How to Measure Your Trade Show ROI

(Credit: How to Measure Your Trade Show ROI) How to Measure Your Trade Show ROI
June 27
10:47 AM 2023

With proper preparation and execution, small business trade shows can be an excellent way to attract potential customers and spread brand awareness. But how do you know if your trade show investment is worth it? Whether you're a for-profit business or a nonprofit organization, the following trade show management tips can help you influence and determine the effectiveness of your efforts.

Set SMART goals

As soon as you book a stand at a trade show, take time to set SMART goals. SMART is an acronym that stands for:

  • Specific: What exactly are you trying to accomplish at this trade show? Clearly define your goals and be as specific as possible because it'll help you identify what you want to achieve.

  • Measurable: How will you know if you've successfully met your goal? Ensure your goal is measurable so you can track the progress and outcome of your goal.

  • Attainable: Is your goal reasonable enough to achieve? Attainable goals are realistic about what's possible given the available resources, knowledge, and time.

  • Relevant: Does it make a difference in your overall objectives that you meet this goal? Relevant goals are important to your organization and can make a material difference in achieving your larger objectives.

  • Timely: Timely goals have a target end date. For a trade show, the deadline for many goals will likely be at the end of the event.

Ultimately, setting these types of goals can be beneficial for your organization. It can provide focus, direction, and a sense of satisfaction once you hit your goals.

Keep track of key metrics for success

If you're unsure what to track during the trade show, the following metrics can help determine if your attendance was successful.

Foot traffic 

Foot traffic refers to the number of entering and exiting your booth. There are multiple ways to track foot traffic, including:

  • RFID technology: RFID readers can automatically identify and track tags attached to objects, such as event badges

  • Manual counting: You can assign a team member to manually count attendees visiting your booth using a click counter

  • Video: You can use hidden cameras to record video and then count or estimate the number of people visiting your booth

  • Sensors: You can use booth or floor sensors to help track foot traffic.

Whichever tracking solution you choose, ensure your organization has the time and resources to manage it. The more foot traffic you can drive to your booth, the more opportunities you have to increase brand awareness and capture leads, which can lead to higher revenue.

Number of qualified leads and meetings

A qualified lead is a potential customer ready to speak to sales intending to purchase your business's product or service. While it's possible to generate qualified leads during the trade show, it's not guaranteed since casual passersby may not have the time to carve out several minutes or hours to speak with you about your organization. Attention spans are short, and schedules are set, so if you want to attract and convert attendees into qualified leads, ensure your presentation is concise, easily digestible, and memorable. 

To help gain more qualified leads at your event, reach out to your network via email and social media before the tradeshow and try to schedule meetings for your organization. The number of pre-scheduled meetings directly correlates to the number of qualified leads, increasing potential revenue. These strategic meetings also help build trust, brand awareness, and confidence in your business. 

Social media and website engagement

Increased traffic or engagement on your website and social media channels before, during, and after the tradeshow indicates that booth visitors are researching your organization and may become customers. Before the event, you can run paid or unpaid ads through social media or email to create awareness and interest in the trade show. During the tradeshow, consider having a hashtag at your booth or a memorable promotional tool - e.g., an art mural, mascot, etc. - that invokes online sharing and engagement. Ultimately, tracking web and social media data can give your organization a clearer picture of your target audience and their value.

Sales generated

In for-profit businesses, generating sales is one of the biggest reasons to attend a trade show. This metric is the number of on-site sales or orders and the revenue they generate. For business-to-business (B2B) companies, this can include on-site sales, vendor contracts, partnerships, and other agreements. To calculate your trade show ROI, keep track of your sales generated, the numbers of orders, sales per rep, orders per rep, and the total cost of attendance.

Calculate your trade show ROI

Did the trade show contribute to profitability and more sales? You can answer this question by calculating your trade show ROI, which measures the direct return of a trade show compared to the event's overall costs - e.g., purchasing a booth, promotions, wages, etc. 

The basic formula for measuring trade show ROI is (trade show revenue - investment) / investment) x 100. For example, if you generated $50,000 in revenue and invested $25,000 for the tradeshow, your ROI is 100%, meaning you double your initial investment. You'll have to wait until after the event to calculate your ROI, but once you do, it can help determine whether your trade show attendance was worth the investment. 

If you need help with cash flow management before, during, or after a trade show, consider comprehensive accounting software that allows you to forecast money in and money out, so you can plan and stay ahead. Plus, with the right accounting software, you can create invoices, accept payments, track income and expenses, manage independent contractors, and more.

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