The State of Trade Show Lead Generation

The information you need to plan for trade shows and lead generation in 2021

What’s in the report:

  • Analysis of when trade shows might be back
  • How successful firms are approaching lead gen without trade shows
  • The future of virtual events
  • Commentary from industry leaders

or preview findings below:

The Big Business of Trade Shows

Trade shows are the second-largest source of B2B revenue in the US but the industry is expected to contract 64.3% in 2020.

Industry Fast Facts

5 bn
Trade Show Market Value
50 %
Forecasted Contractions (2020)
0 years
Projected Recovert

Measuring the Impact

50.5% of respondents told us their revenue was negatively or very negatively impacted by the canceling of events.

  • 31.1% reported positive impacts
  • 18.4% reported no impact

Why did some firms report positive impacts from the canceling of events?

  • Reason One: They materially benefited from the pandemic 
  • Reason Two: Other lead generation channels are more effective than trade shows

Validating Our Hypothesis:

Are firms saying their revenue was positively impacted by the canceling of events because other channels are more effective?

#1) Channel/Revenue Correlation

More channels, more revenue

Revenue impacts are correlated with the number of lead generation channels a given respondent reallocated budget to

  • Firms who reallocated to 3+ channels are 5X as likely to report their revenue was positively impacted by the canceling of events
  •  Increasing channel diversity also decreased the likelihood of negative revenue impacts

#2) Budget/Revenue Correlation

More budget, more revenue

Revenue impacts are also correlated with the amount of budget reallocated

  • Firms who reallocated to 50%+ of their planned trade show budget are 17X as likely to report positive revenue impacts
  • Unlike channel diversification, increasing spend did not correlate with decreased risk (there is risk to reallocating more budget)

Note: Our survey looked specifically at budget reallocation, eliminating the possibility that firms who materially benefited from the pandemic would invest more, thus skewing the sample. 

How Savvy Firms Are Mitigating Adverse Impacts

How much budget is being reallocated?

  • Respondents are reallocating 55% on average to other lead gen channels
  • Only 4.7% reallocating all their budget
  • 45.9% reallocating between 50 and 74%

Where is the reallocated budget going?

  • Virtual events are the most popular. Excluding those who are not reallocating, more than 90%  of respondents are investing in virtual trade shows
  • The majority of respondents are reallocating to two or more new channels 

What are the outcomes?

  • Respondents reported overwhelmingly positive success 
  • Nearly all channels have an equal success ratio

Virtual Events

a consequential byproduct of the COVID pandemic

Virtual Events for Biz Dev

Our respondents had high-remarks for the events they attended.

  • 40.2% agree virtual events are better than in-person events for generating leads
  •  44.1% disagree
  • 15.7% say both are equal

Which Would You Rather Attend?

Although our respondents had high-remarks for the events they attended most prefer an in-person event when given the choice.

  • 33.3% agree virtual events are more enjoyable to attend
  • 73.5% would still prefer in-person

What's next?

When might trade shows be back?

The B2B community is hungry for trade shows, but they’ll have to wait a while longer.

  • 31.1% say they won’t feel comfortable until Q3
  • 9.7% say they won’t feel comfortable until 2022

** A separate survey by MarketingLand found 66% of respondents won’t attend a trade show without a vaccine **

What % of your budget will be restored?

Businesses may be hungry for trade shows, but they have found a new balance. 

  • Only 42% of companies plan to restore 100% of their trade show budget

Key Findings

  • Trade shows may see decreased attendance through 2021
  • Businesses who rely on trade shows should invest in new channels
  • Firms who reallocate to new channels are finding incredible success
  • Virtual events are here to stay 

Download the Full Report!

  • More in-depth data
  • Expanded commentary and analysis
  • Interviews with industry leaders