Trade shows continue to be a primary source of lead generation for many sales and marketing teams. Yet most companies cannot calculate their marketing ROI for trade show investments.
There are only three ways to generate leads — marketing, cold calling and networking — and I often refer to them as the three legs of lead generation. Spending a disproportionate amount of time allocation and funding as a company on one of the three legs of lead generation depresses the success of the other two legs because your team becomes dependent on this approach as the primary source of prospect opportunities.
In many companies, trade show participation is the ONLY marketing budget investment and the ONLY lead generation method.
When trade shows are the primary source of lead generation, marketing measurement often drops because there is pressure to attend as many shows as possible to have some market visibility and to generate leads for the sales team (because there is no other marketing programs of substance).
This is a strategic planning mistake. By funding trade show participation when there is no return on investment benchmark because there are no other lead generation programs in place to supplant it… makes no sense.
By using trade show lead generation as the primary source of company lead generation, there is an increased value expectation on the leads that are collected… because there are no other leads.
How often have marketing managers or corporate CEO’s heard “we have to go — or else our prospects will not think we are in business.” This kind of statement accurately describes a company’s lack of marketing initiatives. Of course, if trade shows are your only marketing investment, then yes, maybe your prospects will think you are not in business any more. But if you have a continuous prospect marketing engagement (Value Forward Marketing) model where you are consistently interacting with targeted prospects on a regular basis through other marketing mediums (webinars, newsletters, PR, etc.), then the assumption that your prospects will believe that your trade show non-attendance is a negative reflection of your firm is incorrect.
To increase your trade show ROI, invest in other marketing lead generation programs and participate in less trade shows.
3 Steps To Increase Your Trade Show ROI
- Reduce the number of trade shows you go to and focus on shows that generate traceable new business capture within 12 months following the show date.
- Pre-market to all trade show attendees… or don’t go.
- When assembling your trade show marketing materials, develop written talking points for your staff to coordinate a universal description of your business value for all prospects who enter your booth.
To maximize the return on investment in your trade show expenditure, you should calculate your ROI by three separate variables:
- Cost per visitor to your booth
- Cost per visitor to the trade show
- Revenue per visitor to your booth
Calculate cost per visitor to your booth by dividing the total cost of your trade show investment by the number of leads you collected at the show.
Calculate the cost per visitor to the trade show by dividing the total number of visitors to the trade show (based on what show management tells you it was after the show) by the total cost of your trade show investment.
Calculate the revenue per visitor based on sales from leads generated at the trade show within 12 months of the show date.
Focus on lead generation at the trade show—not just sales. Oftentimes, because of ineffective marketing programs, companies try to close one or two deals at a trade show to cost justify their participation, and in doing so they actually reduce their lead generation by letting qualified attendees walk by the booth because it looks too busy.
Marketing without a Return on Investment… is just wasted effort.