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We’ve talked a lot about the transition into an inbound marketing era and the value it can bring to your organization, but what is it that we’re leaving behind and what are we taking with us? Tradeshows are one of the most visible outbound tactics and merit a discussion relative to inbound value, but courtesy of the pandemic, they have become a bit of a dinosaur.

We all know what a trade show is so there is no sense in going into details of the “who, what, when, where or how” to do a tradeshow. The topic here is more a matter of relevance, the “why” of doing one. Do we still need trade fairs in an inbound marketing world? The short and easy answer is “yes”, but maybe not for the same reasons or at the same frequency.

It would be a blatant statement of the obvious to state that trade shows are incredibly expensive; in fact the most expensive cost per lead (CPL) you can measure. I’ve seen tradeshow CPL’s range from $250 to $2,500! We certainly shouldn’t need to be spending that kind of money for exposure anymore, not with a solid inbound strategy. With social media the way it is, we bring enough customers to us instead of going to them and the beauty of an effective inbound marketing plan is how inexpensive it can be.

BUT… trade shows are good for a few things and you will definitely still find some value here if used judicially.  You may want to consider selectively using tradeshows for the following:

  • They are a great way to jumpstart or refresh your list.
  • People do want to see the faces of the company they’re purchasing goods and services from periodically. They want to see that human element, so meeting potential and current customers face-to-face can be incredibly beneficial.
  • Trade shows are a good place to show off your personality to the press and analyst community. A good face-to-face conversation can mean a world of difference to some people.
  • My favorite reason for sponsoring a tradeshow is the business development angle of uncovering acquisition targets or potential acquirers.

That being said, you have to find the right balance. Invest in trade shows only once a year, twice a year at the most. That way, you’re still getting some good face time with your leads, but not breaking the bank to do so. The inbound marketing era has given us a new way for exposure to the public anyway.