In-person interaction is the best way to create meaningful relationships with prospects. That’s why trade shows and industry events are so valuable to B2B marketers. But as you likely know – attending trade shows costs time and money. In fact, the average company allocates 31.6% of their total marketing budget to events and exhibiting (source).
With so much money being spent on trade shows, how can marketers get the most bang for their buck? Today we give you six ways to boost your trade show ROI. Keep reading!
Measuring Trade Show ROI
As with any other marketing campaign, the only way to gauge the financial success of an event is to track your ROI. If you don’t track ROI, you’ll never know if your strategy generates results, improves over time, or grows stale.
The basic formula to measure ROI is this: (Profit – Expenses) / Expenses. The “Profit” number only includes sales made as a direct result of your trade show appearance. Of course, you won’t have these figures right away. You must complete a full sales cycle before you can determine exactly how much profit you generated.
Remember to tag each trade show lead with an event-specific tag in your CRM. That way, can quickly identify attendees and track ROI once these leads start to convert into paying customers.
1. Develop a pre-show content strategy.
A stellar pre-show content strategy is the key to maximizing ROI. It’s not enough to have a great booth – you also need to generate excitement beforehand.
But, simply increasing your content output won’t do much to boost your ROI. You have to get more targeted: create content that illustrates the value of the event, and the value prospects will gain if they visit your booth.
Here are some ideas to kick-start your pre-event content marketing:
- Schedule appointments ahead of time: If you have access to an attendee list, reach out to anyone who seems like a qualified fit for your product. Provide them with a brief overview of your company or product and ask if they’d like to schedule 5 to 10 minutes of booth time. People will be less likely to skip your booth if they have a standing calendar invite to meet with you.
- Promote your booth: First and foremost, tell your prospects where they can find you. Give them a booth number and provide them with a map or an identifying feature of your booth. Trade show exhibit halls are crowded. Make it easy for prospects to find you. Your pre-event content should also advertise any giveaways, product demos, contests, or perks your prospects will receive if they visit your booth.
- Tailor content to the theme of the event: Many professional events have an overarching theme. Work this theme into your editorial calendar and create different types of content – blog posts, E-Books, videos, infographics, etc. – that feature this theme. Then, distribute this content to a list of event registrants. This is a great way to offer content that is relevant, but not overly promotional.
- Leverage social media: Utilize event hashtags and specific pages to promote your event-themed content. Social media allows you to leverage any traction the event has garnered and use it to generate your own buzz.
- Target influencers: Influencer marketing isn’t just a buzz word, it’s a great way to promote your brand, products, and yes, events. If you have an existing relationship with influencers or experts that will be in attendance, offer them exclusive event perks, discounts or giveaways to market to their audiences. Chances are, their audience will attend the event for a chance to interact with their favorite influencer—if that person gives your business a stamp of approval prior to the event, you’ll likely garner even more attention at your booth. Learn more about influencer marketing best practices here: B2B Influencer Marketing.
2. Generate media coverage at the trade show.
Booth visits are the primary source of trade show lead generation—but that’s not the only way to do it. If an event is large enough, the host company will likely invite bloggers, news outlets, and industry leaders to provide press coverage.
This provides attendees with a unique opportunity to secure media coverage for their company and products. But, it’s important to note that you can’t just expect reporters to drop by your booth and ask for an interview. Media outlets complete their event schedules months in advance, so you must attract their attention early to truly capitalize on the publicity they offer.
Here are a few steps you can take to get media attention at your next trade show:
- Obtain media list. Ask event organizers for a list of participating media outlets and reporters. Or, if that’s not possible, take a look at media coverage of the previous year’s event. Chances are, a good amount of these bloggers, websites, and publications will return for a second time. Try to complete this step as soon as you know you’ll be attending the event.
- Request interviews and demos. No less than two months out from the event, send an initial email to all attending media members. Briefly introduce your company, your message, and what you plan to showcase at the event. Then request to schedule a short interview or demonstration the day of. Be persistent but respectful of the other person’s time.
- Offer something new. Remember: media outlets are looking for stories. They won’t care about your product or your brand unless it’s truly newsworthy. For example, if you’re working on a new product or feature, trade shows are a great opportunity to unveil a new or exciting Promote the new product in a press release and send it to media members in advance of the event.
3. Optimize your trade show booth
It goes without saying – you need your booth to stand out if you plan to attract new visitors and prospects. But remember, your ultimate goal is to convert prospects into customers. Trade show attendees may flock to booths with eye-grabbing, gimmicky designs, but you’ll only boost your ROI if you offer something of substance.
Follow these steps to get attendees to your booth – and convert them into leads before they leave.
- Emphasize your products. When it comes to trade show booths, too many companies make the mistake of prioritizing flashiness over substance. Get creative with your design, sure – but put your products front and center. Visitors should leave with a clear idea of what you offer, why they need it, and a next step or call to action.
- Schedule post-show product demos. Unless you truly wow someone, most attendees will forget about you shortly after stopping by your booth. For this reason, we recommend scheduling a post-show product demo. Not only will you secure their contact information, but you’ll both have the next step penciled into your calendars before they even leave your booth.
- Use giveaways to boost conversions. Just about every trade show booth offers an assortment of “swag” – small branded items for visitors to take with them. But don’t just give out free stuff to entice people to stop by your booth—make sure you get something in return. We recommend that you offer a larger prize or giveaway only to attendees who provide their contact information or sign up for a next step—a demo, free trial, or second meeting.
For more information about booth set up, check out the following article: 6 Ways to Stand Out in a Trade Show Exhibit Hall.
5. Post-trade show follow-up.
Assuming you did well at your booth, attendees should already have you in their schedules and be looking forward to your calls. If that’s the case, you accomplished your primary goal – promoting your product and forming a relationship with prospects.
But, it’s important to put just as much thought and effort into your follow-up strategy. Consider taking these steps to improve your trade show ROI:
- Follow up promptly. It’s crucial that you reach out right away to differentiate yourself from the wave of emails attendees will receive from other vendors a few days after the event. Create and schedule your email campaigns in advance so they’re ready to go immediately after you receive the new leads. Don’t be afraid to test send times. Send too early and attendees will still be traveling from the event. Send too late and attendees will have forgotten all about you.
- Remind them of your booth. Make sure your post-show correspondence features imagery and language similar to that of your booth design. Include pictures as a small reminder of your company. Remember, your booth is just one of hundreds your prospects may have visited at the event.
- Personalize your emails. Don’t send out the same emails for every single event or trade show you attend. Reference each specific event in the subject line and body of your email to avoid confusing people who happen to attend more than one event. This will prevent you from reaching out to the same person multiple times with the same exact email.
- Provide options. While a typical email campaign should only make one offer, trade show follow-ups are a bit different. Not everyone you meet at a tradeshow is ready to buy. So, offer a few different options so prospects in any stage of the buyer’s cycle can find something they’re interested in.
6. Post-show analysis.
Earlier, we explained how to calculate ROI following a trade show appearance. But, now that you have those numbers, you may still have questions regarding the value of trade shows and industry events.
Here’s what we suggest: Start by comparing your ROI from this trade show to your average event ROI. Did you perform better or worse? Also, see how the number stacks up to your average marketing campaign ROI. If you find that your ROI at your latest trade show was lower than average, examine your methods and see what you can tweak to improve your performance.
Here’s an example: You attend two trade shows in December of 2017. At both events, you generate roughly the same number of leads. But at the first show, you had way more product demo requests than you did at the second.
You ask yourself, what did I do differently? Was it your booth set-up? Your pre-show marketing strategy? Or maybe you offered a different giveaway selection. Eventually, you realize that at the second trade show, you used a creative but cluttered booth design that drew attention- but ultimately it took the focus off your products. You then use this information to inform your next trade show booth design—thus improving your trade show ROI.
Not every trade show will be worth your time. But if you swear them off altogether, you will miss out on a major opportunity to connect with prospects. Check out how valuable trade shows can be if you approach them correctly (source):
- 46% of executive decision makers make purchase decisions while attending a show.
- 77% of decision-makers found at least one new supplier at the last show they attended.
- 51% of tradeshow attendees requested that a sales rep visit their company after the show.