Exhibitor Demand for ROI is High – Can You Deliver?

September 21, 2014

Rob Hamlin

As director of exhibition services for Ungerboeck Software International, Rob Hamlin draws on 25 years in sales and 10 years of event industry experience to help event professionals, exhibition organizers, associations and independent show organizers experience the value of intelligent back-end and audience-facing technology. 

In years past, exhibition organizers were able to take an “if we build it, they will come” approach to tradeshows, conventions, and conferences with the goal of attracting attendees in order to reel in exhibitors. Show organizers could safely tell exhibitors and sponsors the kinds of people who attend the show, often tossing around statistics like “70% of attendees are decision makers,” without too much scrutiny because there was no way to prove or disprove those numbers.

Technology changes everything

Today, every marketing dollar counts – and when your exhibitor’s tradeshow budget goes up against their company’s digital marketing budget – it’s more important than ever to show a return on investment. It’s important to understand that digital marketing budgets can show when an ad was placed on the web, where it ran, how many people clicked on the ad, and where those people went from there. Exhibitors are going to expect the same from you in order to justify spending their marketing dollars on your show. Recently, I attended panel discussions with exhibitors at both SISO and PCMA, and here’s what the exhibitors themselves say they want.

Show me that you know me

First and foremost, it’s important for you to understand why an organization is exhibiting. Who are they looking for? What are their business goals and objectives? Obviously, their overarching goal is going to be exposure to the right audience, but what can you do to make sure they connect with the exact people they want to meet at your show? An interactive event guide that provides analytics to show exhibitors where they stand in terms of numbers of visitors, social media interactions, recommendations, rankings against their competitors, and offers the ability to push out a special offer or targeted ad to boost visibility would definitely appeal to today’s exhibitors.

Help me find the Holy Grail

Of course, everyone is chasing return on investment (ROI), but is that the right thing to measure? Especially in the B2B world, the sales cycle could take 12-months to two-years, and between the time that a prospect visits a booth at a trade show. After that show, the prospect might receive 24 emails and 17 personal phone calls from a sales rep. How does a company then link that sale back to a trade show booth visit?

Given that ROI is difficult to measure, what numbers are exhibitors looking for? We’re hearing more about ROO – return on opportunity. They see your show as an opportunity to meet the right person and get into their consideration set once they’re finally ready to buy. In order to appeal to the ROO exhibitors, you need better business intelligence about who is going to be at your event. And, more importantly real statistics about what happened at the show. For instance, can you share how many people clicked on an exhibitor’s ad? Will you be able to share how many attendees marked a specific exhibitor as a favorite?  You need systems that automatically record this information – so you can report on it – not because it’s a nice to have, but because exhibitors are going to demand it.

Time to face your fears

The top reason exhibition organizers say they don’t want to measure these statistics, much less share them with exhibitors, is because they’re afraid the numbers won’t add up – and therefore exhibitors will flee their shows. This may be a valid fear, but isn’t this the exact same information YOU need to improve your shows, so you will be able to deliver the right ROO (or ROI) for exhibitors and sponsors? If you get in on the ground floor of collecting these kinds of statistics, you can figure out ways to deliver a better experience for exhibitors. In the future, your exhibitors are going to demand real numbers, and if you can’t share them, perhaps your competitor will. Investing in the right technology that gives this level of feedback puts you in a better position for tomorrow. 

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