The Payoff for Attending a Trade Show

Many companies find it very difficult to evaluate the true value behind attending a trade show. I believe most exhibitors have an easier time understanding and attaining an ROO (Return on Objectives) than they do on an ROI (Return of Investments) In part because while objectives (lead generating, product launches and brand exposure) can be easier to quantify, ROI is tied to sales, which may take up to 18 months based on the individual companies sales cycle. In most cases overall sales is not exclusively tied to one specific trade show. Buyers are being communicated through many touch points prior to their final purchase.

What Is Return on Investment (ROI)?

Return on Investment (ROI) is a performance measure used to evaluate the efficiency of an investment. ROI tries to directly measure the amount of return on a particular investment and in this case, revenue generated in sales.

To calculate ROI, the benefit (or return) of an investment is divided by the cost of the investment. The result is expressed as a percentage or ratio. Example:

Current Value of Investment (Sales at 500k) – Cost of Investment (Exhibit cost at 250k)

Cost of Investment (250k) = ROI of 50%

What is Return on Objectives (ROO)?

When your goals are not tied to revenue in sales, the ROO has no defined measurement formula. Each goal may have its own means to measuring success.

Lead generating is a good example of setting goals; Example:

Cost of investment (Exhibit costs at 100k)

Goals (400 leads) = 250.00 per lead

ROI is a result of a collection of marketing initiatives that when looked at as a total program, bring together a final revenue stream in the form of sales. Trade shows by themselves can’t stand alone as the exclusive measurement for ROI. There are certain goals (lead generating) that when coupled with a company’s CRM system can forecast and identify if a trade show lead has indeed resulted in a sale down the road.

There are opportunities to accurately measure ROI at a trade show, but they require a specific campaign be developed for a specific trade show that is tied to a product or service. The campaign should record leads and conversations in your CRM. Example:

ABC company is offering a free software package or 40% off ancillary services if the purchase is made within 30 days of its introduction at the trade show. Pre-show mailer invites can set the excitement for this special offer and a good follow-up email with the attendee’s after the show can cement the sale.

Additionally, there are ways of reducing the costs of trade shows in general, thus increasing your ROI, such as cost-effective designs that reduce field service costs and using exhibit programs that extend beyond a one-time use. Ask us about our lease-to-own programs or multi-rental programs.

Generally speaking, trade shows need a solid set of goals and a great team of professionals (exhibit company, event specialists, and marketing team) to map out a successful journey to ROI and ROO. Some interesting facts:

  • 46% of executive decision makers make purchase decisions while attending a show.
  • 77% of decision-makers found at least one new supplier at the last show they attended.
  • 51% of trade show attendees requested that a sales rep visit their company after the show

Develop a pre-show content strategy.

  • Schedule appointments ahead of time:
  • Promote your booth:
  • Tailor content to the theme of the event:
  • Leverage social media:
  • Target influencers:

Generate media coverage at the trade show.

  • Obtain media list.
  • Request interviews and demos.
  • Offer something new.

Optimize your trade show booth.

  • Emphasize your products.
  • Schedule post-show product demos.
  • Use giveaways to boost conversions.

Post-trade show follow-up.

  • Follow up promptly.
  • Remind them of your booth.
  • Personalize your emails.
  • Provide options.



Larry is Owner and Principal Partner at Star. With a background in Industrial Design and over 40 years in the exhibit industry, Larry manages Star’s team of consultants and their customer relationships. You can reach him at

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