Screen Time Versus Face Time: What Has the Highest Marketing Value?

November 25, 2019

Sofia Troutman

Sofia Troutman is the Senior Digital Marketing and Product Innovation Manager for Skyline Exhibits. Sofia heads up Skyline’s marketing efforts in new product development and management, lead generation, exhibitor education, industry relations and market research.

I get asked these questions on a regular basis: How can you prove that there is value in all the money spent during a trade show? How does that stack up to e-mail, content and pay-per-click marketing? Is it even worth it to go to the show? Many just assume that the answer is no. 

It’s easy to assume that when you have myriad data points provided by your marketing stack vendors on click-through rates, SEO ranking and marketing material requests, that you are getting a better value from that spend. This is especially easy to do when you have a tight budget that must cover your trade show spend along with online advertising and campaign costs.

However, as much as I value the opportunity to share customer value and brand positioning with electronic newsletters, webinars and pay-per-click advertising, I know that it’s not the same as having face time in front of an actual customer. While many of us are willing to buy consumer products online and do, I typically rely on my trust for the brand or company I’m doing business with to decide whether to go forward with the transaction. Also, while I’m willing to make smaller purchases online, I typically choose to go to a brick and mortar store at some point during the buying process for larger value or more complex purchase decisions.

When making business spending decisions I, along with many other business professionals, go through a similar process. We will buy paper or a banner online, and maybe even click on an online ad to find a vendor. However, when the purchase success and cost is more consequential, our buying process changes. We do more research, we want to learn about the company, we want to meet the people, see how responsive they are and really understand their capabilities. While companies can do this process with clients one-on-one, trade shows and corporate events can be a very efficient way to expedite the process for buyers and sellers.

Many exhibitors focus only on leads to assess the value of a trade show or event, and that is if they even bother to measure the value. Yet, there is much more value to live events than just gathering a bunch of business cards. We highly encourage all our clients to estimate the return on investment (ROI) they get from the events at which they exhibit at. CEIR (Center for Exhibition and Industry Research), in their recent Marketing Survey, indicates that when marketers measure ROI they are better able to meet their goals and have a more favorable perception of the value of trade shows. 

One of the things that many marketers struggle with is how to measure the performance of their trade show or event. If you oversee organizing and producing an event or your company’s presence at a trade show, it is imperative that you measure the results of your efforts and investment.

Here are some important considerations when calculating the value of your trade show or event:

Take total leads and an estimated value per lead

    • Get agreement on value per lead and estimated sales close rate from your sales and leadership before you go to the show

Estimate the additional benefits or sales costs savings you get from going to the show

    • Estimated cost for sales staff to visit all prospects you met at the show
    • Value of PR or brand visibility from being at the show

Use the opportunity to meet with existing clients or high-value prospects

    • Can you train current clients or upsell them to a relevant product?
    • Can your engineers or marketers take the opportunity to learn from them?
    • Can your sales team take that lead or client to the next level of loyalty by adding value during the time they meet at the show or event?

Regardless of how you measure the value of live marketing, realize that it is not a direct competitor to your digital marketing strategy. Live marketing allows you to do something digital marketing cannot do: enable your staffers and content to come alive and be truly customized for the attendee. It is a wonderful complement to digital marketing as well as a strategic tool to increase your company’s competitive advantage in winning the loyalty of new and existing customers.


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