Want Better Trade Show Results? – Expand Your Market

trade show results


Albert Einstein once said “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results”.

This is especially true for most companies that exhibit at trade shows.  We see the same programs, going to the same shows, with the same booth, and then realizing they aren’t getting different trade show results.  So we put together 5 steps to exploring, evaluating, and trying new events that may drastically improve your company’s trade show results.

Research your Company’s Marketing and Sales Goals

The first step is to acquire a thorough understanding of your company’s markets, products, and services, along with its marketing strategy, objectives, and goals. This provides a solid foundation against which to evaluate the thousands of trade shows and events available to get the right trade show results.
For example, conversations with sales and marketing might reveal frustration over the underperformance of a particular product in the company’s portfolio, and there might be shows available that are more specifically suited to the target audience for that item. On the other hand, if your company wants to increase visibility, an exhibit manager might consider exhibiting at a large number of shows with small booths, while if the company goal is to take on a particular competitor, it might be more appropriate to look for shows where competitors exhibit, and go in big with a large booth space and sizeable sponsorships.


Seek Feedback From Current and Prospective Customers

Whether you use a formal survey conducted by an agency or an informal questionnaire mailed by the marketing department, asking current and prospective clients about their goals and behaviors regarding trade shows can collect information that is vastly valuable.

It is important to find out what shows your customers attend, what value they place on those shows, and, most important, their true interest in your category of products. It is also key to understand if your prospect intend to purchase at a given show or primarly research new products, that helps estimate the proper trade show results. The higher the level of interest in your product, the higher the likelihood that you will achieve the right trade show result.

It is also key to find out what shows do they consider most important. Not only will you learn about shows you’re considering, but you may learn of events you may have never known about with better payoff for your time and money.


Create a Master List of Possible Shows

Assemble a list of potential trade shows, including those the company has previously attended, ones mentioned by current or prospective clients, and any discovered during your research. This should include shows found on competitors’ websites, association websites, and search engines specifically for the exhibition industry. A few include:





Keep in mind, no single directory lists every single show and the information supplied via these directories is often incorrect (particularly when it comes to attendance figures). The directories are usually not to blame, however, as they must rely on data submitted by show management, and it’s not unheard of for organizers to cushion their attendance numbers.


Interview Organizers

To make a show earn its keep and examine new events, exhibit managers must interview show organizers. The first question should be whether or not the show has been independently audited. Shows that are audited are the most transparent events in the industry because attendance and other figures are verified to be accurate by an independent third party to trust having good trade show results. Trusting numbers provided by shows that are not audited is a risk. Despite its minimal cost, only about 70 of the estimated 10,000 shows in the United States have their numbers audited for their trade show results.

Below is a short list of possible questions you can ask show organizers to get a better trade show results:
What is the show’s total attendance?

Net attendance? This weeds out spouses, students, and exhibitors. Ask if this figure is audited and verified by an outside agency – if not, take it with a grain of salt. Ask to see figures for the past three or four years to determine if the show is growing or declining.

What is the total net square footage of the show floor?

Total net (not gross) square footage of exhibit space used by all exhibitors combined?

What is the cost per square foot of booth space?

How many companies exhibit?

What days and times is the exhibit hall open?

Are there any speaking opportunities or sponsorships available for exhibitors?

Hours and dates for speeches, banquets, and educational programs that typically draw prospects off the trade show floor.

And, last but not least, inquire about the availability of booth space and where it is located in the exhibit hall. If space is not currently available at an event, you may want to table it for consideration the following year. Or if the only spaces available are in bad locations, that may be an important factor to weigh in your analysis. If you are unsure about a shows potential don’t be afraid to have a representative attend and walk the floor as your own audit.


Create a Short List of Shows that Meet Your Expectations

Analyze all the information you’ve collected in the first four steps and make decisions as to whether exhibiting at each show on your list can yield better trade show results.

In making these critical decisions, your analysis should be based on the following:

Should your company exhibit? Does the size and quality of the audience meet your marketing objectives and justify exhibiting at the show?

If the answer is yes, then what level of investment is justified to reach the potential audience and compete effectively with other exhibitors?

What strategy and objectives should you entertain for each event?

Should we exhibit? –  ask yourself a very basic question: Does the size of your total potential market justify exhibiting to reach them? If it’s relatively small, a show may not be the best vehicle. Or, if your market is very geographically dispersed and the show is regional, it may not draw a large enough potential audience to justify exhibiting. As decision-making aids, Exhibit Surveys has created two measurement tools:

Size of potential audience. This is the most important information you have for determining whether to exhibit. Start by comparing the prospect profile you’ve amassed from your internal sources with the attendance profile you’ve received from show organizers. Estimate the number of attendees who fit your company’s profile. Also estimate the likelihood of their interest in your products by using the surveys you conducted earlier.

Traffic density. More and more shows are providing measures of their audience quality (such as buying influence or volume of planned purchases).

If you’ve previously exhibited at a show, calculate its value using previous trade show results. A great way to measure it can be found here:  How to Measure the Value of  Your Trade Show

You can also examine the following:

Cost per qualified lead. Divide the total cost of the exhibition by the number of leads. For instance, if 125 qualified leads were collected and total show costs were $20,000, the cost per lead would be $160.

Cost per impression. Add the total number of people who visited the booth and divide that figure into the cost of the show.

Cost per revenue dollar. Divide the cost of the show by the amount of sales made at the show to determine the cost per revenue dollar. But remember: Low results may be because of a weak exhibit rather than a weak show.


Getting Better Trade Show Results

The above may seem complicated, but it is extremely wise.  With hundreds of new trade shows popping up across the country, expoloration is key.  Dip your company’s toes in the water, and using these five steps to intelligent show selection can help you expand to new markets, tap the potential of your program as well as bring a new energy to your exhibit team.   We have gone through this exercise with many of our clients and the trade show results have been extraordinary!  



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