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Active Pipeline Generation: Driving Unbelievable Trade Show ROI

Building a Demand Gen department in-house has many downfalls when compared to outsourcing Demand Generation to companies that specialize in it.

  • More expensive
  • Less effective
  • Far less scalable

Passive Demand Gen by nature is flawed but a strategy that are ONLY of Passive Demand Gen will always fail.

  • Large companies can literally buy Passive Gen business by outspending the competition but they will have to overspend to do it.
  • Small companies will always live in the shadow of those that can spend more.

When done correctly, Active Demand Generation can be successful for everyone.

Utilizing Active Demand Generation will always result in the company with the better product/service winning the business instead of the company that spent the most.

The Situation

Host cities, trade show organizers, and now, Demand Generation Professionals are all striving to deliver positive results for the attendees and exhibitors at trade shows in general. Let’s face it, as soon as a company registers to attend or exhibit at a specific trade show, they begin brainstorming on how they can get the ROI needed to offset the costs. Unfortunately, the trend has been that companies struggle to achieve the necessary return and that is what has led to a slide in the trade show industry. Here is a link to an article written in 2015 that predicted the slide:


While trade show marketing is a great concept, increasing costs, declining ROI and tighter budget make trade show / convention marketing a luxury that many companies can't afford. According to this web article, trade show marketing was the top spend for marketing in 2014. Here we are, only 3 years later, and according to Gartner’s May CMO report, it has dropped to 6th. Ironically, trade shows & conventions should still be the focus for marketing dollars. However, exhibitors and business attendees continue to us the passive shotgun approach of years past to allow them to have the right conversations with those VIPs at the show that are their key targets. Those methods fail so the result is a predictable domino effect:

  • Exhibitors don't get the ROI they need to justify returning as an exhibitor next year so they decline to renew as an exhibitor.
  • Many business attendees are only attending so they can be close to key decision makers in their target market. However, when they fail to have meaningful conversations with those key targets, they decide not to attend next year.
  • Trade show organizers depend on the revenue from exhibitors and attendees. When those numbers drop, pressure is put on everyone with catastrophic results.
  • Local businesses supply lodging, food, entertainment and other products/services to convention attendees & exhibitors. When the numbers decline, or trade shows cancel, businesses suffer.
  • Host cities like Las Vegas, Chicago, Houston, Atlanta and others depend on the tax revenue generated by these visitors that are only in town for the trade show. This revenue stream helps the city meet its budget requirements and its mission. However, trade show declines reduce the tax revenue stream while driving up ancillary costs associated with the unemployment of the local citizens that would typically be working at trade shows.

The Opportunity

Demand Generation Professionals recently published a BLOG based on feedback that was received from businesses that attend or exhibit at trade shows. In the BLOG, I referred to a process called Active Pipeline Generation (APG). APG reverses the trade show decline by allowing businesses to have 20X+ the number of conversations with their VIP targets that they have had previously. This drives a huge spike in revenue gained and allows trade show marketing to overshadow all other forms of marketing regarding Net ROI. Companies that are attending or exhibiting now are already spending budget dollars on attendee generation to improve results. APG doesn't cost anyone anything extra and simply replaces what companies are already doing for the same cost or less.

The difference for companies that utilize trade show marketing can be as predictable as the sequence above:

  • Exhibitors can get a great ROI, so they renew for next year as soon as possible and spread the news to anyone who'll listen about their great results.
  • Business attendees will be having scheduled 30-minute to 1-hour conversations with their VIP target companies while at the show. The result is an unprecedented growth in revenue and ROI. So, they not only renew but likely bring more people next time and maybe even become an exhibitor themselves.
  • Trade show organizers sees a sharp uptick in revenue due to the increased number of exhibitors and attendees. This allows them to stay financially stable and even grow into a larger convention space next year.
  • Local businesses that supply lodging, food, entertainment and other products/services to convention attendees & exhibitors are full and having their best year ever.

Despite the significant benefits delivered to trade show organizers, APG doesn't cost trade show organizers anything. For the attendees and exhibitors, the cost is surprisingly affordable to the point that it is likely no more than what they were already spending on other ineffective methods of attendee generation.