If your job is to market to the trucking industry, you know that events are a key part of any integrated marketing plan. But attending an event can be expensive. In addition to the space at the show, which can be thousands on its own, you have to worry about the cost of displays, collateral, give-aways, promotions, pre-show marketing, and of course travel. All of this can easily add up to tens of thousands of dollars or more.
Spending that much money in just a few days is something that always comes up when it is time to budget for the next year. “Are we really spending thirty-thousand dollars on a booth at this show? How can that possibly be worth it? What do you guys even do there besides drink on the company dime?” These are all valid questions and the answer to all of them is the same: ROI. If you can prove a return on investment that is more than what it costs your company to attend and exhibit at an event, then it doesn’t really matter how much you spend.
But how can you prove the value of exhibiting at a trade show?
Step 1: Track Everything You Spend
The obvious expenses are listed above, but they are important enough to repeat:
- Travel expenses (flights, hotel, meals, etc.)
- Exhibit space
- Shipping the booth and displays to the event
- Collateral/ promotional materials
- Marketing before, during and after the show
- Anything given away at the booth
- Time off for everyone travelling to that show
You would be amazed how many companies don’t actually track everything they spend on at a trade show.
Larger events where the stakes are even higher are often the ones that go un-tracked. All of the money you spend has to come from somewhere. Make sure to keep all of these numbers in one place. This ensures that you can make an informed decision when you are trying to decide what shows to attend next year.
Step 2: Know How Many Leads You Generate
If you are going to spend the money to be at a show then you are going to need a way to generate some leads for your sales team. It might be as simple as a bowl people can drop their business cards into to win a prize or as complex as a pre-show marketing piece that integrates with your company’s CRM.
It doesn’t matter how you do it, the important thing is to track all of the leads your team generates at that event and to keep all of those leads in one place.
An easy way to do this is to create a Google Spreadsheet with a few simple fields of data for each contact. Every night spend a little time in your hotel room entering every business card into this spreadsheet. After the show you and your sales team can make sure that each of your leads is properly contacted. If revenue is generated from any of those leads then you can enter that into this spreadsheet as well. After a just while you will have a very clear and quantifiable picture of how valuable your presence is at each show that your company attends.
Step 3: Run the Numbers
This is the easy part. Subtract the amount you spent on attending the trade show from the revenue you generated from the leads your team gathered. If you end up with a negative number then you have a problem.
Just because you aren’t generating the ROI you want from a show it doesn’t necessarily mean you shouldn’t attend.
It is possible that your target audience simply isn’t at that show. But it is also likely that you just aren’t capitalizing on the audience you have access to. Consider an integrated marketing plan that includes warming up leads and driving traffic to your booth, capitalizing on anyone who stops by your exhibit space, and nurturing the leads you generated.
These three steps may seem daunting. It may be that once you crunch these numbers you won’t like what you find. But knowing what we are doing wrong is the only way to improve. In the end, tracking the ROI on your event presence will be worth it.