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Return on Investment: 7 Secrets to Better Leverage Your Next Event

Without proper ROI measurement, marketing endeavors such as trade shows can become the proverbial redheaded stepchildren of the organizational budget: feeling shunned for their differences and prone to being omitted when economic conditions get tough. But by following the steps below, it can be easy to justify your exhibit expenses to your key stakeholders.

  1. Pick the Right Event.  This sounds like a no-brainer, but a surprising number of exhibit managers devote too much time and budget to events with limited potential. Consider the costs of exhibiting, the number of qualified prospects likely to attend, and the often-overlooked costs of travel lodging, shipping, etc. to that particular destination. Just because a given show was lucrative three years ago doesn’t mean it’s worth attending this year.
  2. Always Look for Effective Cost-Saving Opportunities.  Mindfulness toward exhibit expenses can go a long way toward preventing painful, emergency spending cuts down the road. Signage replacement or booth rental can be viable alternatives to a more expensive booth replacement over a larger design overhaul.
  3. Have Quantifiable Goals.  To be able to attach a dollar figure to an abstract goal, you need to correlate it with a specific outcome. For a goal such a brand awareness, you can arm yourself with information by knowing how many people visited your booth, or how many people visited your website as a result of your exhibit. We have found that this latter figure is often the one missing from most trade show manager’s datasets, often because they don’t use tracking URLs and Google Analytics to prove exhibiting’s contribution to inbound marketing.
  4. Know Your Full Costs.  Most exhibitors keep excellent track of all the direct, pre-show and onsite expenses. More often missing from this ledger are the follow-up costs, as well as the “soft” costs such as staff time that may have otherwise been spent on other sales and marketing projects.
  5. Know Your Conversion Rate.  What percentage of the prospects from last year’s show ended up becoming this year’s paying customers? Although you may be able to quickly rattle off the total number of prospects on your mail list, knowing their average conversion rate (and recalculating it from time to time, as your prospect list expands) is a far more critical metric.
  6. Estimate Average Customer Lifetime Value.  Using your own historic sales data, you can project the total revenue that specific customers will generate during their lifetime. There are several formulas for doing this, but all hinge on knowing your average customer lifespan, retention rate, order history and profit margins. Knowing this can allow you to take a handful of trade show leads and sales and demonstrate their much larger net worth. Your CRM system should be able to automate and simplify much of this.
  7. Measure as You Go.  Running detailed, post-show reports is one of those tasks on which many of us procrastinate. But if you’re doing accurate time and expenses tracking before, during and after the show, you can often get a general feel for which marketing efforts may be generating leads vs. just usurping valuable time and money. Paying attention as you can later help you focus your eventual, detailed reporting on the most efficient aspects of the trade show marketing mix.

For more help on improving event ROI, you can request Skyline’s ROI Calculator and Trade Show Comparison Tool below.

About the Author

Eric Schwartz was an exhibiting and marketing consultant at Skyline Boston.

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