lead data at the show will help tie customers and prospects back to marketing efforts with a marketing automation platform. This means that hot lead gathered at the event can be tied back to an existing lead that could have been gathered through marketing efforts. This will help show the customer journey—and how a trade show helped to seal the deal by meeting that hot prospect face to face.
Face to Face Still Works
Do you know what’s missing from other marketing channels? A live human connection. While getting the word out to your customers about your brand is important, putting a face to the brand is crucial. According to the Center for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR), 90% of expo attendees have not met face-to-face with any companies exhibiting at the show in the 12 months prior to the event. That makes your next trade show the “final frontier” in terms of marketing.
Best of all, a trade show gathers your target audience in one place, meaning your sales reps aren’t going out to shake the bushes for clients: the business comes straight to you at a trade show.
While it’s easy to think that a trade show is a difficult to measure, expensive proposition, it’s quite the opposite. Trade shows are among the highest touch, highest value marketing channels in existence. Trade shows cover all aspects of marketing, made even more powerful by the human, experiential element that doesn’t exist anywhere else.
Play the Comparison Game
There are a variety of marketing tactics that can be used to generate leads. However, it’s important to think about both the time and money involved in closing those leads. According to CEIR, exhibition leads are less expensive and require less time, on average. In their study, “The Cost Effectiveness of Exhibition Participation: Part I and Part II,” meeting a prospect at a trade show versus in the field saves $943 per prospect. A field-sales lead requires more legwork, like identifying the prospect and a series of phone calls. Finding a meeting the prospect at an exhibition saves both time and money in the long run. For more statistics on the value of exhibitions, EXHIBITOR Magazine has a great article.
So the next time your boss asks about your trade show presence, you’ll know just what to say.