No matter how much money you have in your marketing budget, it seems there’s never enough. From the marketing department at Microsoft to the small nonprofit start-up, there’s always the desire to expand your budget for more effective promotion.
On the surface, trade shows may not seem to be the best use of those marketing dollars. But when you factor in some basic components of effective marketing strategy, such as target audience, immediate one-on-one personal attention and follow-up, there are few marketing strategies that produce such a strong return on investment.
Now, a good marketing plan will include more than just attending trade shows. For maximum exposure in your market, you must have a multi-faceted approach: network marketing, marketing materials, a website and trade show marketing These tools and strategies are just a handful of effective marketing techniques, and generally perceived as the most essential. And while each technique has its strengths, none will give you the return on investment that you will receive from exhibiting at a trade show.
This is one of the oldest, most effective, time-tested methods of marketing. Before there were business cards and brochures, offices and telephones, marketing strategy and advertising budgets, business owners promoted themselves by literally speaking to customers one-by- one. Idealistically, speaking to one person and asking to be referred to friends who may match your demographic creates a ripple effect and brings customers to your door.
The downside of this age-old tactic is the time involved. As a professional, time is money. In order to network, you must attend meetings and go to events that may be of interest to your target market and personally introduce yourself to people one-by-one. In addition, you often pay membership fees for some of these networking functions. The problem is, these meetings and events are smaller gatherings of people, and you are not going to be able to cover the ground that you would at a larger gathering.
Marketing Materials and Website
Most businesses arm themselves with business cards, brochures and other print marketing materials to distribute to the public. And increasingly, the essential need for a website has become standard for any smart marketing plan. Without these basics covered, you will find it quite challenging to compete in your market, no matter what type of business you are in.
The print materials are a good start but allocating the costs of reproducing and mailing them, and the process of constantly updating them, are no small tasks. Websites are an incredibly powerful marketing tool because any business – whether one employee strong or tens of thousands strong – can present you to a global audience. But like the printed materials, the site must be maintained and continuously updated to truly have impact. In addition, because neither of these tools lack interactivity with the prospect, you are not immediately able to guide their interpretations of the information or answer their questions.
There’s two reasons trade shows draw millions of people from all around the world each year – a targeted audience and face-to-face, one-on-one contact.
The trade show is similar to network marketing but on a much larger scale. You have a large target audience swirling around you, so you conquer the first big hurdle of marketing – weeding out the people who are not interested in your industry (because they aren’t going to attend the trade show). And face time with your prospects enables you to further pre-qualify them to set a smooth landing for a follow-up or a sale.
The only possible objection with trade shows is the expense of them. When calculating your trade show budget, you must factor in travel expenses such as airfare, ground transportation and accommodations, meals, snacks, giveaways, the cost of being out of the office, the cost of your trade show display, and trade show exhibit fees.
The costs can really add up and, on paper, may make your finance manager reach for the antacid. But there is no other marketing opportunity that affords you personal contact with such a concentrated target market. In the end, attending a trade show is likely to produce the largest pool of qualified leads when compared to many other marketing tools – giving you the best return on your marketing investment.
Trade shows are a crucial ingredient of your marketing strategy. While networking, printed marketing materials, your website and trade show marketing are all interwoven to execute an effective plan, the trade show provides the highest volume of potential customers and is the most direct. Attend trade shows on a regular basis and the results will likely eliminate any second guesses you may have about the money spent.