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How to measure roi from your tradeshow visits

You visit tradeshow after tradeshow and your briefcase is filled up with business cards…What do you make with all of these contacts? How do you follow up with the possible customers or partners that you have met and after the show is over how to do you decide if you will attend in the coming year? How do you measure the ROI of a tradeshow visit? Today, we would like to take a look at

How to measure return on tradeshow visits

Before we start though, we want to make clear, that this is a really tough question and hard endeavor that we ourselves also struggle with. A lot of marketing efforts we do like public relations work to have our product featured in news outlets or interviews that are shown on tv or radio, billboard advertisement in an industry magazine or even the tradeshow visits are all hard to measure. There is no concrete event that happens that we can trace back to these marketing efforts as source and in hindsight evaluate whether each of these was successful or which of them was the most successful. In online marketing, banner advertisement, email campaigns or referral programs are inherently trackable and that is their appeal for a lot of marketers: To be able to measure the action and result. Measurability makes it easy to control your marketing works and to make your future predictable in a sense: If I put in X, I will get out Y.

However, with trade show visits this is not as easy. What can we do to measure the success of our visits? Today we would like to apply some of the measurability tricks of online marketing to traditional trade show visits to get an approach on how successful your time spent there is. However, we want to repeat again that the value of a connection, of visibility or a new idea received during a trade show visit cannot be reflected only by these three methods and the return is most likely much, much higher.

Store your contacts in one central place

Now that you have gathered all these business cards, we suggest you store them in a centralized place using a CRM (customer relationship management) tool such as Nimble, Pipedrive or the all too famous Salesforce. These tools let you keep track of your contacts, making sure you will know the sources and the details of your conversations, meetings and deals even a few months from now. Another interesting aspect of CRM is that in some cases they add information for you. Nimble for example calls itself a social CRM in the sense that it connects to social media and gives you as such a complete picture of the social media activities of your contacts. This can be very helpful when reaching out – You do not have to manually track the tweets and facebook posts of your contacts, Nimble will show them to you so that you can make use of them (if you wish) by referencing them in your email to the contacts or by staying up to date on their interests and activities.

Imagining the scenario of you being a retailer selling online and having attended a end-consumer fair with the aim of making your products more known and selling them, entering the contacts or email addresses you have collected in a CRM tool can be useful when looking back at the activities a few months later. If you have connected your CRM to your website on which the transactions are made and one of the contacts places an order on your online store with the same email address that you have gathered, than this should be reflected in your CRM tool or even the backoffice of your online store. One of the contacts gathered at a specific trade show has just placed an order! Even though the direct source of traffic for this conversion might be search campaign, you will know that the first (or one point) of contact has been at that particular trade fair.

Imagining the scenario of you being a clothing label looking for resellers and having attended a b2b trade fair the same can play out. You gather the contact information of the resellers you are interested in, keep them in your CRM and then, add new information to this contact as you progress in your conversations and sales negotiations. Even if it is not the exact same person that is placing an order, in most CRM tools you can still map contacts to one organisation and in this way make sure that the this organization (with one or more contact persons) has connected with you on this or that trade show.

Track your emails

We think the first step after gathering your contacts – be it at a b2b tradefair or a b2c consumer oriented event  – is following-up. You have talked to so many people, exchanged business cards and compliments, now it’s the time to remember them and let them know that you are thinking about them. If you opt for sending emails to follow-up, we suggest you include a link to your website and start tracking your emails.

Including a simple UTM in the links of the different emails you send out will ensure that you can later see in your analytics (Google Analytics or any other tool) what behavior the contacts that clicked through your email showed on your website. A UTM is an attachment to a url that delivers parameters such as the source, the medium and a name of a campaign so that you can classify the visits to your website. In an email you might write something along the lines of “For more information, please see our collection online” and place a link to your collection (http://mybrand.com/new-collection) so that the people receiving the email can view the collection easily. Since there are many other people visiting your ‘new collection’ page – for example through a search marketing campaign, a banner advertisement you placed in a magazine or the mention in a newsletter article that you received – a UTM allows you to distinguish those that visit the page through the email you sent. In a UTM you specify (at least) the

source – This is the referrer

medium – This is the marketing medium you are using for this campaign

campaign name – This is the unique identifier

Adding these parameters to your url will make it look like this:


However, not to worry, in your email it will not show up like this, only once a person clicks on the link will it be displayed fully. In your email you can still choose how to show the link. The UTM is a great way of distinguishing the different visitors to your site, for example by tradeshow, by email template or even by sales representative who reaches out. You can do this manually for any email you sent or link you give out over chat for example. The same can be done on a bigger scale through email marketing tools like Mailchimp which, through sending a pixel in html can even let you know if your email was opened.

Mailchimp and other programs offer reports on open rate, bounce rate, unsubscribed or marked as spam but also visual reports on which positions in your email received most attention in terms of clicks. This can be compared to a heatmap analysis of your website. Which images attracted clicks, which CTA buttons were most used and so forth…This can also be a useful tool when deciding between different designs for your email marketing template or structure.

If you use email marketing in general for your brand you could also opt for creating a special list or segment for the contacts gathered at a particular tradefair and compare over time how this group reacts to your mailings. This idea of comparing in groups is very similar to our next suggestion of applying cohort analysis to your tradeshow contacts.

Create cohorts and compare

Since not all tradeshows happen at the same time, a good way to look at the engagement of your contacts with your brand in the long run is using a cohort analysis and comparing cohort of tradeshow A with cohort of tradeshow B with each other. If you have an online store, no matter if it is for b2b resellers or end consumers, you can use ready-made analytics solutions from heapanalytics or kissmetrics and use the insights that they provide in comparing the cohorts with each other. The most common way of looking of cohorts is if they come back to your website. From there on you can go deeper and define events like visiting the page of your newest collections, entering the login details to access the purchasing process or even placing an order.

Even if your contacts do not directly convert on your website, looking at their online behavior, at their interest in your brand, will nevertheless let you determine which of the tradeshows lead to more engaged partners. And here you can take it upon yourself to help them place an order with your brand 😉

If you have an online store, measuring the return is as simple as comparing the cost of attending the tradefaire (ticket, booth, travel, hotel, staff, meals but also other opportunities missed if you will) with the revenue generated through the contacts made at said tradefaire.

Measuring the return is not easy

As you probably have also concluded yourself it is not easy to measure the return of something like a tradeshow visit. You get to speak to new people, gain visibility for your brand but also get inspiration and ideas for new products, markets or partnerships. The approaches that we have shown of using a CRM tool to keep your contacts in one place, tracking your emails manually or by using an email marketing service and analyzing for cohorts in the case of a web site or app are just that, approaches to ROI estimation for tradeshow visits. Nevertheless, we hope that these practices will be of use to you so as to decide next year which tradeshows to skip and which to give special attention.

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