How to Measure Trade Show KPIs

Trade Show KPIWhen it comes to exhibiting in a trade show, (for example, like the upcoming Offshore Technology Conference (OTC) in Houston, coming up May 4-7) the first (and perhaps the hardest) sell is getting the green light from your management to spend a portion of the marketing budget on a trade show. But, when your request is backed up by tangible data, it becomes much easier to justify the expense.

Success means different things to different people, but I can guarantee that using phrases like, “The booth was packed!” or “We had a great time!” isn’t going to curry any favor with C-Level executives. Business leaders require quantifiable data that outlines how an investment is going to yield measurable returns.

Sound complicated? It can be. To put it simply, you need to measure several key performance indicators (KPIs) to see just how your trade show exhibit performed. Not sure what to measure? There are limitless possibilities, but I’ve found the following to be some of the best indicators of trade show success.

1. Value of leads – In addition to just comparing leads generated from trade show to trade show; make sure to measure the value of those leads. Since leads don’t always turn into customers right away, set a time frame to allow leads to develop before you decide if the event qualified as a success or not.

2. Customer meetings – Customer meetings are often held during trade shows, but a successful trade show will result in many more long after the show is finished. Make sure to track how many meetings resulted from connections made at an event, as it’s certainly a great indicator that the show is on target with your intended audience.

3. Press coverage – If you generated positive press before, during or after a trade show, you must be doing something right. Whether it’s a news article, interview, TV spot, press release etc., make sure to track the press mentions and compare from trade show to trade show.

4. Social media engagement – You are most likely using social media to boost interest in your company and promote any trade show you plan to attend. So why not use social media engagement as a KPI? You can track social media shares, likes, downloads, new followers, hashtags, etc. All can be great indicators that the show made an impression on attendees.

5. Direct marketing interest – Direct marketing has been around for ages, because when it’s done well – it works. Trade shows are the perfect time to obtain quality leads that you can add to your direct marketing lists. Notice I said “quality”. If you send out an email after the event and have a high bounce back rate and a low click-through rate, you could be wasting your efforts. But you won’t know unless you measure!

6. Trade show exhibit attendance – How many of your hot prospects or current customers did your booth attract? Compare that number to the number of overall event attendees. You’ll find that sometimes your best trade shows aren’t always the ones with the most attendees, but those with the most qualified prospects who fit your target audience. Read more about this in 4 Ways to Target Quality Crowds.

7. Investment made – Don’t assume that by spending more, you will automatically yield a better return. Money in does not always equal money out. But if you don’t track your investment and how much you are actually spending, you will have no way to know.

Regardless of what you decide to measure, it’s important you and your team are in agreement as to what is measured well ahead of the big day. While it may sound obvious, you would be surprised at how many trade show exhibit managers fail to take this step and instead wait until the event is over to look back and then determine what worked well. By waiting until after the event, you could be missing out on relevant data.

Remember, as with most objectives, past performance is a great indicator of future success. But being able to showcase that success to management with quantifiable data is the key.

If this isn’t your forte, we’d be happy to help. Our marketing professionals have decades of experience in everything from helping our clients set measureable goals and objectives to lead generation and tracking. And of course, we’re experts in results measurement.

In the meantime, if you need some additional nudging for the decision makers that trade shows are the way to go, check out our blog post 7 Trade Show Statistics and What They Mean For You.

Peggy Swords

About Peggy Swords

Peggy Swords is the founder and president of Excalibur Exhibits, a $10 million Houston-based exhibit manufacturing and production corporation. Excalibur Exhibits designs, builds, delivers, assembles and disassembles as many as 300 exhibits per year. Swords was named as a finalist for NAWBO Houston 2003 Woman Business Owner of the Year and 2005 Enterprising Woman of the Year Finalist. Additionally, Excalibur Exhibits is a five time member of the Inc 5000, a three time member of the LSU100 and a two time member of the Houston Fast 100, a list of fastest growing privately held companies.