Alexis Exhibits

Marketing Strategy Session: Tracking Trade Show ROI

Today, I read a survey and was shocked to learn that fewer than 20% of trade show exhibitors track the ROI (Return on Investment) from their trade show campaigns. After I thought about it a moment, however, I realized that this is not that surprising. Most sales and marketing activities are not carefully evaluated so why should a trade show be any different?

Why track Trade Show ROI?

Trade shows are one of the most productive ways to reach new qualified prospects and generate significant incremental sales. If you do not track and measure the success of the show, your company may make the decision to eliminate a critical trade show event and loose sales without ever knowing it mattered. Beyond this, there are other reasons to analyze trade show results and determine how successful you are. An ROI analysis can provide you with information about the most productive elements of your trade show campaign and help you optimize future trade show efforts.

How to measure Trade Show ROI

The first step is to gather the data needed to calculate the ROI.

  1. Determine the total costs of trade show and directly associated events. This is the Trade Show Marketing Expense. Include everything include staff, travel, collateral material and follow-up sales and marketing expenses.
  2. Estimate the Total Incremental Sales from the show. This is… Total show sales plus New leads in the pipeline and expected sales from these new leads usually based on historic conversion rates plus Incremental sales from existing customers that are the result of the trade show effort.
  3. List the other benefits of the show, including:
    Strengthening relationships with current clients.
    Increasing brand awareness.
    Consumer education efforts.
    New product introductions.
    Investor relations and improving perception of your company in the financial community.
    New market introductions.
    Public relations including editorial coverage.
    Competitive intelligence.
    Customer insight and research.

Once the data is collected it is simple to calculate the ROI.

Total Incremental Sales times Net Margin Rate = Net Margin Dollars
Net Margin Dollars less Trade Show Marketing Expense = Profit Contribution
Profit Contribution divided by Trade Show Marketing Expense = ROI
(typically expressed as a percentage.)

So, for example if…..

Total Incremental Sales = $3.5 million
Net Margin Rate = 16%
Trade Show Marketing Expense = $230,000

Then the ROI would be…..

Net Margin Dollars: $3.5 million times 16% = $560,000
Profit Contribution: $560,000 less $230,000 = $330,000
ROI: $330,000 divided by $230,000 = 143%

So in this example, the trade show marketing ROI was 143% plus any other benefits like those listed in #3 above.

What’s your tradeshow ROI? Have you tracked it? Do you plan to?

What To Do With An Old Trade Show Exhibit

What is the Value Of A Used Trade Show Display?

There are many reasons why a company might decide that they no longer want or need their current trade show booth. Perhaps budgets have been slashed, requiring reduced space and a too large, too heavy and too expensive to set up exhibit will no longer meet needs. Or conversely, it could be a result of growth that requires a step up in size and/or capability. Has the exhibit become outdated? No longer fits the company’s image? If you’ve considered updating the existing booth with new graphics or supplementing with rental components, and that just isn’t an option, then what?

Before considering your disposal options, you must first consider the fact that the tradeshow display probably appears as an asset on the company’s books. So, if disposed of, it will result in a loss on financial statements. Add to this the fact that the display consists of some hazardous materials, so disposal costs will be significant and you can see why disposal is not likely to be a popular move in the eyes of the bean counters.

Also, be realistic about the value of a used tradeshow display. Companies generally want to design a new booth to their own specifications. Even if your display closely matches their needs, the cost of refurbishment, changing finishes and colors and producing new graphics can quickly add dramatically to the cost. It is not unusual for tradeshow booths that originally cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to be nearly worthless in the used market.

Options For Your Old Trade Show Booth

So… what are your options?

  1. Bite the bullet. Get a quote from your display company, pay the handling and disposal fees, write off the loss, and move on. (This is a major reason many companies choose to only rent their displays).
  2. Try to sell your old tradeshow booth. Gather as much information about the display as possible. Photos, drawings and inventory lists are critical to success. Post the display on a used exhibit web site (www.exhibitrader.com for example). Ebay and Craigslist might work to sell portable exhibits, but larger displays probably won’t get much attention. Be realistic about an asking price.
  3. Make a deal with your exhibit company. Roll the old booth into the purchase or rental of a new display. Showing a “trade-in allowance” on the contract will be much easier on the financial statements and also eliminate your disposal liability.
  4. Donate your booth. Try to find a charity that might have some use for all or part of the display. Admittedly, this is a long shot, but is worth checking into.

No matter which direction you take, it is always a shame that something so exciting and valuable when it was originally built ends up such a pain to get rid of.

Exhibit Acronyms – What is a Trade Show RFP?

RFP is an Acronym for Request for Proposal

This is one of the few tradeshow exhibit industry terms that is also pretty common in other areas of business. In a nutshell, it means that your company has a need to buy products or services and you’d like to invite prospective vendors to submit proposals. RFPs can be sent out for something as simple as a rental backwall display or as elaborate as complete multi-year management of a hundred shows per year tradeshow program.

Once received, evaluation of submitted proposals can be difficult and time-consuming. As such, the number of companies that you invite should be limited to 3 – 5.

The basic RFP format is to provide:

  1. An overview of your company.
  2. A summary of your needs.
  3. An outline of how and when proposals should be submitted.

In order to make the process as efficient as possible, it is best to provide information that is concise. The key to dealing with responses in a timely fashion is to direct submissions so they are as similar in format as possible.

If you intend to request custom exhibit designs from bidders, keep in mind that designs are presented in a variety of formats from renderings mounted on boards to web-based video productions. You should clearly communicate the presentation format you prefer. When requesting designs, providing a budget number will make the final evaluation process much more productive.

You should also provide a format for the cost portion of the proposals. This can be in the form of a spreadsheet included in your RFP to be filled out and returned, or even as simple as an itemized list. Including this information helps to clearly describe what cost elements are to be included in the proposal. Things like carpet, electrical service, vacuuming, floral or technical support are not always part of the RFP process.

The bottom line? Give prospective vendors enough information to put together a proposal that is complete and in a format that makes it easy to compare. Time spent editing and refining your RFP documents can result not only in significant time savings when the time comes to review submissions, but also more quality in responses.

Need Exhibit Management for your trade show? We are ready to earn your business. Let’s talk.

EXHIBIT ACRONYMS – What does an EAC Provide at a Trade Show?

Exhibitor Appointed Contractor is a Company or Individual that Works on the Tradeshow Floor

The letters EAC is one of the thousands of acronyms that can seem to exist only to confuse people with less than 5 years of experience in the tradeshow business. EAC stands for Exhibitor Appointed Contractor.

alphabetAn Exhibitor Appointed Contractor is a company or individual that works on the tradeshow floor providing any of a number of services that could also be ordered from the General Services Contractor. (Freeman, GES, etc.) There are a few services for which you may prefer to use someone other than the General Services Contractor (GSC) such as installation and dismantling labor, audio visual rentals and service, floral, etc.

If you choose to use an EAC, you must notify the show well in advance to allow them time to make sure your selected company is properly certified and insured. The form for this notification is in the show manual. Be sure to find the form and get it sent in as soon as you are able since the show generally requires at least 30 days notice.

The most common service provided by an EAC is installation and dismantling labor. A large number of companies of all sizes are anxious to provide you with labor services. These companies claim to provide better quality labor and service than the GSC at a competitive price. They will also help you with filing the EAC form. Be sure to get their information in writing and check references just like you would with any of your vendors.

Installation and Dismantling of Your Tradeshow Exhibit Should be done by an EAC or GSC

There are some services that are provided only by the convention center or GSC such as material handling, electrical service and labor, rigging, vacuuming, plumbing, etc. Many exhibitors feel that this exclusivity allows the GSC to charge inflated rates or provide inferior labor, but for most of these services, there are good reasons for the rules. In the case of material handling or drayage, there must be only one exhibit management company organizing everything, both to keep order and for safety reasons. Electrical labor and service must be done according to the contract with the convention center and local building codes for public safety.

No matter who you choose to provide your needed services on the show floor, as a first step, you need to spend some time reading the show manual to understand each service and to know the rules and your rights. Need help? Let’s Talk.

Trade Show Exhibit Design: The Creative Brief

When you need to have a new trade show exhibit created, plan to discuss your schedule, budget, exhibit space, how frequently the booth will be used, and if there are any special requirements for the exhibit. If you want to create a breakthrough exhibit, also take the time to put together your creative requirements.

creative-briefEven some of my most organized clients rarely organize and formalize their creative requirements before they start working on a new trade show exhibit. They generally start by providing some basic verbal instructions about the design requirements. Then spend a lot of time gathering information in response to questions from the creative team.

Letting your vendor work solely from verbal input is the best way to waste time and money. Sometimes it results in a flashy but generic exhibit, and communications disconnects. On the other hand, if you work with your design firm to create a formal creative brief, you are well on your way to creating an exhibit that fully represents your brand and engages your target customer, and makes you look like a pro.

Look for a partner who will collaborate with you and create a formal brief – a succinct statement of what you are trying to accomplish and communicate with your new trade show exhibit. Once you have a formal brief, it’s easy to run it by key stakeholders and make sure that you are on the right track. It also serves as a guide for the creative team so that they clearly understand their mission.

Most of what you need to provide is probably readily available. A few phone calls or quick visits with co-workers and you will have most of the answers. The format that you use really doesn’t matter. Just gather the answers to the key questions and work with your exhibit marketing company to create a brief.

Here’s a list of preliminary questions that I have found are a useful starting point:

Brand and Company Mission:
What is your brand position?
What is your corporate mission?
These are usually brief formal statements that are prepared by the Marketing Department.

Background:
What do you want to achieve with the exhibit?
How will you measure the success of your trade show effort?
What’s going on in the market? Any opportunities or problems in the market?

Your Target Customer:
Who is your target customer?
What should be avoided in talking to this audience?
What do they believe about your company before we tell them anything?
Is there an important secondary audience?

The Message:
If you could get one sentence through all the clutter, what would that be?
If they asked you to prove it, how would you do that?
Are there any other major points do you want to communicate?

Be critical and honest about the answers to these questions. It is great to focus on your company’s strengths but it is also important to make sure the creative team knows your company’s weaknesses and challenges.

Once you have the answers, work with your exhibit design firm to develop a creative brief that provides a clear statement of expectations and lay out a clear framework for the creative team. I have found that the most effective creative briefs result from a collaboration between the client and their design team.

Do you have a collaborative relationship with your trade show exhibit design firm? Do you think it matters?