Does Trade Show Marketing Make Sense in a Digital Age?

trade show marketing in a digital worlds

As the business world today continues to move online, does that mean we are in a completely digital age? Have we reached the time where print is gone, face-to-face communication is prehistoric, and things like marketing trade shows are obsolete?

While it’s easy to get swept up in the hype that everything is online, you need to take a second and think about your own business. Does your small business need things like marketing trade shows for its success? If the answer is yes, that’s the only answer you need, regardless of emerging trends. And, if you are looking to step up your game with your upcoming trade show, you’ve come to the right place.

Sales and Marketing Goals First

If you don’t have real goals defined for your trade show, go ahead and cancel it. There is no point in making this monetary and time investment if you don’t have clear ideas on what you need to achieve.

In a two part-series “How to Prepare for a Trade Show and Justify Your Budget,” the U.S. Small Business Administration blog first outlines some common trade show goals and corresponding measurements, briefly highlighted below.

Exhibit Efficiency or Return on Objectives (ROO): This measures “meaningful engagement” of the exhibitor with the audience. Taken directly from the blog, it states: “As an example, if the total show audience is 10,000 and you had 75 visitors, and 20 of those visitors requested demos or scheduled a follow-up meeting; then, your exhibit efficiency is 20 divided by 75 or 26.6%.” Taking this one step further, compare this metric across the different shows you have done. Are the front-runners clear?

Awareness: Again taken directly from the article, this blog says to first “measure the percentage of show attendees that visited your exhibit by dividing the number of people who registered at your booth by the total show attendance (or, if available, the total number of attendees from your target audience).” Then, if possible, survey these attendees after the show (or as they are leaving) to see if they remember your exhibit, as well as get their takeaways. As a rule of thumb, about 73 percent of exhibit visitors remember visiting 8-10 weeks after the show so you want to aim for at least this percentage.

Competitive Reach: If you really want to know how you are faring against your competition, measure it! Track both your and your competitors’ booth attendance (hourly, daily, etc.) to get a better idea of who is winning in terms of attention and market share.

Lead quality: Using the show’s total attendance numbers as a benchmark, did you attract more or less of the right attendees than the show average? The quality of your leads is important to understand for future shows, so look at this closely.

Now that you better understand the goal posts and metrics you need to achieve, make sure your show organization is on point. Here’s a quick checklist discussed in part two of the series:

Guarantee on-site participation: If you want to knock this show out of the park, make it happen. First you need to clue-in the entire exhibit staff with a pre-show call or meeting. Clearly outline roles, goals, and expectations of everyone involved and put it in writing with provided handouts. If you have very specific sales goals or other objectives you need to accomplish, give performance-based incentives to the people that can make this possible. And, remember these incentives often need to go the distance and handle the long haul when this article finds that “over 80% of sales are made after the fifth contact.”

Follow up: You may be shocked to hear this, but did you know that nearly half of sales people don’t follow up? It’s true. Don’t be this person. Follow up immediately after the show and again in another couple months. Without follow up your customer will be unaware of who you are and what you offer, not to mention you will lack critical data to better understand exactly how you are doing. While a follow up will not always result in sales (see above on the fifth contact), it will always produce information around awareness, behavior, preferences, perceptions, and future purchasing plans.

Recap it all: As soon as the show is done, record all of it. Don’t miss any detail and capture everything including staffing, attendance, average number of visitors, and any kind of fact you can jot down. You will also want to detail all your wins at the show, just as much as your losses. You need to remember everything that went right and wrong to better improve your upcoming shows. Use this important recap as your future roadmap for even stronger shows up ahead!

We want to hear about your trade show strategies! Has there been a game changer for you in making these a true success?


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