The results of a study that was just released by the Exhibit & Event Marketers Association (E2MA) shows that most companies still consider trade shows and similar events as important even though they find it difficult to demonstrate the long-term return on investment of these events. Much of this probably comes from a feeling that a trade show is still an important vehicle for promoting one’s company and brand as well as networking with others in the industry.
The statistics break down like this: 89% of marketers say that events are important, while 31% say that they are essential. The reasons for attending events are not surprising with around 2/3 of respondents saying they are looking for new prospects and leads and slightly less saying that they are seeking meetings with the clients.
The difficulty for many businesses continues to be actually quantifying the ROI from a trade show or similar events. It seems that most businesses do not doubt that these events have value, in many cases significant value (again, nearly one third of respondents saw them as ‘essential’). However, the problem is with such a large and complicated vehicle like a trade show, how do you accurately gauge this ROI. Just tracking leads that were generated is not enough. That doesn’t account for the additional publicity and brand exposure, or a lot of the other networking that may result in strategic partnerships potentially worth a lot more in the future.
Another concern that was cited about the trade show was the rising costs that are associated with these types of events. However, if these costs are managed intelligently they needn’t be cost prohibitive. Exhibit design, for example, has become a lot more affordable in many areas. Of course if you want a fully customized exhibit, you will pay for that extra cost, but modular design and advances in materials make other exhibits more affordable than before. The problem is that there is also a lot more competition in the industry, so companies feel they need to open their wallets to really get noticed.
But, exhibit design is only one part of the costs associated with trade shows. The staffing, transporting, lodging, and more have to be factored into the equation. Still, the survey suggests that these costs are still not enough to convince many companies that a trade show isn’t worth the cost in the long-run, even if they have difficulty proving to the finance guys that is in fact the case.