Are tradeshows worth the time and money your business puts in?

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Tradeshows are one of the traditional pillars of B2B sales and, as we move beyond the pandemic, many businesses are pleased to be free to engage with them again. A lot of business owners enjoy exhibiting at tradeshows, and they are undoubtably a good way of networking and making sales – but they can also be prohibitively expensive. The question is, are tradeshows worth the time and money your business invests in them, or is there a better way to spend your money?

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Lets look at the pros and cons of tradeshows from a sales and marketing perspective:

Tradeshows: why we love them

  • Meet your prospects in person. Sometimes, a chance two-minute conversation face-to-face can achieve as much as six months back-and-forth by email – sometimes. Polite dead ends are equally common, unfortunately, and the cost per sale can still be high, but for some prospects, there is nothing quite like a face-to-face meeting to galvanise the sales opportunity and help close the deal. In some industries and for high-value products, this face-to-face element may be an essential part of the process, with tradeshows being the most cost-effective way of networking with widely distributed customers.
  • Grow your prospect database. Tradeshows can work hand-in-hand with online marketing, and a good example of this is the opportunity they provide to quickly grow your prospect database. Gather details in real time and follow them up promptly to start nurturing a new generation of customers.
  • Social media opportunities. Broadcast live from tradeshows, Tweet updates from tradeshows, conduct interviews with influencers, run live competitions on Facebook, build a buzz beforehand and follow up conversations afterwards – tradeshows are made for social media engagement, and all you need is a smart phone to take part.
  • Network opportunities. You’ll meet people at your tradeshow exhibit who have never heard of your business before but for whom you are a perfect fit. These people may struggle to find you by other means unless you’ve got a solid gold online profile.
  • Promotional opportunities. As major industry calendar events, tradeshows are the perfect promotional opportunity to build marketing campaigns around, as well as to launch new products and campaigns.

Tradeshows: why they are not worth the money

  • Hosting a tradeshow exhibit is never cheap, and for international events the costs can escalate quickly. It’s not just the hosting fees and materials you need to contend with, but the expense of travel, accommodation, and of taking an entire team of people away from their day-to-day roles, with all the lost productivity this entails. This expense might be worth it, but it’s worth weighing up your ROI against alternative sales strategies.
  • High competition. Tradeshows are highly competitive environments with dozens of competing businesses clamouring for attention. Your large, well-funded competitors will all be there, and whatever positive ground you build with attendees, they will no doubt have had equally productive conversations with at least one other business. It is often extremely hard to secure sales from leads made at tradeshows for this reason.
  • High risk. With a huge opportunity comes a huge risk. You’re not guaranteed a single sales lead from the tradeshows you exhibit at, making it difficult to calculate your ROI or plan your follow-up campaigns. It only takes one tradeshow to ‘flop’ to punch an enormous hole in your sales and marketing budget for the year.
  • As was proven time and again in 2020 and 2021, tradeshows are extremely vulnerable to external events. The Covid-19 Pandemic shutdown events around the world with almost no notice, and many businesses lost thousands of pounds in expenses. The same could easily happen again.
  • Hard to follow-up. We have often spoken to businesses who have ‘more leads than they can handle’ following a tradeshow, and who are still following up sales leads six months later. This creates its own problem. Large volumes of leads can be hard to pursue unless you have a structured marketing automation and lead nurturing programme in place. If you don’t have the systems in place to continue conversations immediately after the show, your leads will quickly go cold, wasting the opportunities you invested so heavily in obtaining.

Get the best value from your sales and marketing investment

As inbound marketing specialists, at JDR we recognise the importance of online communications and content marketing for lead generation and sales. This can often produce an ROI equal to or superior to what you can achieve through tradeshow exhibits. This isnt to say that you shouldnt exhibit at tradeshows. However, there is definitely value in looking at ways you can reduce your overheads and operational risk, and augment your results by incorporating your tradeshow strategy with wider digital marketing activities.

To find out more about the best approach for you, please call 01332 343281 today.

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