Are Trade Shows Worth The Investment?


As entrepreneurs and small businesses cut spending and seek more ways to reduce expenses, certain “standard” activities are on the chopping block. These challenging economic times have forced business owners to reevaluate their participation in conferences, industry trade shows, and other sponsored events. No longer can businesses afford to send employees to conferences as social experiments. Investments in trade shows and conferences now have to deliver a measurable return in order to remain a part of today’s marketing mix.

When BrandMakerNews asked entrepreneurs whether trade shows were still worth the expense, the responses were across the board. Check out the different perspectives below, and decide for yourself…

YES- Trade shows are worth the investment.

Absolutely… these events offer a tremendous opportunity to reach their core audience or to network with similar parties in order to grow their businesses.  I take as many employees as possible to the events I attend specifically because this is the most opportune time to train them in the field. It is well worth the cost. -Will Brimstone

They are for us…but we are judicious in the use.  We exhibit about four times per year with very specific objectives, and it does pay off in building our brand and attracting customers. The shows and conferences provide a gathering spot for a well targeted market of people. That can definitely pay off. -Myril Shaw

Yes, attending business events is a good use of funds. Sponsoring these events can be a great way to get attention, but regardless of if you sponsor, or just attend…. few things can have the ROI of industry events. -Thom Singer

Attending trade shows/conferences should be incorporated into every promotions budget. Usually this is the least expensive way to meet your customers and get new ones. Your competition may have decided to drop out and so you may find a more receptive audience. -Denise Beeson

No- Trade shows are not worth the investment.

Trade shows are a wasted expense. They were great a few years ago to get out of the normal routine, and check out what’s new in the industry. But I’m yet to meet new, suitable suppliers at a trade show. Any that are suitable don’t want to deal with anybody unless it’s a multi-million dollar deal, which is no good for the smaller guy. You can achieve just as much if not more with a trade magazine subscription and Google on your desktop. -Chris Dagger

We have stopped doing trade shows because the cost was becoming too high for the returns we were getting. Many attendees needed to see you at the trade show several times before they would buy. Also the buying volume of some buyers may be big for them but for the amount of time spent, again it does not pencil out. The ROI has to be there! -Haralee Weintraub

It Depends- Your trade show success (or failure) depends on you.

My answer to your question is yes and no. Unfortunately many companies who spend a great deal of money at these shows do not properly evaluate how they spend the money. Sometimes sponsoring event is cost effective, other times having a booth is money well spent. Now that I have my own company, I am much more cautious about selecting just the right conferences and shows to attend/participate in. Many times I just walk the exhibit floor interacting with attendees. -Art Koff

They should cut the expense of participating in these events if they have no clear-cut goals that can be achieved and/or by participating they are not able to reach those goals. A business should only be engaging in activities that assist it in reaching its business goals. If the only reason for being at a conference is because your competition is there, then I would advise cutting the expense and not participating. -Stephanie Hackney

Tradeshows CAN be worth the expense. However, one must be sure that all expenses are included when comparing to the sales made at the tradeshow. Many people I know use only the cost of the tradeshow registration fee and travel expenses. You also need to include meals, hotel, shuttle service, union work when exhibiting, etc. All those extra expenses add up, and they add up fast. -Barb Tewes

The answer is… “it depends”. Look at each event on a case-by-case basis and assess the ROI (return on investment).  If you are attending the event to find potential clients, check out the attendee list. What percentage of the attendees represent your target market? Look at the speaker list. Do the speakers attract the type of people and companies you need to meet? Do the educational presentations offer valuable advice that can help you succeed in your particular business? -Deena Baikowitz

The ROI of participating in shows is only justified when that participation is very focused, actively prepared (with database marketing etc) and followed up upon after the show. It is also important to realize where each show lies in your company’s sales process: market research, product testing, brand awareness, or pure sales. -Greg Boutin

What’s your take? Are trade shows still worth the investment? Now that you’ve read what other entrepreneurs have to say about this topic, share your perspective below…

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