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January 20, 2015
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South East Europe: Maximizing ROI


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By Gorazd Čad 

Trade show participation is coming under increasing scrutiny; marketing budgets are shrinking and directors are requiring maximum ROI. Therefore, it is really important that in accordance with the trade show Pareto Principle, you choose the right trade show that will deliver your business objectives.

Borrowing from Dr. Elling Hamso, one of the greatest experts on measuring events and meetings ROI, a prerequisite for profitability is that “exhibitors have to do something at the lowest cost possible” in order to create and justify the added value of a trade show appearance. Often this is not the case, and exhibitors put all their faith in trade shows organisers, or they do not have any clear expectations on co-operation.

It then comes about that almost every year exhibitors ask me how we measure the return on their investments in collaboration with one of the trade shows that we organise. Normally, I would say that the measure of profitability begins with the selection of target groups - the more we are precise with this, the better the return on investment. Another element is clearly defined objectives, which we communicate very clearly with all of the stakeholders of our trade shows. Very broadly speaking, what you cannot measure, you cannot manage, so with targeted surveys among invited buyers and exhibitors we can regularly check the satisfaction of key stakeholders. Over the years, they have become a credible and valuable source of data for improving the quality of projects. The set of criteria we use does not change and it allows us to track trends over time.

So, despite the fact that there are clearly a number of methodologies and measurement techniques, it all begins with the method of evaluation and the stakeholder’s decision on which effects are most important to the organisers or the exhibitors. As a rule, they can be divided into three effect categories:

1. Short-term selling, which is still the dominant criterion for the evaluation of ROI for participation in a B2B event.

2. Development of a brand and customer loyalty is another criterion with strong long-term effects. It not until after several years of continuous implementation of a fair from the perspective of the organisers or participation from the perspective of exhibitors that concrete results can be brought about.

3. Networking and influencing key stakeholders is also a long-term activity, which can greatly enhance the marketability of your brand.

Measuring effects is therefore not as straightforward as it might seem at first glance. On the participants’ side it all starts with clear goals and expectations. If there are no goals, everything may otherwise appear good, so the setting of goals is of primary importance, because only then can we measure what we have really achieved. On the trade show organisers’ side there is a striking difference between public and private sector organisers. The smaller the share of public funding of trade shows, the greater the concern for ROI. To measure the return of a trade show there are clear and precise financial indicators in place that show, despite the sceptics, that as a part of direct marketing trade shows and exhibitions are still one of the most effective tools, because we can clearly define the goals and measure them in the best way through, for example, the number of meetings or the number of acquired business opportunities.

Another important part of ensuring a high yield is also a general feeling of quality. For this it is important to provide a suitable environment for B2B communication. This includes subtle initiatives such as a convenient and pleasant booth to establish a personal relationship. At our trade show we create business opportunities and because of this we are very carefully choosing our suppliers. We therefore dedicate attention to this kind of detail. Quality control is carried out throughout the preparation of the project with face-to-face meetings with suppliers and through interviewing all stakeholders. After the project we carry out personal meetings with approximately 50% of all exhibitors. Meetings are designed primarily to improve the quality of the project.

Based on experience we are happy to share with you some suggestions and recommendations for a more objective evaluation of the profitability of participation at trade shows and fairs.

1. Before participating in a trade show lay out clearly defined marketing and sales objectives, in terms of quantity and time, that should derive from your business goals.

2. In addition to short-term goals, we must be able to measure long-term ones, such as loyalty, awareness and brand loyalty.

3. Do not measure only the immediate response, but also view and evaluate it over a longer period of time.

4. Following the trade show conduct a survey and check the response according to the contact database. With the survey of responses you will get the answer to the question of what effect your communication had on those who did not respond and those with whom you have established a business contact at the event.

5. Follow indirect effects, as participation at the trade show or fair can increase sales through other channels, which can for example be initiated by a positive PR in the show catalogue or via other channels.

6. Measure the responses at the trade show through prize games and other marketing innovations.

7. Measure the effects of trade shows quantitatively (number of contacts with buyers) and qualitatively (one good contact can be worth more than 10 trivial ones).

8. Building a customer base and comparing the quality of contacts at individual trade shows is the key to the selection of good B2B events from bad ones and the implementation of after-sales activities.

9. Existing customers are a veritable gold mine, one that can also be found at various trade shows or that can be taken advantage of at trade shows for a meeting and consolidating of relations.

10. Trade show Pareto Principle: 20% of trade shows are worth 80% of our attention.


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