The Yellowstep Team By The Yellowstep Team • November 24, 2015

3 tips for measuring trade show ROI and ways to improve next time

measure trade show of the most valuable tools in any marketer's arsenal, yet it's one of the least exploited and most undervalued activities, particularly in relation to trade shows. 

Why? In my opinion, there are four key reasons:

1. There's always something more time sensitive to prioritise
2. It doesn't have an immediate impact on the bottom line
3. It's not always easy to calculate ROI or measure success
4. Let's be honest, it's time-consuming and a bit boring!

Sound familiar?

We've all been there, scratching our heads trying to find the most time efficient, most effective way of working out "Was that time we invested in promoting that last trade show worth it?" or "How much did I spend on [insert trade show name' here] versus my expected ROI?"

Here are three simple but effective tips to track, calculate and improve on your trade show ROI:

1. Start with a goal and work to it:

How are you going to measure success if you don't know what success looks like?

Long before the trade show even begins you need to define a clear goal of what you want to achieve, then decide what you'd consider a good return on investment to be.

If your goal is revenue specific, having an idea of your average sale value and typical trade show conversion rates (ie. how many trade show leads typically convert to customers? 10%? 15%?) will give you an idea of what your goal should be. (ie. An average sale is $9,000 so we need 200 leads at an average conversion of 10% are required to reach our goal of $180k)

2. Let software do the hard work for you:

HubSpot Marketing reporting software

At the very least you should have a CRM system and marketing tools in place to plan and implement your campaigns.

As well as providing rich analytics, the best tools will provide functionality to manage all critical marketing touchpoints and campaigns, from SEO to social media, email and blogging. If you're doing all this disparately, it might be worth weighing up the time you're currently spending against investing in a comprehensive marketing tool that'll make your marketing more efficient and effective.

Integration is the key to any successful marketing campaign, but also the key to tracking that all important ROI.

For example, integrating your marketing tools and campaigns with your CRM system will give you a 360-degree view of where your best leads came from and the process they followed to progress from a stranger to a lead to a customer. This enables you to replicate what activities were successful, and convert more leads to customers.

Don't underestimate the value of identifying what worked well, and doing more of it next time: If you can get that conversion rate from 10%-15% or the number of leads from 200 to 300, you've already improved your ROI by 50%!

3. Measure as you go:

As well as saving you time after the event (and avoiding the inevitable "I've not got time to do a report" excuse) you'll be able to measure ROI far more effectively if you keep track of everything as you go. 

Only by knowing all the activities you've undertaken before, during and after the event, and their associated time and cost investments can you get a clear picture of how much you've spent...and whether it was worth it. Here's a quick example:


Time cost

Actual cost


Pre--show blogging 4 hours x 6 blogs = 24 hours  n/a 10 leads generated, worked well
Banner advert 4 hours developing copy and sourcing images $1,500 50 clicks but only 1 lead, poor ROI
Exhibition stand  3x staff for 4 days $6,000 for space $4,000 for stand design 15% higher spend this year but significantly more footfall and 50% more leads 
Follow up campaign 8 hours $500/month for marketing automation software Follow-up campaign increased conversion rate from 10-12%

Trade shows still offer one of the best opportunities for marketers, however, bridging the divide between real world marketing efforts and measuring results remains a challenge. However, with the opportunity for integration and analysis digital tools bring, there's never been a better time to join up the dots!

As well as helping you focus your efforts to attract more interest, generate more leads, close more leads and speed up your sales cycle, the benefit of being able to measure everything enables you to improve and make every event more successful than the last!

Need more guidance?

Our guide provides actionable advice on how to develop measurable, results-driven campaigns to implement ahead of your next trade show. Download it now