Advantage Trade Shows: Part 2 - Measurable Value: Trade Show ROO and ROI

In an era of stiff competition and tight budgets, every expense needs to be justified and the most common ways to quantify trade show participation success are ROI - Return On Investment and ROO - Return On Objectives.

While trade shows might require a larger initial investment than other marketing media, the cost to convert a prospect into a sale is often much lower per completed sale than for other alternatives. With proper planning, trade shows offer one of the most cost-effective sources of leads and sales, with the potential ROI far exceeding the investment.

It is important to determine the relative effectiveness of trade shows by comparing the exhibiting ROI with other tools within the marketing mix to determine which are the most effective and profitable.

Trade Show ROI is often calculated by figuring out how many new net dollars are earned over the exhibiting investment, or by comparing the costs for exhibiting to the total event sales and marketing outcome, and actual revenue generated.

Trade Show ROO compares pre-set exhibiting objectives to outcome, and is used when goals are not directly tied to sales, like raising brand awareness, relation building, product launch or demonstration.

Clear, quantifiable and actionable objectives are imperative for determining the success of exhibiting. Thus, as “what gets measured gets managed”, it is important to choose the right measuring metrics. The top three metrics used to measure exhibiting effectiveness are lead counts, booth traffic and number of client contacts.

Lead Generation

According to surveys, half of those attending a trade show plan on buying something they saw within the next 12 months, and as attendees are as motivated to make connections with brands as exhibitors are to generate leads, using trade shows to collect important and actionable customer data comes relatively easy. By expanding a customer database, incorporating easy to use connection tools, exhibitors can rapidly improve their digital and social media outreach.


  • No. of new leads

Brand Awareness

Trade shows offer effective means to put and keep brands in front of target audiences through efficient use of a physical space with three dimensional displays incorporating multimedia and live demos, giving brand exposure a whole new perspective.


  • No. of attendees visiting booth

New Product Launch, Promotion

Trade show exhibitors are able to generate unique buyer and media attention to new products through the industry’s focus on its leading trade shows.


  • No. of visitors attending product demos

Networking, Engagement and Relationship Building

Today, marketing is all about relationships, building real connections with existing customers, key customers, prospective customers and other industry professionals, and trade shows offer unparalleled opportunities for positive face-to-face meetings and relation building.


  • No. of existing customer contacts

  • No. of other industry professional contacts

Multiplier Effects

Trade show exhibiting generates multiplier effects, i.e. company and product information is spread through media, attendees and other exhibitors.


  • No. of media featuring exhibitor

  • No. of increased web traffic

  • No. of new followers on social media

In addition to measurable goals, trade show exhibitors can assess the state of the industry, gauge own competitiveness and export chances, explore new markets, discover market niches, test market new products, explore pricing and distribution options, and engage in relation building information exchange with industry professionals.

The Post-Show Report

The most effective way to demonstrate ROI is a comprehensive post-show report to include:


  • Name, dates, frequency, location, No. of exhibitors and attendees, size, position in industry


  • Exhibit as part of corporate strategy and goals

  • Exhibit's pre-show objectives


  • Size, configuration, location, neighbors, competitors

  • Brief description including photographs or renderings

  • Products and messages displayed

  • Staff


  • Pre-show, at-show, and post-show promotion incl. sponsorships

  • Ancillary events, such as hospitality functions, customer/dealer/distributor training


  • Evaluation of achieved objectives:

  • Overall lead count and cost per lead

  • Quality of leads

  • Media interviews and coverage

  • No. of branding impressions

  • No. of prospects exposed to new product(s)

  • Expected sales over specified time period


  • Comparison of budget to final investment


  • Post-show follow-up activities

  • Recommendations for improvements

Björn Bieneck is President & CEO of B-FOR International and B-FOR Creative and has over 40 years of international trade show experience. Since 1981, B-FOR International has organized and managed events and exhibits on all continents (except Antarctica) in a variety of industries, from travel and food, biotechnology and pet products to aerospace and consumer electronics

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