To the staunchest of inbound marketing devotees, the idea of combining inbound marketing with one of the most expensive outbound marketing methods may seem ludicrous. Especially since trade shows are proven to be the most costly outbound channel, according to the State of Inbound Marketing 2012 report.

So you would think that – as inbound evangelists – we should be glorifying inbound marketing techniques and vilifying those old-fashioned broadcast-style methods that are not only expensive but appear to be delivering diminishing return on investment, as the report indicates. But the reality is much more complex than that.

HubSpot cite one of the State of Inbound Marketing 2012 survey respondents, who said: “The worst thing we did in marketing last year was attend several trade shows and events with low yield and ROI.”

But while there are signs that outbound marketing is generally heading outbound (pun intended), trade shows seem to have miraculously maintained their importance for B2B and B2C marketers. As the report indicates, the importance of trade shows and industry events for lead generation has remained stagnant and it is still the most important of all outbound channels.

3 reasons why inbound marketing and trade shows go together like peanut butter and jelly

Yes, trade shows may not chime in with the free, organic nature of earned media that the concept of inbound marketing stands for but in the context of the rampant digitisation of communication, people are coming to realise that there is no substitute for live networking and face-to-face conversation. And yes, even inbound marketing fathers HubSpot are doing it, judging by the busy events schedule published on their website.

Here’s why we shouldn’t be drawing dividing lines between inbound and outbound but try to combine them instead:

1. Media spaces are converging.

No longer is there a contrast to be made between online and offline, or digital and analogue. Online users and producers are seeking a unified digital experience, obliterating prior boundaries and incongruities. And naturally, as part of the same ecosystem, the inbound-outbound distinction also falls into this paradigm.

2. Inbound methods such as social media, blogs and SEO can fill the marketing gaps that exist in traditional event marketing context.

Using all existing (and relevant!) online channels to the best of their potential prior to, during and after a trade show can help promote your participation, increase brand awareness, drive traffic to your website and your stand, and make lead conversion an overall smoother process.

3. After all, it’s not the means that truly matter, it’s the end.

When used in a strategic way, inbound marketing can help you squeeze a whole lot more from those traditionally costly trade shows, generating more quality leads, making sales, boosting your SEO rankings and improving ROI… all while having fun along the way.

For some nifty tips on how to use social media, search and blogs, download our complimentary Inbound Marketing for Trade Shows e-book.