Are trade shows sales or marketing events?

It is difficult to categorize business events such as trade shows and exhibitions. Are these marketing or sales events?

The question might seem futile but actually, matters: who should organize your event? Which budget should it impact? Who should handle follow-ups and reporting?

Let’s see together what category business events belong to.

Why are trade shows real sales events?

Exhibitions are expensive. Very expensive.

Participation, booth cost, design, furniture, staff, promotion, printing, samples… trade shows are usually the most expensive type of event a company can have.

Hence, you need proper ROI (Return On Investment).

Who in your company is most capable of bringing this return? Sales. The ultimate purpose of attending such business event should always be capturing leads to generate sales.

Reaching this goal implies to have people able to explain your product in simple words, demonstrate it, highlight its benefits and sell it. Once again, who better than your sales team could achieve that?

Then comes the difficult question: “how to collect information in order to sell?”. You are not supposed to sell in your booth: most visitors are not coming to buy, they visit a trade show to discover new products and compare offers. As a result, you will need to collect prospects information and take notes that would help a sales person closing a deal. Who better than a sales person knows what a sales person needs?

For all these reasons, exhibitions are very much a sales event.

But trade shows are marketing events

All this being said, exhibitions are before all marketing events.

Participating and succeeding in business shows requires basic traffic. Getting traffic is the specialty of your marketing team.

Promoting the event, decorating the stall, preparing flyers, brochures, and business cards, organizing the samples, choosing the right location, managing the budget… all these will be better handled by a marketing person!

Not mentioning the fact that beyond the simple collection of prospects information, trade shows are great for brand awareness, market study, competition analysis, partnerships and other advertising opportunities. Here also, your marketing team would be a better fit.

Then comes data treatment: while sales would certainly do a better job converting interested prospects, your marketing will would have better strategies for promotional follow-up.

For all these reasons, exhibitions are truly marketing events.

Hold on, you got me confused!

In the end, are trade shows sales or marketing events?

Here is the trick: trade shows are BOTH sales AND marketing events.

You will have to involve both teams and clearly define the area of expertise for each to avoid overlapping. You must also define who has decision power over specific aspects of the organization. Most of all, you must force the two teams to collaborate, meet, communicate and work in the same direction.

How to divide the work between Sales and Marketing?

That is the easy part!

Give each department responsibilities corresponding to its core skills.

Marketing will choose the booth location, manage the design, handle the budget, promote your booth, prepare the samples, organize brochures and promotional materials.

Sales will contact their existing clients, train their team, manage the meetings calendar, prepare demonstrations and collect stall visitors information.

But all this can only work if both teams sit together to determine the ultimate goal and the follow-up strategy. Designate one person, the one with the most experience within your company, to lead all efforts, define the direction, control the budget and arbitrate when necessary.

As previously mentioned, an essential aspect of exhibitions’ success lies in your team’s ability to capture prospects information and use it to convert these prospects into customers. Arm yourself with proper tools to reach your goals and consider using technology to capture trade show leads.

Real teamwork is essential to succeed and the earlier you build this type of culture the better!

Julien Rio.

This article was first published on The Exhibitor.

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