Maybe it’s our new, happening location, or perhaps it’s the addition of couches and bar-style tables to our offices. Whatever the reason, the topic of events seems to be top of mind for everyone at IKO right now – and it’s made me think of something. Amid discussions of after works, master classes and even hosting our own “office-warming” party, an unanswered question hangs in the air – which trade shows (if any) should we be attending?
For many B2B businesses, this is far from being a straightforward issue. Hyped up events with giant price tags quickly get CEOs in a tizzy over demonstrable ROI, while CMOs and itchy-footed sales reps wax poetic over the networking, branding and lead generating opportunities. There’s room for argument on both sides.
So how do you know if going the trade show route is right for your business? Here are some quick ideas as to the pros and the cons, and some best practices for what to do if you decide to take your show on the road.
Trade Show Pros
Though you still have to attract them to your stand or manage to lock eyes in the crowd, trade shows are a golden opportunity to get decision-maker face time. If you’ve got good in person presentation, this kind of communication can really bring the message home; research by Exhibit Surveys actually suggests that only 0.8 calls are needed to close a qualified trade show lead, which is significantly less than leads from other sources.
This is your chance to have your big, shiny logo in front of important, decision-making eyeballs. If you’re willing to go the extra mile, sending a speaker or hosting a masterclass, workshop or roundtable can be an invaluable chance to showcase your company’s thought-leadership in your given industry.
If you feel you’ve been wringing you CRM dry looking for missed opportunities, a trade show, perhaps in an under-targeted country or region, could be the pick-me-up your sales team needs.
Trade Show Cons:
Even modest events usually end up racking up quite the bill. Though ROI may be worth it (see below), budgeting in a five-figure event that has the lifespan of a mayfly may seem a bit daunting. In addition to floorspace (probably the biggest item), there’s a long laundry list of associated costs: transportation and accomodation, stand decoration, brochures, giveaways, branded tee-shirts, wifi-connection…
The flip side of in person communication is that, well…it’s in person. If you’ll be sending an inside sales team or marketing guys or gals that aren’t as good at the face-to-face stuff, they might find it challenging to be on their feet from 7am to 10pm, flashing their pearly whites and keeping good eye contact with the right prospects.
This is by far the biggest sticking point. I’ve come across a lot of different material about the cost per lead associated with B2B trade shows, some claiming it’s God’s gift to cost-conscious marketers, others saying that, at $500-$1,000 a head, it’s just not worth it for most. This will probably be the make or break question for most businesses – what are my lead generation goals for this event, and are they within the limits of what we consider a reasonable cost per lead?
If You’re Gonna do it
If you’ve worked out that yes, you’d like to take the plunge, here are some handy tips and resources to make sure you have smooth sailing up to, during and after the big day:
Set your goals from the outset:
Ask yourself and your team exactly what kind of (measurable!) outcome you want from this event: number of qualified leads, new clients, meetings set…and by the way, is everyone on the same page as to what constitutes a ‘qualified lead’? If you’re only looking for intangible results like “increased brand notoriety” or vague ones like “more opportunities”, you’re going to feel like it wasn’t worth it.
Plan your budget wisely:
Ok, so the higher ups have given you the green light to use X amount to get the job done. Budget accordingly, and start keeping track from day one. The Exhibitor has a great guide for estimating and planning costs, from suggested budget allocation for each aspect of the project to how much you’ll need to rent a forklift.
Trust in your marketing team:
Incomm center for trade show research and sales training reports that event attendees are 52% more likely to stop by your exhibit if you have appealing promotional items to give them. Marketing to the rescue! Take stock of what promotional materials you currently have and be critical: do your brochures need to be updated? Could your stand decorations use with a redesign? What kind of giveaways will leave a lasting impression?
Have a lead up, D-Day and follow up plan:
You want to make sure you get as much bang for your buck as possible, and having a solid plan for all stages of the event is essential in making this happen. Hubspot provides a very comprehensive slideshare guide of 75 Tips to Generate Sales Leads From a Trade Show, to help you think of absolutely everything. For your follow up plan, personalization is key – the very point of events is to hobnob with decision-makers and make them feel that you’ve really understood their particular business needs. Send timely, personalized follow up messages through the medium you think they’ll appreciate.
…And if You Want to Break the Mould?
For us, the jury is still out as to where we may (or may not) be exhibiting this year. However, all of these questions did lead us to a bit of a brainwave. Instead of wracking our brains trying to estimate ROI and manically going through exhibitor and speaker lists…What if we organized our own event? Yes, this is clearly more work, and perhaps more of a gamble…but with a comparable budget, you can select your own speakers and invitees, and have a lot more control about how you shape perceptions of your brand. With the right planning and support – both financial and motivational – this option might be the best bet for the adventurous company. We’re still hashing out the details, but stay tuned for what’s coming round the bend for us in 2016.
There are both pros and cons to exhibiting at a B2B trade show, but all arguments are going to boil down to price tag and ROI. Do your best to calculate your cost per lead, take a long, hard look at your budget, and make your decision. If you think it will be worth it, there are plenty of tips and best practices for making sure you get the best results possible, mostly having to do with good, solid planning. If you’re willing to go the extra mile, organizing your own event could be the best way to make sure you add events to your marketing mix while keeping control of lead generation and brand image.