In business, deciding to spend money, time and resources on trade shows and conferences is a significant decision for most companies. Why? Because they are expensive and it can be hard tie ROI directly to a specific show. Or, the realization of show ROI can takes years.
Trade show fees have skyrocketed in recent years. And most industries with established shows have a sea of competitors (which is what the trade show coordinators rely on for their own ROI). So many competitors under one roof makes it very difficult to stand out. Not to mention the risks associated with being under the roof with your competitors (saying out load what you should not say!, etc., etc.).
So, what to do? (Note: I should mention that this post is targeted more towards small to medium sized organizations, vs. the very large who may have unlimited show budgets. But, it is still a good practice to drive ROI regardless of budget).
I have found that we can differentiate our company and brand by "not" being at specific trade events. Every industry has a few trade conferences where the general word on the street is "don't waste your time and money, it is not worth it." Or some variation of that. So, don't go! Do not associate your brand with a show that is perceived as a waste of time by your targeted decision makers (buyers). If they won't go and allocate funds to attend, then why go? But, overall, we have found the following strategy around trade shows and conferences works best for our organization:
1. Structure your trade show budget to 6 to 8 shows per year. Approximately one fully scheduled show/trade event per quarter, with two to four others sprinkled into the year, or as you hear about shows throughout the year. Often, this means some are larger trade shows that require a lot more planning, and some are simply con In addition, it can take a good 3 months follow up after each show to determine success and/or failure. So, complete the follow up tasks over the coming 2 1/2 months before you launch into another conference event. Remember, trade shows and conferences are time consuming.
2. If you choose to attend, do it right (or don't do it!). Budget right, drive targeted messaging for the show attendees, determine your differentiation for the show. Do it right and invest in success (display your success, have people readily available to engage answer questions correct the first time, qualify quickly so you don't waste your time or theirs, don't be too sales-y. If you do not have the budget or resources to do it right, then pass.
3. Target shows in your industry verticals over your own internal industry show events. Most of our trade show and conference success has come from targeted industries. Those niche shows and conferences where attendees might be surprised to see you there (that is, pleasantly surprised). And most importantly, there is a good chance there will not be a sea of competitors at many of these events, making it easier to differentiate your brand, products, services and innovations.
4. Ask the key decision makers what shows they recommend you attend. Find out why. Learn as much as you can from your clients and customers. Ask them if they will recommend you, or be an expert reference during the show. After all, they know you best and know how to communicate your value to other prospects and contacts in their industry.
5. Follow-up Persistently. Not unprofessionally, but stay on it. Yes, people are always busy after a trade show or conference. But, if they showed interest or asked to reconnect after meeting and talking at the how, then do it. Don't take 10 days to get this done. Information if most fresh within the coming five days after a show. Make it happen.
I hope the above points are of some value. I do not pretend to be an expert in this area, but simply wish to share how we tackle the trade show conundrum. If you every wish to discuss further, or share further thoughts on how you evaluate trade show ROI, I'd love to hear from you, via 602-312-8900, or email@example.com.
Founder and CEO
EGS Global, Inc., d/b/s Emerging Global Services.
602-312-8900 / firstname.lastname@example.org