trade show ROI

For exhibitors, reporting your trade show ROI, or your return on investment, back to the CMO doesn’t have to include smoke and mirrors. No magic tricks or circus acts. Measuring your results might be simpler than you think. Here’s our advice for how to evaluate your trade show success.

Determine what you want to get from each show beforehand, and set clear goals. Make sure everyone on your marketing team and those attending the trade show understand how the show will be evaluated afterward.

Establish your key performance indicators, or KPIs. These are the metrics you feel will be most important in showing if your exhibition was a success or not. Don’t measure everything, but do decide what factors would relate back to the specific objectives you are trying to achieve.

A few common trade show KPIs are:

  • Qualified leads
  • New social media followers
  • Web visits to trade show landing pages or referred from trade show promotions
  • Marketing surveys collected
  • Hands-on product interactions
  • New partnerships identified
  • Coupons or promo codes redeemed
  • And of course, sales generated

Reinforce your KPIs with the trade show staff before and during the event, so everyone stays focused on what’s being measured.

Immediately following the show, debrief with your leadership, trade show and marketing teams. Collect qualitative feedback from everyone involved. How would they assess the show’s success based on their personal interactions with the attendees? Was the right audience there? Was the show organized? Was there good traffic flow? Did attendees ‘get’ the trade show’s consumer engagement and walk away with a clear understanding of your marketing messages?

If you exhibit at multiple shows throughout the year, you should develop a standardized discussion form to help you equally compare events.

Also discuss which of your competitors were there and how they were marketing themselves. Which trade show booths seemed to be a hit, and why? Did you learn anything from this trade show? How can you improve for the next time? Try to have this conversation as soon after the show as possible, while everything is still fresh.

To measure sales, it’s vital to use a customer relationship management (CRM) software that allows you to tag or categorize your leads. Once you’ve marked leads with the specific trade show source (including year of show if you attend annually), it will be easier for you to track the leads from the show throughout the entire sales cycle. Depending on the technology you’re using in the booth, your lead generation software may integrate with your CRM to make this an automated process.

Depending on the average time from prospect to sale for your particular product or service, you’ll want to determine the optimal time periods to review your sales activity. For example, you may want to see if there are immediate conversions within just a few weeks of your show, but also pull reports quarterly for a year after. You’ll be able to see how quickly trade show leads are converting and measure any differences in sales cycle length for your trade shows.

If you have an estimated average lifetime value for a customer, you can include that value in your total report back to your CMO. Trade shows cost a lot of money, but justifying the expenses with your estimated compounding revenue will be a nice addition to your post-show report.

With trade shows, as in life, there is some trial and error. You may select the best shows, drive trade show booth traffic and get noticed by reaching a lot of the show attendees in unique ways – and still fall short of your goal.

Don’t beat yourself up.

Use the post-trade show analysis to identify if the lack of sales came from something you did – or if it simply didn’t turn out to be the right show for you, after all.

Many exhibitors see a diminishing return when they exhibit at the same shows year-after-year, so they often will put trade shows on rotation to hit new audiences regularly. They may exhibit at Trade Show A every other year, and Trade Show B every third year, for example.

During your post-show evaluation, don’t be afraid to ask yourself, ‘What didn’t work?’ Often the answers to that question provide more insight and value than to knowing what did work.

We are trade show junkies and welcome your feedback. In the meantime, check out our free exhibitor guide by clicking below.

Trade Show Exhibitor Guide

Trade Show Exhibitor Guide

This free download is chock-full of tips for your next trade show – logistics, marketing, consumer engagements!

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