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Trade Show ROI – Measuring Your Return on Investment

people meeting at trade show

The Irreplaceable Value of Trade Shows

There is no question that trade shows are an investment of time, energy and money. But the returns can be incredible.

Trade show newcomers and veterans alike know that nothing replaces actual in-person marketing to launch new products and services, demonstrate exciting technology, meet new contacts, renew relationships, showcase product lines, minimize churn, develop partnerships, rebrand or launch your brand in a new industry, recruit distributors and talent, observe the competition and magnify your brand to your best audience at the precise time when they’ve come, ready to engage, learn–and buy.

If you’re looking to start, grow or maintain your B2B business, especially after more than a year of virtual-only contact, trade shows are a necessity.  And doing it the right way begins and ends with accurate and consistent ROI planning and reporting.

Getting the Highest Trade Show ROI Begins with Knowing Why You’re Going

The way to achieve the highest ROI (return on investment) on your trade show investment–whether you are exhibiting or attending–is to begin with a clear measurable goal (e.g., gain 25 qualified leads, or demonstrate a new technology to 100 attendees), and then a strong, thoughtful strategy to achieve that goal (e.g., focus on a new or improved product use or have the company’s lead scientist present during the show).

Every element of your booth design, script, giveaways, presentations, planned meetings–indeed every tactic–must ladder up to that strategy as a means of achieving that goal. Those tactics then help determine your KPIs.

Measuring Your Trade Show Investment with KPIs

In your trade show pre-planning phase, you, your team and your leadership should decide which Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) will demonstrate a successful conference or exhibition.

Typically, trade show KPIs are a combination of any of these metrics:

  • exhibition booth visitors
  • newsletter subscriptions
  • conversations
  • contact information
  • demonstrations
  • badge scans
  • purchases
  • appointments set
  • surveys completed
  • in-booth meeting attendees
  • presentation audiences
  • samples distributed
  • show offer/coupon redemptions
  • full conversions
  • marketing collateral distributed
  • press releases posted/published
  • social media posts, engagements, actions
  • show attendance

These performance indicators are measurable actions that should also be used as part of your analysis for future event planning. This trade show data will be instrumental in determining which shows and approaches work best for you.

Using Technology to Measure ROI

Technology makes it easy to collect critical data for measuring your trade show ROI. With digital badge scanning and platforms such as tablets and kiosks, getting information about your target audience is quick and accurate.

tracking-event-investment-performance

Increasing KPI Success with Engagement Tactics

Now how do you get those visitors to supply their personal information at those kiosks? Games, giveaways, and contests are effective in getting conference and show attendees to provide their contact information. Whether it’s a grand prize winner, a fun game, or the show’s most popular give away, these trade show engagement tactics will return a larger group of leads who will need to be qualified post-show.

Beyond the KPIs

Keep in mind that beyond immediate data, there are soft, more subjective wins, such as the information you garner from current or potential client questions and feedback, on-booth surveys, observing what your competitors are doing, recruiting the perfect candidate, gaining brand awareness, or even gathering great ideas for your next trade show booth.

Winning the Attribution Game

Experiential marketing leaves impressions on attendees that can go unmeasured. With so many points of entry, attribution–knowing exactly how and where a visitor became a lead–is a challenge for marketers. A simple way to uncover this important information is to ask it on onsite contact forms (where did you first hear about us?), or asking your sales reps to ask the question, especially when leads call in or send direct emails.

Conclusion

Start with at least one clear goal, then a strategy to achieve that goal. Then, develop the tactics to support the strategy. For instance:

  • Goal: Meet with 10 qualified overseas decision makers to demonstrate new technology
  • Strategy: Be mindful of foreign traveler time and language challenges
  • Tactic: Send invitations to potential leads in advance of the show; use simple graphics (vs text) booth signage; distribute SlimJims or business cards and small “American” giveaways at the show to minimize visitors’ luggage weight, then follow up by mailing full marketing collateral and larger gift as an additional touchpoint; design tradeshow booth with a safe, comfortable conference room that minimizes outside noise
  • KPIs: Number, length and quality of on-booth meetings, contact information, meeting follow-up appointments

Showing your leadership (and yourself) the value of your tradeshow efforts will increase success at future shows and make the most of your investment–every time.

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