Notorious ROI: Where to Find the Numbers That Actually Prove Your Trade Show Program’s Value

Budgeting, How-To Tips

ROI pie chart

“Besides expenses, what does your trade show program bring us?” If you’ve ever been asked a similar question in a budget meeting, chances are you may have struggled to come up with a numerical answer.  Trade show ROI is notoriously difficult to quantify, but with the right metrics and measurement strategies you can put together the numbers needed to help you analyze your exhibit program’s effectiveness.

Which metrics you use of course depends on which goals your company has for exhibiting at trade shows.  Below, find a breakdown of different ROI metrics and how to implement strategies to collect those measurements.

Lead Retrieval

Many exhibitors struggle to assess the quality of a lead on the show floor.  Rented lead retrieval systems are part of the problem by being inflexible and typically only able to gather simple information.  Investing in customized lead retrieval technology helps overcome those challenges.  This allows badges to scan with the added ability of quickly including more targeted questions, notes and ratings through a smartphone or tablet.  Having this information on record helps determine the number and quality of leads generated from each trade show.  Take it a step further by integrating lead retrieval with activities like product demonstrations or gamification because they create better engagement and give attendees immediate benefits in exchange for their information.


Customer Management

Trade shows drive sales, whether with existing customers or new ones.  With long sales cycles and diversified marketing efforts, it can be difficult to track and compile how much was made specifically from a trade show program.  Modern CRM systems allow freedom to track this through customized fields that help identify opportunities that arise out of your trade show program.  Creating a series of consistent labels (through the aforementioned customizable lead retrieval or manual input) assists in tracking each lead’s origins and progress.  Proper information can help assess which sales originated through which shows and helps prove where marketing dollars would be best invested.


Booth Traffic and Activity

Just counting the number of giveaways or booth literature your staff passes out won’t cut it here.  Quantifying the number of truly engaged individuals helps prove interest in your brand and exhibit.  To collect the data, track interactive exhibit elements’ use with simple digital counters and have a gatekeeper count meetings in conference rooms.  Learning how active conferences are through this data will allow a better understanding of which exhibit elements are working for your sales process.  When experimenting with different types of product demonstrations or exhibit orientations, use the data to evaluate the most effective setups.



Your products are worthy of press coverage on their own, but providing a headline-worthy experience at a trade show encourages much more media attention.  Formal product launches and rebranding initiatives don’t need to be as grand as Apple keynotes because even a simple unveiling within the show floor creates buzz.  That, in turn, can translate into impressions through numerous media outlets and online publications.  Even if you are not debuting a new product, unique displays and creative attendee experiences can garner press interest as well. Getting statistics on readership and clicks from media sources that mention your trade show presence helps justify the cost of special displays and presentations.  PR professionals estimate the value of press coverage by comparing it to the cost of a paid advertisement with similar reach in the same publication.


Online Traffic

To be sure of your visitors’ origins, use custom URLs for show-specific marketing efforts.  For instance, direct attendees to a microsite specifically made for the show or create a tracked QR code for print materials.  Using these two small ideas gives measurable data that can help determine the success of your trade show program.


These metrics can help assess your trade show ROI and in turn help your department understand the value of your trade show program.  Maximize your marketing budget by using the acquired insights to better target shows, adjust exhibit components and invest in training to help your sales staff maximize their opportunities on show floor.  To learn more about any of these ROI metrics, please contact EDE and discuss ways to measure and maximize the impact of your trade show program.


For more tips on how to plan your trade show, read our blog, Success is More than just the exhibit: making a pre-show game plan.

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