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?

Handling the Logistics of Trade Shows

The trick to effectively coordinating trade show freight services and logistics to transport your trade show booth display for on-time delivery to a show venue is meticulous planning and coordination. Larger companies that exhibit frequently often use transport companies that specialize in trade show shipping to handle the logistical details.

tradeshowlogisticsOnce an exhibit arrives at a venue’s loading dock, contracted logistics experts may be used to ensure that crates are delivered to the booth area and supervise exhibit assembly, dismantling, and return shipping.

For smaller companies, however, this might not be a luxury they can afford. In this case, an employee is often tasked with handling trade show logistics. Options for getting your display to the show include transporting it yourself or contracting with a freight carrier to ship your exhibit crates from your storage location to the venue.

If you decide to hire a shipping company, choose one that specializes in tradeshow logistics so they will fully understand the requirements of transporting exhibit components. Ask the shipping company representative how long the company has been in business, check references, and request a price quote for the shipping in advance.

Before making a decision on a shipping company, check with the trade show’s management to see if there is a freight company that serves as the official carrier for the event. Often, these companies might offer perks such as special benefits, extra exhibit moving services, and discounted prices.


Once you’ve submitted your exhibitor registration for a show, the event sponsor will provide you with an exhibitor’s kit that will include all the information you need regarding show participation. This kit will include exhibit moving and shipping instructions, a list of providers of trade show freight services, and forms required by the show’s drayage contractor.

This contractor is responsible for:

  • Instructing shipping company drivers when to get in line at a designated dock to unload exhibit crates.
  • Moving your exhibit crates to your booth location in the exhibit hall.
  • Removing your crates and boxes once you’ve assembled your display and returning them to you at the end of the show.
  • Directing shipping company drivers to specific loading dock lines when exhibit crates are ready to be picked up.
  • Loading your crates and boxes on the truck for delivery.

Once the show is over, you must complete a “bill-of-lading” and submit it to the event’s drayage contractor, which is what activates the process by which your crates are returned to your booth so you can pack up your booth display and prepare it for shipping.

When your booth is dismantled and packed, the drayage contractor will take your crates to the loading dock and alert your driver that your exhibit is ready for pick-up. Proper labeling of boxes and crates is essential to ensuring that your shipment will get to its proper destination. If items are not labeled properly and inadvertently get left behind, they will be shipped to the event contractor’s warehouse for storage until the exhibitor makes arrangements to have it returned.