How To Measure Trade Show ROI

What does trade show Return on Investment (ROI) look like, and how do you measure it? Learn how to best measure and then increase ROI for your business at NuORDER.

Trade shows are a critical component of any B2B sales and marketing plan, but they are also an enormous investment in terms of both time and finances. Understanding how to measure success is crucial before you commit your limited resources. One of the most important measures of success is Trade Show ROI, or rate of investment, which allows you to measure your sales performance. 


While you should also try to get leads and increase brand awareness during trade shows, getting sales is the most important aspect. Trade shows can be expensive, especially after you pay for your booth, purchase your merchandise, pay for travel expenses, and pay your employees. Sales are what ensure that all of that expense is worth it. Sales are also much easier to clearly measure than other goals you may have in mind.

This is why correctly measuring your trade show return on investment is so important. ROI is essentially a comparison between the sales generated from the trade show and your trade show expenses. It will depend on your industry as to when you can get the final numbers because you’ll want to count sales from leads generated at the show in the ROI. In most industries, one of the best ways to do this is to follow up with your leads within two to three days of the trade show and track the sales that resulted. However, in some industries it will take a bit longer to get final sales results from leads generated, so make sure you know your product and industry before calculating the final ROI.

Once you have your sales numbers, ROI is simple to calculate. You’ll subtract your investment in the trade show from your revenue, and then divide that number by the investment. The resulting number gives you a percentage. For example, if your investment was $20,000, and your revenue $30,000, you would subtract $20,000 from $30,000, resulting in a $10,000 difference. You’d then divide the $10,000 by the investment to give you the percentage of the investment that you made in revenue.

Revenue - Investment   Example:  ($30,000 - $20,000) = .5, making the ROI 50%

   Investment                                      $20,000


ROI is just one of the two most common metrics your company will probably ask for after the trade show, the other being return on objective or ROO. As shown above, ROI is a very concrete measure that is easily calculated using your revenue and investment, whereas ROO is a less concrete measurement. 

ROO is a broader measure of how well you met all of your goals for the trade show. There are still ways to help track the ROO throughout the show, but there isn’t a mathematical formula to calculate ROO. For example, you may choose to track the number of visitors to your booth, the increase in social media engagement during and right after the show, web traffic, the quality of new leads based on your company’s guidelines, and/or how many other professionals you were able to network with during the trade show. These all qualify as ROO and can be used to help you determine how managed to meet your specific goals. 


Once you start measuring your ROI, you can focus on increasing your trade show ROI as you continue to visit trade shows. Most B2B brands will attend anywhere from five to ten trade shows annually in an effort to gain new customers, says Tom Davis, Supporting Member Sales & Marketing Manager for Snowsports Industries America (SIA). SIA hosts an annual members-only trade show for suppliers of consumer snow sports.

We asked Davis to share his thoughts on how B2B brands can not only increase their trade show ROI, but also how to measure the outcomes beyond leads gathered at the show itself.

"It’s great when brands can take orders right from the show floor, but increasing the ROI on your trade show expenses happens when you manage the post-show experience using data gathered at your booth."

One of the most fundamental metrics you can gather is how many people not only entered your booth, but also allowed you to scan their badges. Most shows will provide a scanner for a small fee or even for free, but Davis says he is continually surprised by how many vendors pass up this opportunity.

"That scanner," he adds, "is one of the methods by which brands can collect data for post-show marketing plans. No matter how you collect it, once the show has ended, leverage that data to launch your post-show marketing."

Tip: With a wholesale eCommerce solution, brands can quickly capture prospective customer details and share digital catalogs and meeting recaps immediately. Post show, reps & managers have a clear action list and can easily turn product discussions into draft or confirmed orders.

The human connection

Email campaigns or post-show advertising can help drive leads, but one of the most-overlooked methods of driving revenue is possibly the most simple—picking up the phone. As mentioned above, you’ll want to count sales generated from your trade show leads when calculating ROI. Picking up the phone is essential to capitalizing on these leads.

“In-bound marketing is great, and technology is so huge that people just want to send an email,” says Davis, “but I tell people to give retailers a few days to digest and decompress. Then just give them a call.”

Creating personal relationships with prospective buyers is Trade Show 101. However, don’t forget to forge a connection with your trade show representative, as well. One of the most critical, measurable outcomes of any show is obtaining a list of buyers who are in attendance.

Tip: With a wholesale eCommerce solution, reps can send buyers who didn’t make it to their booth a login, as well as a curated selection of products for possible purchase. This makes any follow up phone calls more productive and keeps everyone focused.

Another great way to get in front of your target audience is to join the seminar track at the shows you plan to attend. “You’d be surprised at how many people attend those sessions,” says Davis. “You position yourself as a thought leader, and you’re putting your brand in front of prospects like the senior vice president of sales.”

The bottom line: Orders Taken

When it comes to trade shows, it will always be about how many orders are taken. However, those orders can continue to come in once the booth is broken down and you’re back in your office.

“The ‘hot lead’ mindset is of course the typical mindset,” says Davis. “After the show, take that momentum and mindset and use it to increase your ROI even more.”

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