In theory, tradeshows are a great way to spread the word about your brand, meet new contacts within your industry, and potentially land a few major clients or customers. But digital marketing and advertising have disrupted such traditional marketing methods, and forced marketers to scrutinise the costs and possible benefits.
Clearly, some marketers still see value in tradeshows: They were a $12.6bn industry
as recently as 2015. But did attendance make that budgetary commitment worthwhile? Are tradeshows worth the investment?Expenses
Take a look at the expenses you’ll incur by attending a tradeshow:
- Rental space. The cost to attend a tradeshow varies wildly, depending on the type of show and the kind of display you choose to create. Some shows have a standard attendance fee, while others will charge based on how much space you occupy. According to Exhibits USA, the average cost to rent tradeshow space is about $20 per square foot. If you’re looking at a 10x10 lot, that would amount to $2,000 for the space alone.
- Signage and structure. It’s not enough to get a space; you need to attract people to it. For starters, you’ll need some kind of structure, where you can set up your main products for demonstration and interact with prospective clients. Again, prices vary wildly, but you can expect to put up at least a few thousand dollars if you’re building your display from scratch. (Of course, if you reuse those materials, you’ll save money.) Custom-printed signage, if ordered online, is reasonably inexpensive; you can print custom vinyl banners for less than a few hundred dollars (depending on the size and other options).
- Giveaways. Not all attendees will require you to have giveaways, but they’re an easy way to generate more interest in your brand. A handful of gadgets or product giveaways could attract more people to your booth. If you go this route, you’ll add a few hundred to a few thousand dollars to your costs.
- Other expenses. Don’t neglect to include other, less obvious expenses, such as travel, meals, hotel stays, and shipping costs. You’ll also have to set aside additional man-hours for set-up and tear-down, and you’ll lose a few days of ordinary productivity while you’re attending the event.
Overall, you can expect a tradeshow to cost you at least a few thousand dollars, and easily $10,000 or more.Benefits
The biggest benefit is the chance to attract clients you wouldn’t ordinarily have converted. But do tradeshows have the potential to bring them to you?
According to statistics from the Tradeshow News Network
, the answer is yes. About 80% of tradeshow attendees have buying power, meaning they’re walking into the event with the intent to buy.
Assuming you get a good turnout and decent traffic, you’ll be face to face with a much richer lead pool than you could get through in-bound digital channels like social media marketing or PPC ads. In addition, 99% of attendees reported that tradeshows offered at least one perk that other marketing mediums could not offer.
It’s certainly possible to acquire new clients at a tradeshow whom you couldn’t get from any other medium, but that also depends on your pitch, your visibility, and your ability to close. Is it worth it?
It’s impossible to make a blanket statement that tradeshow attendance is worth it or not worth it - there are too many variables. But it’s certainly possible for modern tradeshows to make up their costs, at least for certain firms
Before attending a tradeshow, think carefully about the state of your industry. Are your prospective clients hands-on? Are you able to secure positive ROI with your other marketing campaigns? What are your competitors doing - are they attending tradeshows or focusing on digital?
Beyond that, run the numbers. Calculate exactly how much it would cost to attend a show, and the lifetime value of each new client you have the potential to secure.
For example, if the lifetime customer value is $1,500 and you’re going to spend $8,000 on the event, you have to attract just six new clients to make the exercise worth your while. Use such estimates to fuel your decision, and make sure to keep track of both your expenses and benefits so you know for sure whether tradeshows are right for your business in the future.