Are Trade Shows Worthy of Your Industrial Marketing Dollars?


Depending on your trade or market segment, trade shows may be quickly becoming a thing of the past. Are you throwing money down a hole by exhibiting?

Participating in a trade show, conference, tabletop forum or other promotional event is becoming less and less beneficial to industrial manufacturers. However, there may be a place for this tactic in your industrial marketing arsenal.

If you participate in a lot of these events – or are trying to decide whether or not to attend one – you should definitely take some time to evaluate whether this practice is worth it for you.

Marketing guru C.J. Hayden suggests completing the following exercise:

Before making a commitment, check your marketing budget. Add up all the costs of being an exhibitor, including the booth or table fee, display materials, marketing literature, promotional items or door prizes, and staffing your booth.

Divide the total cost by the number of customers you can honestly expect to get as a result of this event. Once you see how much each customer is going to cost you, do you still think it’s worth it? Can you think of an easier or cheaper way to make the same number of sales?

I suggest when performing this exercise that you don’t forget the cost of shipping display products, nor the cost of labor to move those display products. Most of the time, you must hire the labor through the show, which can get particularly pricey.

Sometimes trade shows do pay off, and you should be as prepared as possible before you leave for the show, and be sure to follow up.

Make sure to have a visually-appealing booth or display that reflects the quality of your product. And don’t skimp – you don’t want to look cheap or unprepared compared to your competitors.

Prepare your “pitch” in advance so you don’t blank when it comes time to speak to potential leads. (And don’t wait until you’re in the car on the way over to the show.)

Follow up with your leads in a timely fashion. Don’t just toss those business cards in a pile – have a plan and follow up before you forget all about them (and while you’re fresh in their mind). You would be surprised how many companies we talk to do nothing with the leads / names they collect. Don’t put them off until you’re “not busy,” because that day may never come.

Trade shows have been done successfully for many years, but you need to ask yourself where they fit in your overall industrial marketing plan. Are they still the best option for your company? Don’t throw money away on leads that could be acquired at a lower cost.

Photo credit: Georg Schwalbach (GS1311) via photopin cc

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