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72% of Exhibitors Don't Know If They Are Burning Money

By: Ryan Lovell, Senior Exhibit Consultant
August 18, 2016
Exhibitors-are-Burning-Money

Analogy: You're allocating 10 percent of your family income to a financial planner who assures moderate-aggressive growth in a mutual fund. At the beginning of each year you get a report of your returns, and every year the report reads:

"We have no idea how your investment is doing. It's incredibly hard to track these results and you can't expect us to do so. BUT, everyone else is investing so we strongly recommend you continue to do so. We appreciate your business."

You can react to the above in two ways: A.) accept the status quo or B.) make returns reporting non-negotiable and if you have to, find a new broker. If your answer is not B, you probably won't find the rest of this blog of interest.

Trade shows are expensive. Ask your CFO and I'm sure he or she will agree. In 2010, Exhibitor Magazine revealed that 98 percent of exhibitors collect sales leads. It's clear, we attend trade shows to get more leads and to make more money. However, only 28 percent measure and report revenue resulting from trade show activity.

The good news is 28 percent are doing it, so it's not that hard. Prior to becoming a consultant at TradeTec, I was a trade show manager for a small start-up. In my four years on the client side, trade shows on average accounted for at least 10 percent of the total annual budget. I had no prior trade show experience and limited sales/marketing experience. Using the same tools any exhibitor has (lead lists, a decent CRM, and a sales team that used the CRM and excel spreadsheets), we were able to track ROI for every show. We dumped shows that weren't profitable and we doubled down on exhibit space on the highly profitable ones. We micromanaged lead follow-up. I'd guess lead follow-up was over 98 percent (the remaining two were often unusable). Trade shows were a major marketing tool in our growth from $0 to over $8 million in annual revenues. By year four, we were attending 20+ shows a year.

If your marketing strategy involves attending a significant amount of trade shows, it would be wise to start tracking your profits.

1. Find someone passionate about it and put them in charge (doesn't have to be a full time job). Consider giving them an incentive too, such as a bonus, stipend, etc.

2. Gather the list of leads and either use a CRM to report show revenue, or go retro and use an excel spreadsheet (periodic cross referencing of leads and monthly sales).

3. Track your spending (everything from exhibit, space, services, travel, advertising, etc.)

Presto! You have numbers for an ROI (Investment Revenue - Investment Cost)/Investment Cost. Personally, I love numbers, tracking, and of course trade shows. Feel free to reach out, as I am happy to provide free consultation regarding trade show ROI, and have access to some folks way smarter than me who can also help.

About TradeTec:

Founded in 1999, TradeTec Skyline produces innovative trade show exhibits with unmatched customer service and a promise of NO POST SHOW BILLING for clients. As a Skyline Elite Partner, TradeTec offers the highest quality modular exhibits as well as custom and hybrid solutions. Located just west of Chicago, TradeTec has served over 6,000 clients and completed over 35,000 projects worldwide. They currently manage over 3,500 events each year. Learn more at ttchicago.com.