Trade Show ROI: Do You Really Need to Go to Every Show?

Share This Post:


In the middle of the busy trade show season, some marketers have a life-changing epiphany. “Why am I here?” they ask themselves, staring at the crowded (or not-so-crowded) convention hall around them. “Do I need to be here? What’s the point?”

These are excellent questions to ask. Often, trade shows simply become traditions, and years go by without any scrutiny of the reasons for going and the real trade show ROI. So is it worth it? Here are five more questions to ask that will help you determine the answer.

1. Why are you doing this trade show?

We ask clients this question all the time, as part of our Strategically Applied Imagination booth design process. The most common answers:  “We’ve just been going forever” and “Our competitors are there.”

That’s not enough. Is the show growing each year, or static? Are the attendees all familiar faces, or fresh prospects? How crucial is it to your business?

2. What’s the cost of going?

Trade show booth design and shipping are only a small part of the costs. In addition to exhibitor fees, there’s travel, lodging, meals and entertainment for everyone going. If one of your annual shows changes locations each year, weigh the benefits of attending against the cost of traveling there. It may be worth a road trip, but not a cross-country flight.

3. Who’s going to be there?

Review a list of the prior year’s attendees and break it down: How many were people you really needed to meet? “The reason you’re going is to get the business you need,” FrontLine Exhibits Senior Account Manager Chase Howells reminds his clients. You should be able to name at least five top prospects you know will be at each show.

4. What’s the experience for the people working the booth?

Sit down with your company’s senior sales staff and ask them for a candid assessment of past years’ trade show ROI. Did the salespeople who attended come home with a lot of qualified leads? Or did they go just to wine and dine existing clients? Did they even enjoy it? “If your people who are working the booth hate the show, there’s no point in going,” Chase points out.

5. How many other shows do you do?

If you do just one each year, don’t hesitate. Go all out.

If you attend many, it may be wise to cut back to the top 10 or 20 and invest in the ones you know are successful. Of course, Chase says, “if you’re making more than you’re spending at every one, keep going.” And start keeping track! To get a better handle on your trade show ROI, choose some goals that are possible to measure quantitatively. “It’s not easy to measure,” Chase acknowledges. For example, how do you track leads? If a deal is closed six months later, does it get credited to the trade show?

We’re happy to offer our expertise in helping you track trade show ROI. Talk to us!