Redistributing Budget Away from Trade Show Events

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Covid-19 (Coronavirus) has blown up your trade show budget – here’s how to reallocate:

If you’re like many of our mid-market and enterprise clients, you had allocated between 30 and 40% of your entire marketing budget on trade show sponsoring, attendance, swag, travel and expenses. 

Now that most non-essential travel is discouraged and many industry-leading shows have been canceled or postponed, you need to redistribute that budget and quickly. Let’s take a look at a couple different ways:

First, let’s operate under a couple of assumptions:

  • Trade shows are acting as a demand generation tactic primarily, and are being used for acquisition and pipeline acceleration.
  • Trade shows are acting as a reputation, awareness, and brand-reinforcement tactic secondarily.

To fill the gaps in acquisition and pipeline acceleration that trade shows have left, there are a couple of different scenarios you can explore.

First, double down on acquisition:

  • Ramp up your digital lead generation channels, primarily in content syndication, SEM and Ad Words. (Display and paid social are supplementary.)

Second, to fulfill your pipeline acceleration goals, there are two avenues you can take:

  • Take a look at your ground game. Can you pull together some micro-events (executive roundtables, lunch and learns, cocktail hours, innovation events, etc.) that don’t require accounts in your pipeline (or your sales associates) to fly or travel long distances?
  • Get multichannel with a highly targeted mix of outbound email, personal email, and tactile marketing. Get those deals over the finish line with high touch, highly customized gifts or experiences that they can enjoy locally or in their home.

When you’re done, your redistributed budget might look something like this:

You’ve increased spend most in the areas of content syndication, micro-events, and SEM and Ad Words, with supplementary bumps in digital display and paid social.

Most demand generation professionals will tell you that if you increase spend on digital channels, you’ll increase lead volume, but the quality can vary. I would argue that quality of leads generated at Trade Shows varies also – and if the plumbing around lead qualification and service-level agreements is in place – you’ll keep the lights on if you redistribute budget and do it quickly.

This is an over-simplified scenario to communicate a manner of thinking.

Your organization, including your unique goals, budget, and resource allocation between traditional demand creation and highly targeted ABM must be factored in to get an accurate redistribution.

We’re already having these conversations with our clients. If you want to take 15 minutes with our consulting team to discuss ways to redistribute your budget, or ways to pivot virtually in the wake of canceled events – please reach out and contact us here.