In this day and age, why do people still attend trade shows? Well, this Forbes study suggests that more and more people will attend conferences in 2016, partially because new technologies have made it easier to meet the right people despite the increased number of attendees. (Can you relate to other points in the article?)

  •  There are over 100 million conference attendees in the US alone each year.
  • This report from Oxford Economics estimates conference ROI to be 4-6 times the dollar invested.
  • 40% of prospects become new customers after a face to face meeting.

But most of all, our clients have told us that they still go to trade shows because they still work and the power of face-to-face networking is still invaluable to their sales process.In fact, the amount of money invested in trade shows each year is staggering at an estimated $33.7 billion.

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How much are you spending?

How much are YOU spending on your booth, flights, hotels, food, entertainment, and marketing prints? And, if you are a CEO, can you honestly say that your sales people have meetings lined up every day or are they having fun on the company bill?

Does this sound familiar to you?

Your company’s marketing and sales departments have done a great job marketing your booth and have spent money making sure you occupy a prime location at the biggest conference of the year. However, as the attendees begin to enter, you are overwhelmed at the group of people surrounding your booth. You could have your ideal client right in front of you, but you don’t know who to talk to or spend your time on.

Conference ROI Tip #1:

Get a list of the conference attendees ahead of time and reach out to them via LinkedIn several weeks before the conference. Introduce yourself, let them know you’ll be at the conference and request a meeting while you’re there. I prefer LinkedIn over email because both parties can put a face to the name – this is much more effective than a cold email. We like to use youcanbookme.com as an easy scheduling software. This way, you are providing them a professional way to book a time to meet with you.

Conference ROI Tip #2:

I met with a prospect recently who spent $100,000 for a central booth location at a popular trade show, which left only $6,000 in the marketing budget for the rest of the year.

My suggestion? Scale back the booth, and drive traffic to it instead. Get on the outskirts of the trade show floor and allocate more of your budget to driving people to you.  A great way to do this is to create a “conference map” with your exact location and share it across your social media platforms, newsletters, etc. You can also create engaging, timely contests that will entice your top prospects to visit you at specific times during the trade show (more to come on this strategy in future articles).

Conference ROI Tip #3:

Have a pre-show and post-show strategy and set goals at each step. For example, you might set a goal of 30 meetings booked before the trade show begins (10 meetings per day). In order to accomplish this, you need to give yourself at least 6 weeks lead time to properly execute an outreach strategy via LinkedIn to reach your target audience.  Once you get these meetings booked, it critical that you follow up with those leads within 24-48 hours of the show ending.  Your prospects are busy when they head back into their daily routine at work – so don't let time slip away or you will become out of “site” and out of mind!

Stay tuned for more articles where I will discuss further strategies, tools, and tips that have worked for our clients looking to fully leverage trade shows to:

  • Line up guaranteed meetings ahead of time
  • Ensure that their booth is busy during down times
  • Build lasting relationships with the new prospects

Do you still use trade shows as one of your main sales tools? Are they as effective as they used to be? Let us know in the comments below!