How to Justify Your Trade Show Program

How-To Tips, Industry Insights and Trends

If you’ve ever worked a trade show floor, you know firsthand the true value that a trade show program can bring to your company. However, providing proof to justify growing your trade show budget isn’t always easy. Today we’re looking at the six best ways to help you grow your trade show program and get the support (and budget) you need.

1. Gather Accurate, Specific Lead Data

One of the best ways to grow your trade show budget is to prove the impact that your program has on revenue. And how do you prove that? By gathering as many qualified leads at trade shows as possible.

Names and emails are great, but deeper details are even better. When possible, collect information on their:

  • Title and company name
  • Tenure at the company
  • Specific problem or need
  • Current solution or provider
  • Timetable for decision-making
  • Budget or other restrictions

Having this information will help you and your sales team prioritize follow-up calls and emails based on those most likely to convert. And, the data you collect will help you share progress with the powers that control your budget for next year.

Tip: If you offer tons of giveaways, use a specified scanner to track everyone that takes something. That way the passersby don’t get mixed in with qualified leads.

2. Report On Trade Show Results

Sales and marketing teams can spend weeks or even months trying to get a few minutes of a decision maker’s time. Luckily, trade shows (when done correctly) can cut out the middleman and help you reach decision makers faster. There’s no telephone tag, no unanswered emails, and no red tape to deal with – just a decision-maker standing in front of you, ready to engage and learn more.

In fact, according to the Center for Exhibition Industry Research, 82% of attendees hold buying power, making trade shows one of the best places to target your potential audience.

That means that if you exhibit well, trade show leads are likely to cost less than leads from other marketing sources. By reporting on trade show results with concrete data, you can prove that trade show leads cost less and are the best investment for your company to grow as a whole.

And, don’t forget to make your data look good. The easier your report is to understand, the easier it is to buy into and support financially. Include a summary page upfront for executives to skim and let them dive deeper into the details when they are ready.

3. Figure Out What’s Working – And What Isn’t

It’s no surprise that trade shows result in strong leads and open checkbooks. After all, where else can potential clients try out your products and ask questions with you as their guide? That’s why trade shows offer one of the most controlled, targeted environments to discover what works and what doesn’t.

According to Wyzowl, 69% of buyers believe that product demos are the best tool to help them make a purchase decision. If you’re struggling to bring in the leads you need to justify your program (or perhaps a budget increase) start with your demo or presentation

And, don’t be afraid to kill your darlings. If a demo or presentation you love just isn’t cutting it, it’s time to rework, update, or remove it from your trade show strategy. Proving that you can re-allocate your budget efficiently will help build confidence in your program as a whole.

4. Check Out Your Competition

One of the most underrated benefits of trade show marketing is that it allows you to see what your competitors are doing. What sales tactics are they using? How are they demoing existing products or debuting new ones? Sizing up your competitors at the show can give you tangible insight into their strengths, weaknesses, and strategies.

Just don’t forget, your competitors will likely be doing the same to you! Having a sharp looking booth and a well-trained staff will help you reinforce the strength of your brand to your competitors as well as your customers.

5. Follow Up on Every Qualified Lead

 Finally, don’t underestimate the importance of following up on leads in a timely and well-informed manner. According to data from Invesp, 48% of salespeople never even attempt to follow up with a potential lead. That means you could put yourself ahead of nearly half your competition with just a single email or phone call.

Remember those detailed notes you took about each potential lead? Now it’s time to put them to work to prioritize your list of follow-ups. Divide and conquer with your sales team, focusing on those most likely to convert (and with fast-approaching deadlines) first. Ideally, you’ll want to follow up with this key group within 5-7 days after the trade show. Then you can set to work following up with the rest of your potential leads, knowing they’re less likely to convert.

6. Network & Build Trust

Emails, phone calls, and video chats have become communication standards over the past few years. But, there’s still no better way to get to know someone than to talk with them face-to-face. You never know what can come from striking up a conversation in your booth – even if the person doesn’t fit your ideal customer profile. 

It can take dozens of calls and emails to get a meeting – so let your pre-show marketing do its job and capitalize on the privileged face-to-face time you have. Network, show interest in their work and the problems they face, and demonstrate your expertise in your industry. You never know what might come of it!

The Bottom Line

Trade shows are a valuable part of many marketing budgets – but it isn’t always easy to get the investment you need to make them successful. They require lots of time, money, and preparation from multiple teams in your organization.

If you’re going to advocate for a trade show program, don’t show up on the floor with a boring booth and a sloppy presentation. Do it right from day one to maximize the impact your program can have on your company’s revenue and success. Invest in a great team and a high-quality, engaging exhibit from a partner like EDE.

Not sure what you can afford on your current program budget? Check out our blog on how much you can expect to pay for a new trade show booth to get the answers you need.

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