Trade Show ROI

How to Measure Your Trade Show ROI

If your business is part of the near-50% that doesn’t monitor its trade show ROI, it’s time to start doing so.

How to Measure the ROI of Your Trade Show Marketing

Do you measure the return on investment of your search marketing? What about your email marketing? Every marketer understands the value of measuring their campaigns for return on investment, particularly online. Step offline, however, and the importance of measuring your campaign’s return on investment seems to become less important. According to the results of our recent survey, almost 50% of trade show exhibitors don’t measure their trade show ROI at all.

It’s a worrying statistic, particularly when you consider the cost of exhibiting your business at a trade show. Trade shows can produce incredible amounts of revenue for your business, but these results are often missed due to a lack of attention.

In this guide, we aim to do two things. The first is to buck the trend of ignoring the importance of measuring a trade show’s ROI. The second is to show how simply it can be to work out exactly how much profit each trade show you attend produces.

Why measuring your trade show ROI is important

Launching a campaign on Adwords or Facebook Ads without any way of tracking your results is something that even the greenest of online marketers knows not to do. Offline, however, it’s often the standard behaviour.

Trade shows, which cost significantly more in terms of fixed costs than the average online marketing campaign, are all too often subject to a belief that ROI simply isn’t possible to measure.

Diarmuid Beary, co-owner of Display Wizard, explains:

“It’s crucial for businesses to have a good understanding of the return on their marketing spend in order to sensibly assign budgets for the following year.
The fact that so many companies are unable to measure the ROI of a huge opportunity like trade show marketing could lead to marketing spend being placed in the wrong areas, which directly impacts the performance of the business as a whole.”

Without measuring your trade show ROI, it’s impossible to know whether you’re generating any profit at all from your marketing. Of our survey participants that track their trade show ROI, 39% found that they turned a significant profit.

Measuring the ROI of your trade show is surprisingly easy

Among online marketers, there’s a widely held belief that measuring the return on investment of offline marketing is challenging at best and impossible at worst. With the right tools and techniques, however, measuring trade show ROI is simple.

Below, we’ve put together a five-step process for you to use before, during and after your company’s next trade show to determine its goals, track your results and work out your short-term and long-term ROI:

Step 1: Define your goals before the event

The key to measuring ROI is having clearly defined metrics for success. For digital marketers, these goals are simple: generate a certain amount of sales revenue at a certain marketing budget.

At a trade show, however, things are slightly less concrete by nature. You can’t tell how much a lead is worth until weeks after it’s generated, or how much a contact or meeting is worth for several months.

The key to measuring your trade show ROI is in turning your goals into metric that are easy to quantify. It’s impossible to judge how much a relationship is worth, but it’s easy to track how many leads you’ve generated during the event.

Plan simple, easily measurable goals before the event so that your team has a clear milestone to work towards. Examples of good trade show goals include:

  • “Generate 100 leads from C-suite executives at target companies”
  • “Close $20,000 worth of supply contracts during the trade show”
  • “Get 500 business cards from attendees to call and follow up on”


Step 2: Record leads using your CRM software

Since the value of a trade show lead isn’t immediately measurable, you’ll need to use your CRM software to track your trade show leads over time. Set up a special tag for each trade show you visit and use it to group each event’s batch of leads using:

This way, you’ll be able to calculate the total value of each lead throughout the sales process. Since your leads are tagged by event, you’ll also be able to view the average value of each show, as well as the average value-per-lead each show produces.

Step 3: Measure ROI three months after the show

Leads rarely turn into customers right away, although a select few might become customers after the first follow-up call. Before you calculate the value of a specific trade show, give its leads at least three months to mature and progress.

Over the course of three months, your sales team will be able to follow up with the leads you’ve generated at the event. You’ll be able to weed out non-customers and work out, on average, how much each lead is worth in the short to mid term.

Step 4: Measure ROI one year after the show

Not all leads mature in three months. Some of the leads you generate at each trade show might not have an immediate need for your product or service, only to work out that they actually do want to do business with six months after the show.

Use your three-month ROI estimate as a rough guide to whether or not a trade show has been successful. After a year, you’ll have far more information on how successful the trade show was and will be able to calculate its exact 12-month profitability.

Step 5: Use predictive calculations for future shows

By examining your CRM data, you’ll be able to work out not just how much profit a certain trade show produces, but how much – on average, of course – every lead an event produces is worth.

This allows you to measure future trade show ROI in real terms by giving each lead a rough value. Instead of making your trade show goal “Generate 500 leads”, it could become “Generate $15,000 worth of leads”.

Should you be measuring your trade show ROI?

Trade shows are like any other form of marketing: the more closely you measure and monitor each event’s results, the better your results will become in the future.

If your business is part of the near-50% that doesn’t monitor its trade show ROI, it’s time to start doing so. Use our simple five-step system above to start measuring the return on investment each trade show your business attends produces.

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