Exhibiting at trade shows and events is expensive and time consuming. It can also be an effective way to meet new customers and reconnect with your best customers. If you choose to attend, you want to assess your actual break-even and ROI.
How to determine ROI for a trade show
1. Figure out all your costs…
- Marketing that needs to be done before the show to attract people to the booth
- The promotional or special offers
- Exhibit and space costs
- Labor costs required by the unions (sometimes they have to set up the booth even if you can do it yourself)
- Marketing materials needed at the booth
- Costs for anyone you are paying to work the event or trade show
- Travel and lodging for people working the show
- Promotional items you’ll be giving away; logo wear for shirts to wear at the show
- Costs for the exhibit or booth (if you need to buy one)
- Plus an additional expenses for entertaining prospects and customers
Increase this by 25% for “Murphy’s Law” (Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong)
2. Do you want to include the costs for your time? Add that in.
3. How much do you need to sell to break-even?
If this is a show or event to consumers, then this is a straightforward calculation and number of what business you need to generate during the entire show to just break-even. Break that down to what you need to sell each day and hour. Is that realistic? Can you find anyone who went to the show the last time it was held (who isn’t a competitor) who will share what type of business they did at the show?
If this is a show to the trade (to people who are buyers), then you may not be booking business at the show. You’ll need to estimate the number of qualified leads and then closed deals that will result from your attendance at the show.
TIP: If you decide to attend the show, everyone working there with you should know exactly how much revenue has to be generated to break-even. Tell them what that means each day and each hour and track how you are doing. That will help everyone stay focused and become more efficient in screening people quickly to assess if they are a potential qualified buyer or someone “just looking.” Everyone needs to understand you are there to work. This is not a boondoggle.
Most companies (large and small) attend trade shows and events because they expect they’ll get a lot of new business leads or out of fear because “our competitors will be there.” They don’t do the math generally to figure out if there was an ROI. You may be able to get the same benefits of going to a show without going!
Buy a direct mail list of show attendees and follow-up with them after the show. Or buy an ad in the show program with an incredible offer available on your website for a valuable report or other information (not freebies). Or go to the show and be effective at business networking. Or set up appointments with customers to get them off the show floor and buy them a good cup of coffee or meal.
4. Have you evaluated the alternatives to not paying to exhibit at a trade show?
Take customers and prospects out for a meal or coffee. Can you meet with prospective customers for coffee, breakfast, lunch and dinner who will be there? Everyone wants to get off their feet and they need to eat.
Can you rent a small conference room on the show floor or a nearby hotel room to do product demonstrations? You’ll need to do a lot of work to get people to come by, but those people who do should be very qualified prospects if they’re taking the time to do this. Will you or someone do the hard work to recruit people to come to your demonstrations? If not, this will be a total waste of both your time and money.
What about hosting a breakfast, lunch, cocktails or dinner for invited guests? The challenge with that is you’ll need enough people from your company to “work the crowd” to make it worthwhile. You want a pretty good ratio of customers to employees. Do you have enough people who can do this? They should be trained for how to effectively “work the party” to network with new customers and make existing customers feel like VIPs. It’s often awkward at these events when customers who are competitors are at the same party. How will you handle that? If you do this, be sure that company employees are wearing something that will identify them as the party hosts. That could be company logo wear (shirts with the company logo).
Can you work the show as an attendee? Can you just go to the show and meet enough people to make it worthwhile? Brush up on tips for how to be most successful at business networking.
Trade shows are a good way to gather information on your competitors. You can learn what new products your competitors have or will be introducing and how they are positioning their products/services. It’s a good idea to host a debriefing session after the trade show with people from your company who attended the show and also with key partners to discuss what everyone learned and what actions you want to take.
Can you host a workshop or speak on a panel at the trade show? That’s often an excellent way to be seen as an expert. Be sure to give people a benefit and reason for sharing their business card so you’ll know who attended your talk and can follow-up with them afterwards.
Options for not going to the show as an attendee or exhibitor
1. Buy a mailing list of show attendees and use direct mail.
Lists of trade show attendees are often sold before and after the event or trade show. These are generally great mailing lists. If you’re not paying to exhibit, you may have to wait to buy the mailing list until after the show.
2. Buy an ad in the show program
Use the ad to make an effective offer that will attract profitable new customers to visit your website for a report or other valuable information.
3. Consider digital marketing
Consider digital marketing as a cost-effective alternative to trade shows, especially for B2B manufacturers. Marketing Zone specializes in helping B2B manufacturing and industrial companies make the transition from traditional to digital marketing.