Trade Show ROIThe majority of exhibitors are looking for ways to stretch their investments in exhibit marketing. Or, stated another way, they’re trying to figure out how to get more bang for their trade show buck.

Conversations on return on investment (ROI) with my clients usually start with a couple of hypothetical questions (with the idea being that the show’s over):

  • At a perfect show, what happened?
  • What were your results versus your goals?

Their answers give me an indication of just how much thought has gone into their strategic planning before offering any recommendations.

So let me ask you some questions to get your creative juices flowing on how you define successful ROI:

  • What results does your perfect show provide?
  • How can we all, as exhibitors, think differently about the correlation between our trade show spend and the return on our marketing investment that we’re reaping?

With those questions front of mind, let’s look at four ways to increase your exhibiting ROI from different perspectives: 

1. Tapping Into New Opportunities

What aren’t you doing that you could do to escalate your reach? Exhibitors miss a lot of one-of-a-kind opportunities that only happen at shows.

Have you prioritized setting meetings to talk with your top dozen or so hot prospects? How about targeted marketing to those first-time show attendees who aren’t familiar with your company? And have you invited those prospects in your database who haven’t engaged with your sales team recently? Are you offering last year’s visitors to your booth something compelling – and new – to invite them back? Don’t forget to invite your current customers to stop by for a token of your appreciation and to see your newest offerings.

And who else might you meet at the show – either on the show floor or at a private hospitality event: industry analysts, thought leaders, conference speakers, channel partners, consultants, or even potential employees? Don’t limit these interactions to show floor hours. Consider meals or just a cup of coffee to open relationship-building collaborative discussions.  

What other marketing opportunities aren’t you taking advantage of to enhance your brand that would dovetail with your show goals? Consider presenting conference sessions, offering educational presentations on the show floor, customizing sponsorships, launching promotional campaigns, hosting in-booth hospitality, holding media and PR briefings, and – perhaps most importantly – creating memorable in-booth experiences.

2. Securing More and Higher-Quality Leads

What are you doing to increase both the quality and quantity of your trade show-generated leads?

Are you surveying the staff who’ll be following-up on the leads to make sure the qualifying questions you’re asking are garnering them the most useful responses they need to follow up efficiently and effectively?

Are you planning a closed-loop lead-retrieval process? It should include customizing the data gathered with your lead-capture and CRM system(s), training staff on using the system, lead follow-up steps, follow-up communications, staffing resources required and timing?

3. Your Exhibit Staff -- Your Secret Weapon or Your Weakest Link?

Are you planning a pre-show exhibit staff training session? What investment are you willing to make to put a professional face on your exhibit and brand? At your cost-per-lead, how many additional leads would you need to justify hiring a professional exhibit staff trainer? Six weeks after the show, your booth visitors won’t remember your exhibit, but they will remember their interaction with your staff. 

Are you preparing your exhibit staff with the multiple scripts for each part of the attendee interaction that they need to rehearse in role-plays to be professional and efficient? Remember that time is your biggest competitor at any show, and every minute counts. Having staff ready to hit the ground running when the show opens with icebreakers, elevator speeches, qualifying questions, key messages, presentation outlines, tips for setting post-show follow-up and disengagement scripts will make your staff more comfortable and efficient in their temporary role.

4. Make Every Dollar of Your Exhibit Investment Count

How do you calculate your show’s ROI? Most exhibitors calculate it as show-related revenue divided by total exhibiting expense.

That being said, another way to boost ROI is by analyzing every line item of your exhibit budget and reducing spend on unavoidable show expenses that don’t contribute to your company’s branding. Then invest discretionary funds in marketing and sales activities that will help you meet your show goals and objectives.

Smart exhibitors squeeze more value out of each dollar by investing in those activities that deliver results. So, more than anything else, it's critical to remember to keep an eye on your exhibit program’s bottom line. Why? Because it will pay major dividends. 

Candy Adams, a.k.a. “The Booth Mom®”, guides exhibitors through the trade show maze to optimize exhibit results and decrease costs using industry best practices. She’s a hands-on, veteran independent trade show exhibit project manager and consultant, specializing in auditing exhibit programs and creating exhibit RFPs. She provides exhibit staff “boothmanship” training, exhibit management training, and is an award-winning writer and industry speaker.

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