5 Steps to Evaluating Trade Show Value

July 22, 2019

Anyone can use the time-tested benefits of trade show marketing, but how do you determine whether it’s a good value for your brand? In a world driven by digital communications, trade shows and events provide a unique opportunity for face-to-face interactions with existing customers – and more importantly – prospects.

93% of exhibitors claim to have a process in place to evaluate trade show success, however 52% of those exhibitors admit that their process is rather informal (CEIR).

We want to help you eliminate the guesswork.

1 | Define Your Goals

Where does face-to-face marketing fit into your overall marketing strategy?
Trade shows provide the perfect platform to cultivate new and existing relationships with professionals in your industry. Stepping outside the confines of digital marketing and remote sales efforts provides valuable insight as to how customers interact with your brand, products and services – allowing you to meet their needs on an individual basis. This individualized approach provides a tailored experience that cannot be replicated in a digital form.

When deciding how to allocate your marketing budget, consider where event marketing fits within and can support your organization’s overall goals. 

Are you struggling to meet sales quotas or are you looking to increase brand awareness within your industry? Your goals may vary depending on what you are trying to achieve. Either way, you will want a clear picture in mind before beginning the planning process.

We’ve outlined three of the most common trade show goals to get you started.

Boost Sales
If your goal is to increase leads and sales, be on the lookout for shows that are highly relevant to your industry to guarantee qualified leads and interested attendees. Industry professionals often look to trade shows to find the latest technology, tools and advancements.
– Relevant shows have a high concentration of qualified leads
– Attendees are looking to purchase new products and services

Build Relationships
Trade shows are an excellent way to see where your company fits into the big picture. If your goal is to network and build relationships, then a trade show presence is a must.
– Network with other businesses in your industry
– Create lasting industry partnerships

Increase Leads
From small businesses to large corporations, trade shows provide unique opportunities to increase market share and connect with customers on a personal level. Small businesses can use trade shows as an avenue to increase brand awareness while larger companies can make an impact as an industry leader.
– Find new markets to reach
– Increase brand visibility
– Deliver a personalized experience- Cultivate new relationships with prospects
– Face-to-face time with existing customers


2 | Aim for Your Audience

Who is your target audience?

Understanding who your customer is and developing key characteristics for them is the first step in aiming for your target audience. Visualizing your target audience will help when it comes to choosing which trade shows to exhibit at, crafting relevant messaging, and choosing suitable features for your exhibit. 

When developing your target audience, include demographic information such as age ranges, business titles and geographic locations as well as behavioral information such as how they communicate or where they buy products. This will help you to narrow in on how to attract the customers you wish to reach.

Reaching your audience
Many show organizers release an attendee list in advance of the show – presenting the perfect opportunity to gain traction and excitement leading up to the show. Sending out a pre-show email inviting attendees to visit your booth and then analyzing the metrics will help gauge overall interest and engagement. You can even go a step further by using these results to segment your list for additional pre-show communications – tailoring the communications to fit the needs of your different customer segments. 

Once you are at the show, you will realize every attendee is there for a specific reason. Whether it’s for education and training, to browse industry trends or make major purchasing decisions for their organization. Knowing your audience and staying close to their motivations will ensure that you’re prepared to engage with them at every stage of the process – ultimately boosting leads and sales.

Here are a few common motivations and suggested strategies to help segment booth traffic and improve conversion rates.

The Decision Maker
Motivation: Primarily interested in fulfilling their organization’s purchasing needs, the decision maker is highly-focused on product and service features, pricing and special show promotions. Surveys have shown that approximately 81% of attendees have purchasing power, which translates to roughly 4 out of 5 attendees walking the halls (CEIR). 

Strategy: If one of your goals is to increase sales, then the decision maker is your best friend. Be sure to keep engaging product-based materials on hand when discussing offerings with the decision maker, as they’re on the prowl for solutions, good deals and impressive quality.

The Trend-seeker
Motivation: Impressed by the latest in technology and product development, this type of trade show attendee is interested in where your brand sits among the competition.

Strategy: To attract the trend-seeker, make sure your booth structure and graphics deliver a wow-factor and any demos are on the perimeter of the exhibit. Video walls, kiosks and monitors are a simple way to accomplish this task, especially when introducing new products or services. Just remember, the trend-seeker is captivated by unique, differentiating brand qualities.

The Networker
Motivation: Here for a good time, the networker is seeking exciting booth activities, social events to attend and the best giveaways, and will be sure to tell colleagues about his experience. Remember, word of mouth is still the number one form of marketing, so use this to your advantage.

Strategy: While not the best candidate for your sales teal, identifying and engaging with the networker is a perfect opportunity to boost brand visibility and awareness.

The Learner
Motivation: Educational break-out session and conference attendees fall into this category. The learner is driven by educational opportunities within their industry.

Strategy: A simple way to connect with the learner is by offering thought leadership that caters to their interests. USB drives preloaded with white papers, e-books and webinars are a coveted item for the learner. With an enticing content offer available, the learner is often an valuable lead that you can continue to reach after the show.


3 | Establish Measurable Tactics

Tracking success

Setting measurable and reasonable goals is important, especially when trying to weigh the value of trade show participation. Qualitative goals such as “increase brand awareness” should be assigned tangible and quantifiable metrics like estimated attendee reach targets. Metric goals should be established as part of the planning process, so you can later match up the results with these goals. Exhibitor success metrics can be divided in two categories, ROI metrics and performance metrics.

ROI Metrics
ROI metrics look at exhibit success from a sales-centric perspective. These metrics focus on boosting sales and revenue while weighing the benefits against the costs and investment associated with exhibiting.

Performance Metrics
Performance metrics have a stronger marketing focus, centered on building relationships and a database of potential customers. While it can be a challenge to observe how performance metrics directly impact sales, establishing a method for tracking these new contacts over time will benefit you in the long run.

Qualifying Goals
Once you’ve settled on which measurements you will use (we encourage both), it’s time to set quantifiable goals for these categories. Set realistic expectations for each goal to ensure that your team can get close to those numbers. For example, if your goal is to have 200 prospect leads visit your booth, consider the attendance count, the size of your booth and overall capacity of your team to reach those attendees.

As the show, the event planner or marketer should keep track of how many booth visitors you have and work to organize them into customer versus prospect groups. Metrics should be compared against the attendee count provided by the show and also against the goals you have set. Qualitative feedback on lead quality and value of the show should be documented as well. This combined with ROI and performance date will be important to review in advance of investing in the show again.

All new contacts should be added to your company’s database and given a qualification score, as well as any notes of active opportunities for follow-up. This is the real value of a trade show – the follow-up. Continue to cultivate the relationship well after the show ends. Keep top of mind both prospect and customers so that when the opportunity to work with you arises, they reach out to you. 


4 | Assess Leads and Customers

Cultivating new relationships

It often takes over ten touch points before a lead becomes a customer. That’s why post-show follow-up is essential to getting the most value from your trade show or event. The easiest way to follow-up after an event is with an email to your new contacts to thank them for attending and remind them of your brand. It may also be helpful to include product promotions or content offers to ensure continued engagement. Monitor the metrics on these follow-up emails carefully, as they can reveal which leads are interested and most likely to convert. 

Leads who express continued interest in your brand and are responsive to content offer or social media posts are your top priority. 

The BANT method is a common way to quickly qualify and disqualify new leads you’ve gathered at a show. BANT uncovers four pieces of information.


5 | Analyze the Value and Benefits

What’s working, what isn’t?

The event might be over, but your work is not finished. In the weeks following a trade show, you will be determining whether or not your participation was worth it. Taking the time to review what worked and what could be improved is the only way to ensure growth and continued success at any future events.

Here are a few questions to ask yourself once the dust has settled:

What were your strengths and weaknesses on the show floor?
Was your booth space well organized? Did your staff feel properly equipped to reach prospects?

How did you measure up to your competition?
Did you stand out amongst the competition or can you improve on your trade show exhibit for future shows?

Was your pre-show marketing campaign effective?
Did your message connect with attendees? 

Were your giveaways relevant and memorable?
Were attendees jumping at the opportunity to take branded giveaways or were you left with a ton to spare?

Answering these questions will provide a framework for you and your team to discuss a strategy for improving performance and future events.

Revisiting goals and metrics
Think back to the goals set before the show, what were your key objectives for participating in a trade show? Now that the numbers are in, it is time to select what date to consider when evaluating the overall benefits of an event marketing campaign.

There are three metrics that you should consider when measuring tradeshow success: leads, new customers and sales, and increased brand awareness.

Leads: If your goal was to gather new contacts and increase brand awareness, then it’s important to measure the number of leads generated at the show. Counting leads is the simplest way to estimate tradeshow success and set goals for future events. Analyzing lead counts can give insight as to how well you reached the target audience.

New customers: The underlying goal of every trade show exhibitor is to make more money and build a larger customer database. Between sales consultations, product demos and walking customers through major purchasing decisions, hopefully you’ve gained several new customers.

Increased Brand Awareness: Having a presence on the show floor is a simple way to increase brand awareness within your industry. You can estimate the overall attendees count and figure out which percentage of attendees encountered your booth based on traffic, exhibit size and location.

Work with us to increase leads and improve trade show ROI
Ready to get the most out of your trade show marketing program? Partner with Nimlok to get the most value from each and every event you attend. With nearly 20 years of experience in the industry, we can help you reach your trade show goals.