Trade show marketers are being asked to do more than ever before. First, it was just planning, then branding, and now they are being asked to be strategists. But how do you make strategic decisions about your program without the data to back them up? That's where effective measurement comes in. With every other marketing channel able to provide key data (especially digital), stakeholders have become accustomed to seeing numbers-backed results. Having meaningful metrics for your trade show program allows you to be on an even playing field with other marketing channels, demonstrates the value of your program to stakeholders, and provide the evidence to potentially increase your budgets.
While exhibitors often say "measurement is too hard or too complicated", here are a few things to remember when tackling a measurement program for the first time.
Start small: The best way to execute a successful measurement program is to start small and build upon what you learn. At first, even if you select one or two metrics to track across multiple shows, you will create a baseline for demonstrating improved performance. However, when you begin to measure, the key is to engage your stakeholders at the outset of the process to secure buy in for any methodology you are employing.
Not all measurement is ROI: For some exhibitors in the distribution space and those with long sales cycles, it is not uncommon to question measurements. "Why should we measure if it is impossible to get to ROI?" The answer is: meaningful measurement is not always associated with ROI. An effective measurement program is built on both an organization's business and marketing objectives. For example, if a company is entering a new market, their most important show metrics might be brand awareness and post-show recall/information retention. Neither of those immediately equates to dollar-figure ROI, but there are certain methodologies to use to measure and determine performance.
There is no "one size fits all": As mentioned above, the best measurement programs are developed to demonstrate performance against an individual organization's top priorities. When asked about an 'off-the-shelf' ready-to-go option, it is often not an ideal solution. While CEIR has published an excellent ROI Toolkit, it is often best used when forming the basis of a measurement program, but adapted to your specific metrics. A trained measurement specialist or strategist can help make those determinations.
Measuring your success is the one way to demonstrate all the accomplishments of your program, and the resulting data can help you make more informed and strategic decisions about your trade show investments.