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Unpacking the High Cost of Marketing at Trade Shows—And Why It’s Totally Worth It!


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After a rough ride through the Covid-19 pandemic, trade shows and in-person events are surging back. The numbers bear it out: according to data from IBISWorld, trade shows decreased drastically in 2020 and 2021—but are back in full force! However, even as the number of events rises, attendees are still re-adapting to the trade show life. Given this state of affairs, marketing at trade shows right now may seem like an expensive affair—but it’s worth it.

Marketing at trade shows can come with some hefty up-front costs: travel, logistics, booth space, staffing, and more. But they offer a return on investment worth the effort; they’re critical to growth. However, this ROI depends on structuring your trade show marketing correctly.

Effective trade show marketing must go beyond simple brand awareness—especially for B2B companies. To tap into the revenue-generating potential, you need to target all your efforts on converting leads at the moment.

Let’s explore in more detail what goes into the high up-front costs of marketing at trade shows—and how you can see an optimal ROI for those costs.

The True Cost of Marketing at Trade Shows

visitors marketing at trade shows
Source: Shutterstock

Trade shows are a major investment. In fact, the average company allocates 31.6% of its total marketing budget to attending events. That’s because exhibiting can pay dividends down the line. But why is the cost so high? A variety of factors eat up that budget quickly:

  • Booth space
  • Show services
  • Personnel costs (lodging, food, travel)
  • Marketing
  • Other expenses (expect the unexpected!)

If so many companies are willing to shoulder such high costs, they must be sure there are tantalizing benefits associated with attending trade shows, right?

Benefits of Leveraging Trade Shows for Sales and Marketing

people enjoying trade show marketing
Source: Shutterstock

There’s no getting around it—trade shows are pricey affairs. That’s why it’s important to wring every opportunity out of them. Set yourself up for success from the start of the event, and it’ll pay out in a high ROI down the line. As VP of LucidLink Adam Kranitz says, “A trade show, for many companies, is the most expensive way to acquire a customer. But it’s also highly effective.”

Let’s explore ways your trade show investment can benefit your business in the long run.

Maximum ROI and Valuable Engagement

There’s nothing like meeting a prospect in person. It’s much easier to convert an audience into a customer when you have them in the flesh—and the large audiences at trade shows let you meet with as many qualified people as possible. In fact, 95% of one Harvard Business Review’s survey respondents reported that in-person meetings are key to successful long-term relationships. Additionally, 89% cited face-to-face meetings as essential for “sealing the deal.”

Trade shows bring together investors, marketing gurus, competitors, collaborators, and potential customers. They present a stimulating environment where you can gain valuable insights and unbiased feedback, and build a broader network to maximize your business potential.

Competitor Information

Not everything is about selling. Sometimes, it’s about observing the market and noting your competitors’ actions. For small and medium-sized businesses, trade shows offer a great way to analyze what your competitors are offering. You can leverage the information to your benefit—or avoid mistakes they’re making.

Standing out from the crowd is important—use trade show experiences to learn what the crowd is up to first.

Long-Lasting Impressions

Brand awareness can be nurtured through advertising, social media, and email, but engaging face-to-face with prospects and customers is second to none.

One study shows that 85% of business professionals in leadership roles believe in-person events are critical to their company’s success. Trade shows offer a great opportunity to have in-depth conversations, distribute promotional material, and leave a lasting impression.

Calculating ROI

You can quantify the ROI you receive from marketing at trade shows to prove that it works. Run the numbers and see if the practice works for you—or make changes to your approach accordingly. It’s a simple formula:

  • Calculate your simple ROI with: ROI = (Revenue/Total Investment) x 100%
  • Break down your close rate like so: Close Rate = (Deals Closed/Total Leads) x 100%
  • Figure out your average sale with this formula: Average Sale = (Total sales value/Total number of sales)

Refine Your Trade Show Strategies for Better ROI

handshake during in-person events
Source: Shutterstock

Trade shows can help you make the most of your marketing budget, but only if you plan and execute an effective strategy. Having a high-quality marketing plan, along with a well-designed show booth, will help you convert qualified leads. To maximize your ROI, invest time and effort in developing your marketing framework before the event day.

Let’s explore some tips to help you elevate your marketing game.

Develop a Clear Plan

It might sound elementary, but an astonishing 70% of exhibitors set no specific objectives for their trade show events. From start to finish, your plan should be clear, comprehensive, and concise. Examine details such as ensuring your event marketing team will invite the right team members and ensure that the plans allow for them to be productive by engaging with customers at sessions or strategic meetings of different types.

Consider the following examples of goals you may set and suggestions for optimal ways to interact with attendees that can help achieve and exceed your expectations:

Further Customer Education and Brand Awareness

  • Press meetings
  • Analyst meetings
  • Customer receptions
  • Sessions
  • Product demonstrations
  • Tracks

Capturing and Sealing Deals

  • Meet and greets with an expert
  • Private face-to-face meetings

Advancement of Sales

  • VIP briefings
  • Private face-to-face meetings
  • Executive meetings
  • Customer meetings

Make the Best Use of Technology

Technology is always evolving—and if you’re not using the latest and greatest to your advantage, you’re not maximizing your ROI potential at events. For example, using an automated scheduling platform like Jifflenow’s eEvent can be a game changer.

Jifflenow’s eEvent is specifically designed for events like trade shows. The tool can help you manage and track in-person and virtual engagements at trade shows or conferences. Instead of doing everything manually, use an app like eEvent to reap all the benefits of automated scheduling software, including improved productivity on-site, more meetings, and better tracking of revenue tied to those meetings.

Jifflenow: Valuable Engagements at Trade Shows

Though they can be expensive, trade shows are a great investment—whether you’re just looking to put your brand name out there, convert prospects, or look for investors and partners. But to truly tap into their potential, you need to plan proactively.

Use tools like Jifflenow’s eEvent to help you sharpen your trade show planning and execution. This cloud-based software automates your meeting scheduling, so you can focus on all the other moving parts you have to juggle.

Ready to drive more meetings at your in-person events? Get started with Jifflenow today!

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