Trade Shows: The Secret Weapon for Maximizing Business-to-Business Marketing ROI

April 16, 2016

Eric Dyson

Eric Dyson is the Content Marketing Specialist at Nimlok. Eric is a rapacious reader and has a voracious appetite for all things pastry. From gas station apple pies to gourmet cheesecake; if it’s sweet he eats.

Business-to-business marketing presents unique challenges not faced when marketing to consumers. Businesses take the time to carefully evaluate each product or service for its potential return on investment and rely on trusted partnerships and outstanding customer service. 

Trade shows provide marketers the chance to effectively target, market and connect with potential buyers, which is key in securing healthy business-to-business marketing ROI. Read the three tips below, and find out how a properly executed trade show campaign can help you increase your marketing return.

1. Businesses Have Complex Decision-Making Processes 

In business-to-business industries, the decision-making process is complex and can create unique challenges. Low-risk, low-cost purchasing decisions, such as ordering office supplies, may be made by an individual, while larger, high-cost purchases, like raw materials and goods, often involve cross-department analysis and approval from multiple stakeholders. 

Marketers are challenged to tailor their communications to multiple parties, such as product managers, executives, operation managers, CFOs, R&D directors or IT personnel. This diverse range of titles makes finding the right person essential. 

How Trade Shows Help 

When businesses send employees to trade shows, they often send key stakeholders and decision-makers. In fact, according to the Center for Exhibition Industry Research’s report (CEIR), The Spend Decision: Analyzing How Exhibits Fit Into the Overall Marketing Budget, 81% of trade show attendees have buying authority within their organization. The abundance of purchasers walking the aisles of a trade show offers business-to-business marketers a prime opportunity to communicate to the right people, increase brand awareness and drive conversions and sales. Trade shows can more efficiently target all key stakeholders for complex products than other marketing avenues, thus improving marketing ROI. 

2. Business-to-Business Buyers are Cautious Customers 

Business-to-business buyers are generally more rational when it comes to making purchases, while consumers are often more susceptible to impulses and indulgences. Moreover, businesses tend to purchase long-term products that require extended support, installation or implementation services,   making it vital that businesses choose the right vendor. A major factor impacting B2B buying decisions is trust in the product and vendor.

How Trade Shows Help

Business-to-business purchasers attending trade shows are seeking to experience a product first-hand. According to CEIR, 92% of trade show attendees are looking for new products. Trade shows provide business-to-business marketers an opportunity to give attendees a real-world experience with their product, service and brand. 

In-booth product demonstrations, testimonials from current customers and the chance to view and experience a product helps to build trust and awareness with prospective buyers, increasing the likelihood of a sale. Building trust and confidence in the business-to-business customer has long-term rewards and will help generate return on investment for years to come.   

3. Business-to-Business Buyers Value Personal Relationships 

An essential aspect of business-to-business marketing is the importance of developing and maintaining personal relationships with clients. As mentioned, business-to-business buyers are cautious purchasers who need to trust and feel comfortable with their vendors. Developing that trust and confidence can increase the chances of long-term relationships.

Business customers also tend to depend on long-term customer service, so marketers must bear in mind the importance of personal relationships, as well as the importance of a customer-oriented sales staff.

How Trade Shows Help

The need for strong personal relationships in the business-to-business market makes face-to-face contact extremely important. According to the Business Marketing Association, trade shows are the top promotional and marketing tool of American business-to-business companies. Trade shows are highly effective at connecting companies to current and potential clients, offering the opportunity for both parties to build new relationships. At a trade show, a company can meet with dozens of their clients all in one place, eliminating the costs of sending sales staff on individual visits creating higher potential ROI per contact. 


Trade shows are an important part of the overall marketing mix and should align with other marketing campaigns and initiatives to maximize overall marketing ROI. With proper strategizing and planning, business-to-business marketers can capitalize on many benefits trade shows have to offer. 

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