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May 2009

Revisiting the ROI of Trade Shows

Trade Shows have long been on my list of least favorite Marketing Tactics. Perhaps it's because they've been a "Least Effective" Marketing Tactic in my experience. But being a bargain hunter in a high-supply, low-demand market, I'm willing to rethink the ROI of Trade Shows.

It's no surprise that B2B Trade Show spending is down this year (and has been declining steadily over the past few years). Forrester Research recently published a study on B2B Marketing Spend, The 2009 Economic Impact on B2B Marketing Budgets and Activities. As budgets are tightening, marketing spend is shifting from more traditional activities such as tradeshows and print advertising to digital media. 49% of B2B Marketers surveyed by Forrester stated that they planned to REDUCE Trade Show spend.
Forrester shift in spending

But as demand drops, it's easier to negotiate better deals. And with corporate travel budgets at an all time low, trade show attendance is restricted to those with a serious business need and/or budget.

I planned a client's presence at a trade show last month, RFID Journal Live, and though attendance was down, the seriousness of the conversations was up. So it reinforces my recession theory on trade shows. The tighter the T&E budget, the more likely attendees will have an budgeted project:
Trade Show Budget

This may be the first time I've seen qualified leads come in on Day 3 of a 3-Day show! It's more common for decision makers to attend the first couple of days of a show and have the vendors stay behind and talk to each other as the show nears its end.

So though I'm not entirely bullish on Trade Shows in general, I'll be more open-minded when evaluating their effectiveness. With better deals and better-qualified buyers, they may have a new place in the marketing budget.