Trade shows are an important component of B2B marketing because they fit almost every budget.
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If you are a B2B marketer, industry trade shows are often the ideal meeting place to network with your industry peers, all in one central place. So, incorporating trade shows into your marketing plans is often a terrific way to get in front of your target customers.
There are many ways to get the word out about your company at trade shows, with varying degrees of cost. Here are the top five options to consider, in order of cost, from least expense to most expensive.
The best thing to do is position yourself as an authority on a certain topic that is relevant to the audience of the show. The show organizers are always looking for good speakers to fill their agendas. Why can’t that be you?
You never want to pitch your company as the primary topic, as the show organizers won’t let you simply stand up and promote yourself. You want to pitch a topic that is educational to the attendees. The National Restaurant Association Show attendees are likely to be interested in learning the hottest new trends in restaurant designs and restaurant furniture, as an example.
If you can, find a brand-name customer of yours to collaborate with on that pitch to the show organizers. Instead of you pitching your own success, your customers can pitch that success for you. Look for collaborative pitches with your customers, as the show producers love getting brand name speakers on their rosters, much more than unknown startup executives.
The best thing about speaking is there are typically no costs to you, other than the travel time and costs to get there.
If you can’t become a speaker, make sure you at least attend the event. Attendee costs are typically not that expensive, and they can yield a big pay day as you are networking throughout the event, rubbing shoulders with prospective customers at the lunches, break-out rooms and while walking the exhibit halls. Attending also has the additional benefits of educating yourself on key industry trends and keeping an eye on how your competitors are marketing themselves at events like these.
There are several ways to advertise your business at or around events. If there is a trade show magazine, directory, website or email list, buy an ad if you can. You might have an opportunity to handing out fliers to people in the hotel lobbies or bus shuttle stops near the show or buy ads targeting fans of the show on Facebook. There are options for all size budgets here, depending on how creative you want to get.
Having a booth as an exhibitor is one of the more expensive options. The booth comes with a cost of around $5,000 and the space rental can be another $5,000, plus you typically need a couple people manning the booth, including all their travel related costs for those days.
However, with having a booth you have good visibility in the exhibit hall, provided you locate your booth in a highly trafficked location (so study a show map before committing to a booth location in a bad location). Have handouts, life personalized zip drives with your logo on it and company presentations included, ready at your booth so visitors will remember you when they are back in their offices.
Based on my experience, if you break even with sales coming from leads generated by your booth after the show, you are doing a good job.
Becoming a sponsor of the show can be very expensive, such as sponsoring the show’s lunch for the day by paying for all the meals in exchange for premier brand exposure and a five-minute sales pitch during the lunch. Pricy but less expensive options include paying for the show badge lanyards in exchage for having your logo included on the lanyard.
There is a wide range of options to consider here, at a wide range of prices, depending on how big of a splash you want, and can afford, to make at the show.
How to prioritize which trade shows to attend.
It is hard enough for an early stage company to afford one trade show, yet alone 20 shows, so you be strategic in how you prioritize which trade shows to attend. Figure out which shows will have the highest number of target customer prospects (not target companies), and go from there. Obviously, shows closer to your home region are less expensive to attend and are likeliest to be attended by your target customers.
Trade shows would not be my first marketing effort for an early stage company. I would favor more cost effective things like Google search ads and targeted ads to my prospective customers on LinkedIn first. But, when you can afford to add trade shows to your mix, you should. As a benchmark, the average cost per B2B lead may be $250, and the average cost per B2B lead sourced from a trade show may be $750, so make sure your average sale is enough to cover that level of marketing investment.