B2B Sales, Lead Generation and Marketing Blog

Which is Better for your Marketing Budget? Trade Shows vs. Luncheons

Posted by Vendere Team on Thu, Feb 10, 2011 @ 16:02 PM

Bleacher SeatsWe have found that over the past two years, luncheons (or lunch-and-learns or mini-seminars or roadshows) have become a wildly successful sales model. 

In fact, we're a company that started in the qualified appointment setting business, and have seen nearly 100% growth in our event audience acquisition offering since 2009.  More and more, our clients are interested in filling their own personal informational sales events. The point is that it's an extremely viable sales vehicle at the moment, and a cost-effective way to get at prospects.

In looking at the agenda for the SiriusDecisions Summit 2011, one of the programs struck me as particularly interesting. On Day 3, there is a presentation called Events: Big Dollars, Big Problems. The subsequent blurb describes the event as such:

A typical b-to-b organization will spend between 25 percent and 30 percent of its marketing program budget on some combination of live events, trade shows, customer conferences and virtual events. Unfortunately, there tends to be far too little strategy behind this spend, and relatively little measurement of its impact. In this presentation, we will answer the following questions:

  • What are some key benchmarks for event allocation and return?
  • What are the core planning assumptions that will drive field/event marketers over the next few years?
  • How can b-to-b organizations be more disciplined when it comes to selecting events to attend?
  • What is a best-in-class framework for event planning, execution and followup?

What I want to point out is that the pundits continue to talk about trade shows and what a risky proposition it can be. Cost-per-lead is pretty high and follow-up can tend to be spotty. I know this because I've attended a conference before where the roaming badge-scanners from no less than 25 companies scanned me.  I received a follow-up call from 3 companies. The fact is that trade show leads are awful unless you qualify them.

Furthermore, it blew me away that companies are STILL spending upwards of 25-30% of their marketing budget on these types of events.  Let's talk about cost-per-qualified lead (as it is a much better metric than cost-per-lead).  In one post I read last year, Victor at Validar does a great true-story comparison of two booths at a trade show where the vendors paid $395 and $1070 per qualified lead, respectively.  Amazing.

Doing more with less: lunch-and-learns or mini-seminars or roadshows

Now let's instead look an event that you host at a local venue, and employ a telemarketing team to fill with registered attendees who are there to eat and specifically hear YOUR message.  Let's say you have 20 attendees at your luncheon:


Telemarketing = ~$3500 (whether in-house or external, and with qualification criteria in tow)

Venue/food = ~$500 (average $25 per head)

Total = $4000 for 20 qualified leads

Cost per Qualified Lead?  about $200

Not bad, eh?  While you may enjoy travelling to Las Vegas for that widget convention, the shotgun approach isn't typically as cost-effective as hosting your own event.

Topics: events

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