Estimating Trade Show ROI

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on pinterest
Survey and Measurement Services for Trade Shows

So, how exactly do you calculate whether or not a particular show might be successful? There are five numbers to pay attention to when evaluating trade show ROI: attendees, % target, reach, conversion rate, and lifetime value.

  • Attendees are simply the number of potential buyers at a trade show. This is often the number that is prominently advertised in the prospectus; however, it is very unlikely that this represents your potential customers, so we must multiply this figure by % Target to actually understand who might purchase our products.
  • % Target describes the segment of the show’s audience that falls within your target market (people who would buy your product). Typically a show will provide two numbers: the percentage of attendees by industry, and the percentage of attendees by job title. We recommend adding each category and multiplying these numbers together.
If you cater to independent hotels and hostels and sell your services to general managers your % Target would be 16.25% = (50% + 15%) X 25%.
  • Reach describes how likely it is that you will get in front of your target audience. The larger your presence relative to the show, the more likely it is that you will actually get to talk to your target audience. For example, if you have a large booth at a small show, your chances of talking to a larger percentage of show participants increases.
  • Conversion Rate is the likelihood that a lead will convert into a paying customer.  This is the product of the various levels of your sales process and the drop-off that typically occurs within each stage.
If this is what your sales process looked like, you would multiply these numbers together and your conversion rate might be 1%.
  • Lifetime Value is the value that you as a company get, on average, from a new customer. For an e-commerce company this might be the average sale multiplied by the number of sales over the course of a customer relationship. For a SaaS company, this might be your annual subscription multiplied by the average number of years a customer stays with you.

Putting It All Together

Your estimated trade show ROI is the product of these numbers. If we take the following example:

  • Attendees = 15,000
  • Target audience = 16.25%
  • Reach = 10%
  • Conversion Rate = 1%
  • Lifetime Value = $5,000

Then your expected value from this event would be 15,000 X .1625 X .10 X .01 X 5,000 = $12,187.50. As long as your cost did not exceed this amount then your event would likely have positive ROI.

Trade Show ROI Drivers

Similar to estimating cost, there are several numbers that can make a big difference in your trade show ROI calculation (assuming you have reasonable values for your conversion rate and lifetime value), these are % Target and Reach.

Because % Target is most often provided by the event itself, these self-reported numbers may not be completely accurate or, in some cases, inflated because they open the event to the general public.

Finally, your Reach is influenced by factors such as the size of the show, the number of salespeople who attend the show on your behalf, your location on the show floor,  the size of your booth, and how well you market your presence at a particular show to prospective attendees. What is important to know is that your decisions pertaining to cost will invariably have an impact on reach.

Reach and Booth Size

In our spreadsheet, we link Reach to booth size since, as your investment in your booth increases, so will your potential reach. You should calibrate these values based on your particular audience (e.g. you might have an audience that actively seeks you out) and the number of leads you typically capture at a show given your level of attendance. In our previous example, you would compare the number of expected leads (15,000 Attendees X 16.25% Target X 10% Reach = 244 leads) versus the actual number of leads gathered.

Getting Conversion Rate and Lifetime Value

Conversion rate and lifetime value figures need to come from your business. Ask around if you don’t have these figures (they are important). You can also approximate these values with the help of tools like Google Analytics (for example, you could start with the assumption that your trade show conversion rate is similar to your online conversion rates). Over time and with enough experience, you should be able to calibrate these numbers more precisely.

Next, learn how to find trade show value beyond direct sales >

This article is part of our ebook “Building a Better Trade Show”. Download our free ebook today.

Thanks for Signing Up!

Hi there! You just signed up to get content updates.

We hope you also enjoy our ebook, Building A Better Trade Show. It’s our step-by-step guide to finding new opportunities, creating a budget, and planning for success.

Special Offer

Use Promo Code “Ellivent” when you order from Bagmasters to get $50 your first order of $250 or more.