Pros and Cons of Exhibiting vs. Attending Tradeshows

You may ask yourself if it is worth it to attend a trade show? Well, it all depends. It can be if you have a clear understanding of the pros and shortcomings of participating along with a good idea of what you hope to accomplish while you are at the show. To make it easier to measure your ROI, it is important to have a clear goal in mind and ensure that you are truly making the most of the trade show experience. Below are some pros and cons to make an informed decision.

Pros of Attending Trade Shows

Market Research and Trendspotting

When you attend a trade show in person, it is an ideal place to access valuable data, from classes to a peek at your competitor’s setups. It is also a place to t get a real sense of what is trending and what your prospects respond to while taking a pulse of your industry.

Generation of Leads

The leads you generate from a show can provide your sales team with plenty of opportunities and months of work. Lead generation allows your sales team to be exposed to a much wider market and be able to make an impression on a lot of prospects all at once.

Increased Brand Awareness

Exhibiting at a trade show lets you roll out and test your brand in a big way and improves your industry’s overall awareness of who you are and what you have to offer. This allows you to be exposed to more prospects and build retention for those prospects already in your sales funnel when they see you in action.

One-to-One Communication

Trade shows allow for an excellent opportunity to get decision-maker face time. If you have good in-person presentations, this type of communication can really bring the message home.  According Exhibit Surveys research, only 0.8 calls are needed to close a well-qualified trade show lead, which is notably less than leads gathered from other sources.

Secure Deals and Make Sales

If your sales team routinely travels to meet with clients, you can get both the sales team and clients together at the trade show in one place. Reducing costs is always important to companies while increasing visibility. It is a good idea to replace routine sales trips with an on-site meeting to save on travel costs. This allows your sales team to generate some instant revenue too. You can set up appointments with your prospects and existing customers well in advance and meet with them away from the distractions of office schedules and responsibilities.

Cons of Attending Trade Shows

Exhibiting Cost

Purchasing your booth is just the beginning. There are many added costs that include transporting everything to the site, staffing your booth and even paying for labor to setup and tear down your trade show display. While generating leads helps offset some of these expenses and may make the show worth it, it may take a few months to a few years to recoup your investment costs after the show.

Lots of Competition

You won’t be the only company showing off goods and services at the event – and it may be tough to stand out from the crowd without truly differentiating yourself from your competitors. Be sure to highlight the things that make your brand unique and different and that you head to the show with a strategy to stand out.

People Skills

The flip side of one-on-one in person communication is that, well…it’s in face to face and person. If you are sending an inside sales team or marketing gals or guys that aren’t as comfortable with face-to-face interactions, they might find it more of a challenge to be on their feet from early am through late pm and keeping good eye contact with the right prospects during the show.

Leads that are Not Well Qualified

Just because someone visits with you in your booth space and expresses interest on the trade show floor or even snagged a promo or two does not mean they are willing and able to buy your product or service. Larger shows draw bigger crowds and not every attendee you speak with is going to be the decision maker. Treat each show as a lead generation opportunity, while realizing you’ll need to qualify each lead before you can close a deal.

The Bottom Line

Plan Your Budget Wisely:

Ok, so the management or higher ups in the company have given you the green light to use an allocated budget to get the job done. Budget accordingly and keep track of every expense from day one. The Exhibitor Magazine has a great guideline for estimating and planning exhibiting costs, from suggested budget allocation for each expense for your trade show costs to how much you’ll need to rent a forklift.

Set Your Goals Early:

Ask yourself and your team exactly what kind of (measurable!) outcome you want from each trade show. This may include the number of qualified leads, new customers, appointments or meetings set, etc.  It is also important that everyone is on the same page as to what constitutes a “qualified lead”? If you’re only looking for intangible results like “more opportunities” or “increased brand awareness” or similar vague results, you’re going to feel that exhibiting at a trade show wasn’t worth it.  

Trust Your Marketing Team:

Incomm Research shares trade show research and sales training reports and states that event attendees are 52% more likely to stop by your exhibit booth if you have appealing promotional items in your booth to give away. In your preshow preparation, be sure to take  stock of what promotional materials you currently have and evaluate if your hand outs or brochures need to be updated? Does your exhibit or graphics need a redesign? What kind of giveaways will leave a lasting impression in the minds of the attendees?

Have a Lead Follow up Plan:

Having a solid plan for all stages of the trade show event is essential if you want to make sure you get as much bang for your buck as possible. To help you think of everything about lead generation, Hubspot has a very comprehensive slide share guide of 75 Tips to Generate Sales Leads from a Trade Show. Personalization is key for your follow up plan. It is critical to connect while at the show and connect in your follow up process after the show too. Meeting with decision-makers and making them feel that you’ve really understood their particular business needs is crucial. Send timely yet personalized follow up messages through the medium you think they’ll want and appreciate.

To sum it all up, the best approach to get the most from your trade show investment and experience is to carefully consider your goals and strategies ahead of time. Some of the greatest “Pros” of attending a show include the ability to connect with new target audiences and generate buzz for your business. If you have an idea in mind along with a pre-marketing plan for lead capture, you’ll be able to track your success through metrics and ensure you get the best possible “ROR” (Return on Relationships) and “ROI” (Return on Investment) for each trade show.

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