Tips for improving trade show ROI using inbound marketing

Marketing ROI insights

Paying to sponsor a trade show is not a silver bullet technique for driving positive ROI from such events.

Simply attending the event isn’t enough either. Trade shows are expensive. Although trade shows can be great for training and educating team members, their marketing ROI can be questionable. Businesses can enhance their trade show ROI by employing strategic inbound marketing before, during, and after the event.

Before the Show

  • Research the audience. Inbound success requires a deep understanding of the target audience. A business that goes to a trade show thinking that a brightly colored booth and free mints is all the audience wants is unlikely to see the same ROI as one that has done its research in advance. What, truly, will attract the various buyer personas to the booth? What communication strategies will demonstrate value to customers with their varied buying habits?
  • Set goals. Before leaving for the trade show, set clear, quantifiable goals that can be answered with a “yes” or “no.” For instance, lead generation may be the target, so the question would be to generate a concrete number of sales leads. Define realistic goals, setting arbitrary goals can do more harm than good.
  • Tout participation. Write blogs and articles related to the show theme, presentations your people are involved in, or advancing the product or service you’ll be releasing. If you have a booth, encourage others to engage in particular ways at particular times with specific CTA recommendations in advance. Prepare giveaways and demos that speak to the value of your product/services–don’t simply address features and pricing.
  • Join the show conversation. The conference or show organizers, too, will be working to generate buzz about the event on social media. Follow those communications, employ the same hashtags in some of your postings, and even use the like/follow/retweet/share activity on your postings to identify possible contacts you want to make at the conference. For instance, invite a COO who likes a tweet about the company’s participation on a securing the IoT panel to speak face-to-face after the panel or stop by the booth. Lead generation from social media can be a vital tract for trade show marketing efforts.

During the Show

  • Be a subject expert. Inbound marketing efforts focus on attracting, educating, and delighting the target audience. Trade show visitors, in particular, are looking to be informed. They want to know what is new and exciting. They want to connect with experts that can become a valuable resource. Be ready to provide useful content, provide valuable takeaways, and build trusting relationships by offering credible information.
  • Enter leads into the CRM software. Set up an app or kiosk mobile device to enable booth visitors to enter their details. Any contacts that are added (independently or by booth workers) should identify the trade show as the source or referrer. This will help group and identify particular events and their contributions to lead and profit generation.
  • Leverage social media. Use social media channels to engage and reach out to show attendees. During the show it can be difficult to think of doing anything else but meeting and greeting, but some of the social media can be prescheduled. Also set aside some time to see who is checking in at the show on Facebook or FourSquare and respond to Twitter or Instagram. Or line up a staffer back at the office to take on this task.
  • Demonstrate engagement. When a conference or show participant appears in a panel or attends a workshop or keynote, use real-time posting of quotes and photos to involve followers in the proceedings. This can be used to educate, inform and delight current followers and drive an increase of followers among others attending the conference. Be sure to use the identified conference or show tag in posting.

Related reading: B2B Social Media Marketing Statistics 2016

After the Show

  • Continue the conversation. Upon return (and recovery) from the event, follow up directly with individual panelists or presenters with articles from your content database relevant to their discussion. You might even create a list of followers who you gained from the show and share relevant content over social media with this segmented group.
  • Create post event content and share socially. Create useful and helpful content that cites topics and learnings taken directly from the trade show or conference agenda. Reference speakers and provide links to presentations from the trade show. Focus your post event content on being helpful, educational and tapped into the heart of the topics presented.
  • Score the leads. Not every name entered into the database following the trade show is going to be a qualified lead. Use lead scoring tools to qualify leads based on their behavioral and demographic data, as well as your company’s past experiences dealing with various types of buyers. Qualifying leads will be more effective if the scoring is determined by an aligned sales and marketing team working together.

Related reading: What is Lead Scoring

  • Nurture qualified leads. Businesses might use marketing automation to send a first email to leads from the trade show 7-10 days after the event. Then, schedule two or more additional emails with valuable content to nurture leads into conversions.

Related reading: The Importance of Lead Nurturing and Scoring

  • Track the leads. Follow the trade show contacts through their journey to determine if they are converting. This will help the company to measure the value of connections produced from trade show appearances.
  • Keep tracking. This is not a one-time metric to consult. A contact from a trade show may take weeks or months to make buying decisions.

Trade shows are a significant investment of time and capital. Many companies invest heavily in trade shows and conferences and feel disappointed afterwards with the results. The inbound techniques presented in this article can supplement event marketing can help the business determine extend the value of trade show investments.

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Johnson, J. (2014, July 1). How to Combine Your Conference Strategy with Your Inbound Team.
Levine, A. (2015, February 5). Booth Bingo: Increase Your Trade Show ROI Odds.
Nichols, M. (2016, February 12). 6 Post-Show Activities That Improve Trade Show ROI.

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