Trade show: An exhibitor's guidebook to maximizing ROI

Trade show marketing | ZohoIn this era of digital natives, trade shows aren't the sole source of leads or the potential repository of traffic. Yet, 41% of a B2B exhibitor's marketing budget is dedicated to these monumental events of massive networking, making them one of the highest marketing spends of SaaS companies, not limited to just software vendors, but also extending to their channel partners.

Why should I exhibit at a trade show?  

Trade show marketing | Zoho

The show day is going to bring in the founders and key decision makers from businesses in every stage of growth. Such a targeted group means a lot of warm leads and business. Although the associated cost per lead is high, unlike other marketing channels, you are guaranteed "hot" leads, the majority of which are sales qualified, making it an indispensable strategy of customer acquisition.

Also, despite the criticism to be overpriced, some partners in the channel have understood the value of the ROI that comes along and have begun exhibiting in these large and niche shows!

Trade show marketing | Zoho
Broadley Speaking | Zoho Authorized Partner at the B2B Marketing Expo

Trade show marketing: Goals  

Trade show marketing | Zoho

Trade shows are the only medium with a large scope for face-to-face connection, becoming a significant generator of warm leads. However, unlike the other media outlets, trade show marketing demands a strategic approach, with a concrete game plan that's periodically scrutinized for a minimum of six months before the actual event.

But, before investing in the medium, define your SMART goals, to help you track the accompanying ROI. Your goals may be represented by measurements like:

1. The number of new visitors to your landing page

2. Increase in your subscriber's list

3. Growth of your social media follower base

4. The rise in your organic traffic

5. Number of new leads

6. Percentage of sales qualified leads

7. Number of deals closed

8. Value of the deals brought in

9. Increase in traffic contributed by the geography in which you are planning to exhibit

Remember to aim for specific, achievable numbers in the metrics you choose to measure your trade show marketing plan. As you define these goals, ensure that you’ve got a steady system to track the appropriate channels and provide evidence on their management and performance. After the big day and a few months of following up, compare your investment and the returns brought in by those leads.

Once you’ve charted out specific goals for the event, here are the 5 trade show marketing best practices that'll help prep your team before investing in this channel of enormous ROI.

Trade show marketing | Zoho

In order to maximize your ROI from the trade show, there are 5 key questions that will be addressed.

1. How to pick the perfect trade show that targets your niche?

2. What are the things to be done a couple of months before the show day?

3. What are the collaterals that can be included in the display inventory and the giveaways?

4. How do I make optimum use of my time at the event?

5. What are the things that I'll have to within two weeks after the show day?

Audience segmentation

Trade show marketing | ZohoThere are a massive number of trade shows happening, catering to people from all over the world, belonging to every imaginable business niche. There are also some industry-focused trade shows that give you the opportunity to approach highly targeted prospects. But before making a choice, look out for where your competition has put up their shop and narrow down on the large and niche events from there. Ask yourself one key question before the final call:

Does your target persona match with the audience at the trade show you’ve decided to exhibit?

When you have this figured out, pick a booth space that's opposite or in the least diagonal to those of the renowned brands. This will have their audience look at your brand right after they step out. You could also set your space around or on the way to the speaking arena to have every enthusiastic buyer cross your path to the main stage.

Pre-event promotion

Trade show marketing | ZohoOnce you've picked an event to exhibit, you are all set to kick-start your campaign to win the battle of attention on the show day. Maybe that lead whom you hadn't closed on a month ago is planning to drop by the event looking for a similar service. After all, 92% of the audience are looking for products and services. So, to make the most out of your marketing investment, how about letting them know where you are before you set up?

Here are some common techniques that could use your innovation!

Trade show marketing | ZohoEmail campaigns are the fastest and the most economical way of creating a buzz amongst your target demographic. Most trade show exhibitors are provided with an attendee list. Send out an email or a newsletter to every expected attendee in your mailing list. Craft an innovate theme for the campaign that entices the recipient to come see you there. It might be a free consultation, a trial service, or an appeal to small business.

Trade show marketing | ZohoGoing out at a trade show as an exhibitor adds tremendous value to your brand, presenting you as a serious player in the market. Get your social media handles buzzing about your upcoming event using targeted hashtags that includes mentions to the organizer of the show. This will help catch the attention of everyone in the network.

Trade show marketing | Zoho

When you kick-start a promotional campaign, it is important to understand your audience. Landing pages are the best way to track this metric. Redesign your website to have a custom landing page, targeting leads from your trade show marketing efforts and other new visitors to your website. Also, include shout-outs and relevant CTAs that will draw organic visitors to this dedicated page. This emphasizes the importance of your consulting practice and might even have them considering you for implementation. So, center your trade show marketing efforts around this landing page. It will also help you understand your booth attendees before the show, giving you a perspective on what they expect of the event.

Time your outreach efforts well ahead of the day of the event to attract attention and create awareness, consequently increasing the number of sales qualified visitors looking out for your booth!

Collaboration on the collaterals

Trade show marketing | ZohoOnce you’ve let the world know that you’ll be taking up a spot at the show, begin your work on the design and content creation fronts. Many of your competitors are also going to be there for the day, and they'll likely have display images on TV and handouts on the stand, so figure out the innovative qualities that distinguish your business from the competition. 

1. Pick a visual theme for your booth designs and have the team conform to that common colour code and company branding.

2. Structure the booth with reusable designs. For example, including the event's name on the giveaways will not let you promote the same material elsewhere. So, create your business branding around the booth and the accompanying collaterals.

3. Look into the economical alternatives for the seating and electricals. The materials bought from the event organizers are generally twice or thrice the cost of what you could outsource from the local suppliers.

4. Organize the content for signage, trade show displays, elevator pitches, targeted brochures, and other materials that can offer value to your audience.

5. Put up a QR code display that’ll take them to your virtual domain or an engaging landing page

6. Think of creative giveaways that’ll have enormous brand recall value.

7. Customize a mobile application or discussion forum that attendees can download

Have your audience stop by for the attractive offerings, and get them to stay for the value!

You could also engage with the Zoho team to help you come up with creative design ideas, sales kits, and other trade show marketing materials that could add value to your exhibit.

Demo day

Trade show marketing | Zoho

Now that you’ve already set up a plan on the displays and signage, it's time to use this opportunity to unleash the power of face-to-face marketing, because, not everyone at the event will show up at your booth, and you definitely can't put your booth in front of every face in the audience. This is when you need to keep a check on these two drivers of the trade show booth etiquette.


The success of your booth hinges on the staff for the day and the way they interact with the audience. This makes it crucial to onboard people who emit confidence in their posture and pleasantness in their personality. Visitors of the booth might either be a CEO or their technical team, trying to understand your scope of implementation. So, populate your booth with not just tech experts but sales and business development executives as well. These non-techs are skilled in initiating the initial conversation. So, while the business and salespeople handle the networking and explain how business processes can be optimized with your services, the developers can work with the technical crowd and position you as an implementation expert!

Selling techniques  

Keep yourself engaged in prospecting.

Despite the enormous number of people looking to buy products, there’s also a silent minority who drop by for the giveaways and every other element of fun in the booth. This calls for a set up that doesn’t take the focus away from the purpose of the day. A classic example of this would be exhibitors who set up play stations at events, eventually bringing in the crowd for wrong reasons. Get the best people analysers to fish out the freeloaders in less than 2 minutes into the initial conversation. When you instinctively feel that you are engaging with a high-value prospect, invite them over to the lounge and introduce them to the higher-ups, creating a sense of importance.

Post-event persuasion

Trade show marketing | ZohoAccording to the Trade Show Bureau:

The majority of trade show sales take place within 11 months after the show.

This stresses the importance of following up with the people you've met at the show. But these people aren't just the leads in your CRM or inbox, but also in the business cards you'd collected at the event!

Unfortunately, most exhibitors are oblivious to the sales opportunities in them. Create a plan to make the most of all your new leads and keep the rapport going. For example, you could complete or initiate a conversation over an email or a call by talking about the convention and how you will be able to add value to their business. Such exercises will also help you build a prospect list for upcoming events in your industry.

Follow up on every handshake and conversation, but adhere to the DNC list.

Trade show: ROI calculation  

Two weeks after the show, review what you accomplished to see if the performance of the show met your initial goals. Bring in information from all the teams engaged at the event and collaborate on the report. Find answers to some of these key questions that can serve as a yardstick for future shows:

Trade show ROI calculation

Measure your exhibit's success with the ROI calculator here:

Even in a SaaS ecosystem, where the idea is to move businesses to the cloud and keep the conversations virtual, business is centred around people, who have an innate desire to build a bond with whomever they are talking to. Just like how as a consultant, we'd want to know about our prospects, customers are also interested in understanding and building that rapport with you, making trade show, a crucial business opportunity for SaaS consultants!


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