It’s time to change the conversation about trade shows.

Savvy exhibitors have ceased thinking quixotically about ROI and moved on to more urgent and practical matters.

What do they want from their trade shows spend?

It’s pretty darn simple.

Leads and sales.

Exhibit marketing isn’t like the other popular B2B marketing tactics.

Websites, Webinars, SEO, paid search, e-mail, PR, print advertising, direct mail and social media are all one or more steps removed from personal selling.

Executives demand fancy evidence of ROI in them, because they can readily suck up time and money without clearly driving sales.

But exhibit marketing is different.

It’s so closely tied to personal selling that executives don’t demand elaborate proof of ROI in it. No more than they demand that salespeople “prove” with charts and graphs the ROI in phone calls, travel, lodging, hospitality and gifts.

Any particular trade show, instead, is judged a lot like a salesperson is judged.

In assessing a show’s performance, executives want to know:

  • Does the show help our company communicate effectively?
  • Does it help us establish industry leadership?
  • Does it let us identify promising accounts?
  • Does it help us educate and develop buyers?
  • Does it create valuable relationships?
  • And does it, when all’s said and done, produce sales?

ROI in trade shows?