Practical Tips to Increase Your Trade-Show ROI

While B2B marketers continue to increase their digital marketing spending, trade shows and conferences are still an important source of leads. Maybe because there is no substitute for in-person interaction.

The investment is often significant. Are you paying $5K for your booth? Does that include travel costs, per diems and non-billable time? Your budget is probably closer to $15 or $20K. Here is how you can make that investment count.

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Pre-show tips

Make sure you’re speaking the same language

What’s a lead? It depends who you’re talking to.

A Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL) has expressed some level of interest in your company. Usually, an MQL is someone who’s filled out your pre-qualification questionnaire.

Job seekers, potential partners and vendors may fill out your form, but they’ll never be clients. A person who fits your ideal client profile, however, would become a Sales Qualified Lead (SQL).

This is an important distinction. When the definitions are clear, marketing can distinguish good leads from bad. Salespeople can then focus on converting SQLs into clients.

MQL vs. SQL: What’s the difference? #B2BMarketing Share on X

Keep your team inspired to achieve your goals

Remind your team why you are participating in this particular show.

  • Is it to generate sales qualified leads?
  • To strengthen relationships with existing clients?
  • To find future business partners?
  • To position yourself as a thought leader?

It’s OK to have more than one objective. But team members need to know how they’ll prioritize their time. Here is how Dorie Clark follows up after a conference.

Closing more deals with sales and marketing alignment

Think of your primary goal as your compass to discuss how to collect and distribute leads.

All lead distribution methods have their pros and cons. Don’t be afraid to experiment.

Trade shows are exciting. Everybody is eager to follow-up. Back at the office, reality sinks in. As tempting as it is, don’t bite off more than you can chew. Review your experiences of past trade shows to avoid repeating the same mistakes.

Still, efforts made before the event to align sales and marketing can pay off tremendously afterwards. This is because expediency can make a huge difference in terms of lead conversion. So, fine-tune your workflows and draft your follow-up emails ahead of time.

Related article: How Top Sellers Avoid Leaving Money on the Table

Get sales teams messages designed to boost conversion

Another thing that is often overlooked is creating high-impact messages. At the very least, you’ll need an elevator pitch, a unique value proposition and a unique selling proposition.

They all serve a different purpose. Your elevator pitch should entice prospects to say “Tell me more.” Whereas your unique value proposition conveys the tangible benefits clients can expect when they do business with you. Lastly, your compelling unique selling proposition explains how you differentiate yourself from your competitors.

Maximize your prospecting efforts with social media

When it comes to social media, the options are endless. Here again, choose the platform that supports your primary goal and the audience you want to reach.

Twitter has become the de facto platform for many live events. Inquire about popular hashtags. Create Twitter lists to engage with prospects, clients and influencers. And tweet any content you may have related to the trade-show keynote sessions.

Facebook is an interesting alternative if you’re hosting a Facebook live event at your booth. Facebook’s Custom Audience tool could also help you narrow your target audience, but it requires a certain level of expertise.

As for LinkedIn, you should at the very least ensure that all team members have an up-to-date and optimized LinkedIn profile. Chances are this is the first thing prospects will check after talking with you. Sales Navigator is worth considering to take advantage of advanced search options and custom lists.

Amplifying your trade-show presence

Get noticed with experiential marketing

Experiential marketing is a great way to create emotional connections during live events.

This can take many forms. Can you incorporate virtual reality into your trade-show booth? Would you rather entertain clients at a private reception with a theatrical performance?

Listen to your customers

Naturally, everybody wants to create a lasting impression. But what if the best way to sell more was simply to listen more attentively?

Be prepared to gather some customer intelligence any chance you get—at your booth, on social media or during lunch break.

Notice questions during presentations, detect patterns of interest and share the feedback with your marketing team. Your findings will help you design new promotional offers or find relevant topics for your next blog post or white paper.

Have a post trade-show plan

Add prospects to your CRM

Your CRM will help you automate lead distribution. Besides, it ensures that all salespeople quickly and diligently follow up on the leads assigned to them. It should also give you an idea of the pipeline value generated by the event. How else will you calculate the real ROI of the event?

Nevertheless, this is not your first trade show and you know that most leads don’t convert immediately. Various studies have shown that nurtured leads produce, on average, 20% more sales opportunities than non-nurtured leads (source).

Leverage your marketing automation software

A marketing automation system actually enhances your CRM capabilities. First, it automates follow-up emails with leads that may otherwise fall through the cracks. Second, it provides interesting behavioural data. This type of information gives you better insight into your prospects’ intentions.

For example, the prospects that spend a bit of time on a particular section of your website may be showing signs that they’re ready to take the next step. Besides, this information will be extremely useful to personalize the follow-up.

Boost your efforts with content curation

Talking about personalization, prospects are much more likely to engage with someone who tries to be helpful.

Surely, they’ll be grateful if you send them relevant third-party articles on a topic they care about. In that regard, BuzzSumo makes content curation particularly easy.

Turn your trade-show experience into awesome content

Remember all the feedback you collected at the show? Now is the time to use it!

Think of all the prospects who would have loved to be there but couldn’t for some reason. Summarize what you learned in a quick video or blog post and share the content on social media.

Similarly, since you’ll get the chance to meet face-to-face with existing clients, you could ask them for a short video testimonial to post on your website.


These practical tips are pretty straightforward and don’t necessarily cost a fortune, but they do take time. You’ll need to start planning a few months prior to the trade show.

The key point to remember is that proper preparation makes all the difference between a worthwhile investment and a disappointing event.

Did we forget something? Leave us a comment to tell us what worked well for you at past events.

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