Laura Patterson, President, VisionEdge Marketing

Laura Patterson, President, VisionEdge Marketing

While maintaining presence in your industry and increasing exposure to prospects and customers are sounds reasons to invest in industry conferences and events, the C-Suite is looking for more concrete value for this typically large investment.

Should you attend more or fewer tradeshows? Should your booth be larger or smaller? Within any company you will get different answers from different people. According to the Center for Exhibition Research, events generally represent the lowest-cost method for generating new business. The firm says that it costs 56% less to close a lead generated from a trade show than from traditional sales methods. Read on for four proven processes to evaluate and measure the Return on Investment (ROI) of trade shows and events.

1. Costs Compared to Closed Deal Value
The traditional approach to evaluating trade show or event ROI has been to track the number of contacts made at the booth, as captured by card scans or booth forms. This usually involves taking the total show cost and determining which of the show contacts meet your buying profile and then tracking which of these actually result in deals. If the total cost of a show is $100,000 and results in 10 new deals with an average sale value of $20,000, the gross revenue from the show is $200,000 or a $100,000 gain over the show investment cost. As you’ve learned, it can take time for deals to be closed and it may not even be possible to match deals with show contacts. Here is an alternate method for evaluating the value of an event and justifying participation in advance of attending.

2. Number of Impressions
Review your quantity of exposure. This involves calculating the number of audience impressions achieved by a specific event and can help determine whether going to a show makes sense. This calculation involves obtaining an accurate count for both total event attendees and those who meet your target market profile. This will allow you to calculate both gross impressions (the number of times your message, product, company message falls upon the eyes and ears of anyone at the event) and targeted impressions, the number of times your message, product or company falls upon the eyes and ears of attendees who fit your target market profile.

Based on your booth location, approximate the number of times an individual attendee will pass your exhibit over the course of the show. Take location and length of show into account. If you’re right at the entrance and the event is three days long, then you might use six impressions per attendee (2 per day — once going in and once going out, attending 3 days). You’ll have to decide whether you think they will only go in and out once and whether they will stay the entire show. This is why location, location, location is so important at a trade show.

Next, analyze all aspects of the show in the same way. How many times will the perspective customer receive direct messages from you in advance of the show? What about banners or other signage or ads in the show program? Once you’ve identified the number of impressions for each element, multiply that number by the size of the total event audience and the targeted market to calculate your total number of gross impressions and targeted impressions.

3. Impression Quality
Now you can measure the value of impressions and compare it to other impression opportunities and investments and determine promotion tactics will likely give you the largest return on investment.

To determine the quality of impressions, do some research using a pre- and post-event process. Use a blind pre-event survey to measure current perceptions and awareness of your message, product, and company and then do the same survey after the event. This will allow you to learn how effective you were in connecting with the target.

4. Smart Survey
There is a science to designing and interpreting effective surveys. Data from poorly designed surveys will lead you astray resulting in wasted marketing dollars. To design a valuable survey, you need to:

  • Begin with the end in mind. Define each of your goals (no more than 3) before you draft your survey
  • Don’t ask too many questions. Respondents have short attention span and will bail mid-survey if you ask more than 5-10 questions.
  • Keep it simple. Ask about only one thing in each sentence. Combining multiple components in one question will lead to respondent confusion and inaccurate or skipped answers.
  • Don’t bias respondents with your assumptions. Ask direct questions that are free of opinionated wording.
  • Use explicit, detailed language. Vague questions will result in vague or skipped answers. Example questions may be specific by time, channel, etc.
  • Minimize question types. Many survey applications offer multiple question types and it can be tempting to include them all. But too many types will confuse respondents. Select no more than 1-2 types for a 5 question survey, and no more than 3 types for a 10 question survey.
  • Include all possible answers. For multi-choice questions with drop-down boxes, brainstorm all possible answers with the sales and marketing teams and fine-tune the wording of each answer to eliminate any confusion/overlap between two or more answers. Then add an “other” option.
  • Beta test the survey with some trusted customers. Your advisory board is a good source for this part of the process.

Today’s survey applications make it easy, from a mechanical perspective, to create your own surveys. But there is truly a science to designing and analyzing effective surveys that ultimately enable you to maximize tradeshow or event ROI. VisionEdge Marketing has 15 years of experience designing our own annual MPM survey. Our deep experience in this area has helped customers execute more effective surveys and gain better insights. We can take it from start to finish, or just be your trusted advisor in reviewing and recommending changed based on your draft. See how we’ve helped customers such as Motion Computing, Howden, and others with their research efforts. Contact us to start your intelligence gathering process.