Cost per Lead – Trade Shows

A qualified lead is what you hope to get from attending a trade show. That’s what comes from all those who have been lured to your booth with the promise of free pens/squeeze toys/bottle openers and other silly swag you hope to not have to ship back to the office, and hundreds of pleas of “Can I scan your badge?” You throw out all the names of those who don’t have decision making status, are students, obvious freeloaders, your competition, etc. The name you are left with are your qualified leads.


Cost per lead is the most important metric when measuring ROI, according to. B2B Lead Generation Marketing Trends, by Holger Schulze

If you are your company’s chief marketing person, you need to go to your boss or your counterpart in sales with these qualified leads. They alone will justify your participation at this show or provide justification for the next one.

Your boss, whose money you have just spent, will need you to calculate a cost per lead. Be prepared to justify the cost per lead for the trade show in comparison to where else you might have spent your marketing dollars, such as online advertising and print advertisin, and inbound and outbound marketing.

Cost per Lead for Trade Shows

Here’s a quick sampling of what some people have estimated as cost per lead for trade shows. Keep in mind that most do not include all costs (see Hidden Costs of Trade Shows), so these figures would be on the low side. And, of course, this can span a range. Your mileage will vary.

The lowest figure, $96 per lead, is by a proponent of trade shows. The CEIR is not likely to go forth with damaging data. Some of the higher figures is from research that is sponsored by inbound marketing companies, which may very well be trying to remove competition, especially competition they see as struggling. But the highest estimate of all, $555 to $1,100 per lead, is not from a marketeer, but a salesperson, and is based not actual spend by his company.

…at $500-$1000 a pop, the salesperson could have taken the prospect or customer to dinner, out for golf, or to a sporting event or show, and spent much more time with that individual than a trade show setting affords. – Mitch Goddard, Account Executive, Billian’s Health Data

Spending a $1,000 per lead would not only be a surprise to a company CEO, it could be a slow suicide for the company. The product or service the company has better have a profit margin that can support such a cost.  Most companies would do well to do a realistic assessment of of trade show costs.  I know one CAD company that is routinely at trade show with a product that retails for around a $100.

That is indeed sad to watch.


  1. State of Inbound Marketing 2014 – survey of 3,570 marketers, 54 page research report available free from Hubspot


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