Are trade shows dead yet?

Robin Emiliani  /  Jan 14, 2020

Salesforce’s Dreamforce. Oracle’s Open World. Hubspot’s INBOUND. SXSW.

For years, trade shows have been growing at a fast clip. So fast, in fact, that the $15.7 billion industry is projected to hit $18.5 billion by 2023.

And, hey, it makes sense. Trade shows are big networking opportunities. They help us keep up with industry trends. Sometimes they lead to referral business. And who doesn’t like grabbing drinks with colleagues who you don’t get to see that often?

But here’s the big question:

With the prices skyrocketing year-over-year, when do trade shows stop being worth it?

Tickets to Dreamforce run as much as $2,299—and Open World and INBOUND aren’t far behind. And that’s just the tickets. Add in the cost of meals, taxis, plane tickets, and vastly inflated accommodations, and tradeshows start to add up fast.

In fact, during SXSW, Austin rental prices triple—going from an average of $200 per night to $600 per night. And other trade shows create similar pricing jumps.

It’s great news for hotels. Not so great news for event attendees.

A friend recently attended Dreamforce in downtown San Francisco and spent a whopping $1,600 per night at a two-star hotel downtown. Now, that’s just straight-up criminal. At rates like that, a week-long trade show would run you upwards of $13,000.

Which begs the question, are you getting enough ROI on that $13,000 spend? Really?

Unless you’re walking out with a PhD, we think the answer might be no. Especially since other marketing tactics don’t require nearly as much investment to generate big returns.

Like content marketing, a tactic whose leaders experience 800% more growth than their competitors.

Or video, which has the best ROI of any marketing tactic, according to more than half of marketers surveyed.

Or email marketing, which generates $38 for every $1 you spend.

Or, most important of all, strategy, the only marketing investment that keeps building on itself long into the future.

Marketing budgets are finite (obviously). Which is why when you get beyond the hype and excitement of real-time events, the ever-rising costs just don’t feel worth it anymore. We could do much more with that $13,000 investment into strategy or content. So why would we spend it on a depressing two-star hotel room that costs $1,600 per night?

So you won’t find the Catalyst team spending that kind of cash on trade shows anytime soon. And it’s probably a good time for you to reassess your event spending. Is it really getting you the returns you need?

And if you’re looking for help figuring out how to get the most ROI for your buck? We’d love to help. Contact our team to talk about your marketing goals anytime.


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