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In exhibition sales – digital is not the enemy

06 Mar 2020 | Written by James Cobb

In exhibition sales – digital is not the enemy

When you’re selling exhibition space, it’s easy to think of digital marketing as the enemy.

The exhibitor says ‘I just don’t see the ROI this year…’. What are they basing that on? These days, it’s likely to be a comparison with data-driven digital marketing.

The single piece of data they’re using is the number of leads they’ve captured. And when you divide the total cost of exhibiting by the number of leads, it looks expensive. Compare it to digital marketing channels. There’s no competition.

Chart showing average cost per lead for different channels

There’s no doubt the leads they’re getting at an exhibition are superior. Sales leads gathered at events require less effort to close. Only 0.8 calls are needed to close a qualified trade show lead, compared to 3.7 calls to close a typical business sale. But that’s not something the exhibitor is considering during your rebook conversation. Their ROI calculation boils down to this. Value = number of leads.

What about all the other visitors whose badges they haven’t scanned?

You know you’ve put them in front of thousands of relevant decision-makers – with the opportunity for the most valuable event in the sales pipeline – a face to face meeting. Many of them have engaged with the exhibitor, checking out their stand, and maybe returning several times. But if there’s no scan, the value doesn’t appear in the exhibitor’s ROI calculation. Value = number of leads.

That’s got to be massively frustrating. The real benefits of a face–to–face sales environment are being missed entirely when the exhibitor evaluates the costs and benefits of their stand.

What if you could demonstrate the superior value of the leads that are captured? What if you could quantify the engagement of thousands of decision-makers who they didn’t scan, and the value of exposing their brand to everyone who passed their stand?

By embracing digital tools, and not seeing them as the enemy, you can.

Digital tools like visitor apps, tracking technologies, and engagement platforms can all help.

These tools can make the visitor experience better and better, so that online just can’t compete. The interested, qualified decision-makers will come back year after year.

They can provide data that shows exhibitors exactly what’s happening, and why exhibiting at a trade show has advantages that digital marketing can’t touch.

And they can provide reliable metrics to exhibitors covering the entire sales funnel – the equivalent of impressions, clicks, downloads, and sign-ups in the online world.

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