After the Event – Measuring Trade Show Success

A powerful and strategic opportunity, trade shows allow your business to improve sales and increase its visibility within your industry.  In fact, as many as 49 percent of trade show visitors in the U.S. planned on purchasing a service or product exhibited at a trade show this year.

There are millions of focused people flocking to trade shows on an annual basis and spending money. According to Statista, in 2015 in the U.S. alone, trade shows generated more than $12.6 billion in revenue. What this means is that there is no better time than now to spotlight your business or grow your organization.

Direct marketing via trade shows helps your business reap incredible rewards – as long as you plan, strategize and create an approach that maximizes your time at the event. It also involves measurement of success and reflection of your trade show achievements and triumphs.  With this in mind, key performance indicators (KPIs) are crucial to the planning, measurement and future advancements of your business.

Here’s how to measure trade show success through identifying and customizing key performance indicators for your unique business in order to help tweak your trade show exhibits for the most positive outcome.

What Are Key Performance Indicators?

Key performance indicators are defined as a set of quantifiable measures that are used by a company to evaluate its performance over a set period. These metrics allow you to compare your company’s performance and finances to other similar businesses within your industry, and they’re also used to gauge your company’s progress in achieving operational and strategic goals.

KPIs are used in business intelligence to measure business trends and to determine tactical courses of action. Simply put, KPIs help drive your organization to achieve its goals. They also help your organization keep a check on progress made towards your defined goals.

However, before they can be identified, the following requirements must first be identified:

  • Qualitative and quantitative measurements
  • Clear business objectives
  • A predefined organizational process
  • An active approach to identifying and fixing enterprise variances


There’s no question KPIs are key to operational improvement and are essential for delivering long-term value to your business.

Examples of Key Performance Indicators

Also, known as key success indicators (KSIs), KPIs vary in terms of industries and companies.

sales growth

For example, in a retail business that involves multiple locations, a common metric is to measure sales growth by store location.

On the other hand, a software company may have different goals, such as being the fastest-growing company in its industry. The main KPI for this type of company could be the measure of year over year (YOY) revenue growth.

KPIs are tied to profit margins and revenue in some way, with the most basic metric of this type being net profit, commonly referred to as the bottom line. This is representative of the amount of money your company makes as profit after accounting for interest payments, taxes and company expenses for the same period.

As net profit is calculated in dollars, it needs to be converted into a profit margin – a percentage of revenue – to be used in comparative analysis. With this in mind, if the standard net profit margin in your industry is 50 percent, to be competitive, your business needs to be either hitting or exceeding that figure.

Another common profit-based KPI is gross profit margin. This monitors revenues after accounting, solely for directly associated expenses relating to the production of goods for sale. There are many other types of KPIs, and ones of all companies can be found in their annual report.

8 Important Trade Show Metrics to Measure Return on Investment (ROI)

It’s crucial that you both measure and communicate the results of your trade show program. Being part of a triumphant trade convention brings your business a whole host of benefits, including networking options and increased exposure.

That being said, there are costs involved with participating in trade shows. Therefore, it’s imperative to find a measurable, positive and trackable ROI that is customized to your unique business to ascertain whether participating in the trade event has been worthwhile.

The following metrics are useful for analyzing the effectiveness of your marketing efforts across many industries:

  1. Preshow Promotion

Today, business is more competitive than it’s ever been. Because of this, it’s important to invest in preshow promotions to attract attendees into your trade show booth.

presale promotions

Special preshow promotions are a means to incentivize people to visit your booth and drive traffic to your exhibit.

Examples of preshow promotions include discounts on registrations, raffles to be held at a certain time and keys that can be turned in at your booth in exchange for a gift. When sending out your preshow promotions, be sure to include your booth number so prospective attendees can easily find you.

  1. Average Cost per Opportunity

To get a good idea of the level of return on investment of your participation in a trade event, you need to track the average cost per opportunity. To do this, you need to know the total amount you have spent on the show, as well as the total leads that were generated at the show and converted into opportunities.

Don’t be alarmed if initially, your average cost per opportunity comes out at the high end of the scale. It can take several weeks or months before leads are converted into opportunities. If you‘re in the position of needing to evaluate and make decisions on marketing budgets shortly after a trade show, rather than focusing on cost per opportunity, you can instead determine the favorable outcome of your participation in the event by looking at the average cost per lead.

  1. Website Traffic

When you have a professional, slick and bug-free website, its conveys a good impression of your company to existing and potential customers. If you notice a spike in your website visitor counter after participating in a trade event, you know your business demonstration has been well-received enough to peak the interests of trade show attendees.

To access your site, customers either type your company name into a search engine – organic traffic – or input your URL directly into their browser – direct traffic.

To ascertain how well your presence at the trade show has worked for your company, you need to consider the traffic that comes to your website through both these channels.

First, you need to:

  • Calculate the average number of visitors to your website before the show
  • Calculate the average number of visitors to your website during and straight after the show
  • Compare each of these figures


If your show has worked out well, there should be an increase in organic searches and direct traffic after the event.

  1. Social Media Reach

social media reach

Another essential metric to measure both during and after your multivendor event is your social media reach. Simply put, this is the number of people you reach via social media after your participation in the show. This encapsulates audiences that includes your blog subscribers, email contacts, Facebook fans and Pinterest, Instagram and Twitter followers.

On its own, social media doesn’t provide the most useful of highlights. However, when it’s utilized in conjunction with other social media metrics like conversion, acquisition and engagement, you can get a better idea of the impact of your trade show.

You can examine this metric by employing social media monitoring tools. Google Analytics, HootSuite and Sprout Social are just three of those tools to help you to do so. This also enables you to identify the social channels that contained most of the buzz after the show, and consequently can show you where best to invest more of your resources.

  1. New Leads Generated

One of your main objectives when participating in a trade event is to raise awareness of your brand. An accurate way of doing this is to measure the number of leads generated.

Because of this, it’s imperative to use website tracking and analytics to keep track of your leads. You can do this by finding a good analytics program that adds a parameter to the end of your website link that your system identifies and associates with the trade event. This enables you to track visitors from the trade show with accuracy.

Another positive aspect of analytical tools is that they identify the sources used by leads to land on your site – for example, social media, organic or direct traffic – and so on. Using these tools, you can also accurately measure the leads generated via each source, as well as figuring out what areas you need to focus more on. Keep in the forefront of your mind that leads can quickly go cold, and you need to be constantly ready to act on all that come your way.

  1. More Business From New and Existing Customers

Another crucial metric you need to measure is the number of new customers generated due to your presence at the show. You can do this by tracking all leads that were converted into customers, and then by measuring the revenue generated from these customers to pinpoint the trade show ROI.

Although trade events are an effective method of attracting new customers to your brand, you should also focus on these as a way of gaining more business from your existing customers. Therefore, you should measure the number of previous customers getting back in contact with you immediately after the end of the trade show.

  1. Giving Product Demonstrations

A key metric to measure is the positive customer reception of the demonstrations your company has given throughout the show.

For example, if you own a food franchise, ensure you connect and engage with potential customers by handing out samples and by demonstrating just how you make your food so delicious that others will want a piece of your business.

listening to you

Keep a close eye on how many people are interacting with you and listening to you during your demonstrations. From there, you can analyze and measure your trade show marketing practices to identify areas of triumph, as well as ones that could use improvement.

  1. Budget vs. Actual Cost

At first glance, the bulk of measuring the success of your trade show would seem to be done after the show. In reality, measuring trade show success involves a lot of planning prior to the event. For instance, when exhibiting in a trade event, you need to obtain approval from your managerial team to spend some of the marketing budget on the trade show and if so, how much. This enables you to calculate return on investment and compare budgeted expenses with actual expenses.

After the show, you need to look at how much of your estimated budget you spent and calculate your actual costs in comparison to your original estimates. Creating a budget is the first step in figuring out an accurate ROI. You should account for all things related to your trade show –before, during and after – including things like pre- and post-show marketing, banners, exhibit displays, booth costs, personnel travel costs and shipping costs for your products.

Remember, KPIs are not static. Planning and reflection are key. Just as your organization likely reviews its marketing plan annually to ensure it’s relevant and still steering you in the right direction, your KPIs also need to be reviewed periodically to ensure they are also still relevant and aligned with your target customers, employees and strategic goals of your organization.

How to Measure Trade Show KPI

Now that we talked about the important key performance indicators to measure, let’s delve into how to go about measuring your KPIs. Success is a concept that means different things to different people. However, through measuring your trade show KPIs, you have hard facts in front of you. You can see where things are going well, as well as where there’s room to make improvements.

There are various ways to measure key performance indicators in terms of your trade show booth’s performance. The following are some of the best indicators of trade event accomplishment:

  • Customer meetings. Although customer meetings are a regular happening during trade shows, a beneficial event results in many more of these long after the show is over. You need to track all meetings that come from connections made at the event, so you can determine if your show is on target with your intended audience.
  • Value of leads. Leads are not always immediately converted into customers. Set a timeframe to allow leads to develop, so you can then figure out whether or not your event has been a hit.
  • Social media engagement. Track all your shares, likes, new followers, hashtags, retweets and so on that your company gets via social media. These can be very truthful indicators of whether your show has made the intended impression on potential customers.
  • Press coverage. Track all your company press mentions relating to every trade show you exhibit at. If you generate positive press at any given point during a trade show, it’s a sign you’re doing something right.
  • Trade show booth attendance. Ascertaining how many customers your booth attracted can be measured against the number of overall show attendees. You may find that your most memorable trade shows aren’t always the events with the most attendees, but rather those with the most prospects who fit your target demographic.
  • Direct marketing. Although direct marketing is a tried and tested way of getting customers interested in your product via trade shows, you can find even more good-quality leads to add to your direct marketing lists. Send out emails and measure your prospects’ click-through and response rate.
  • Just because you spend a lot doesn’t necessarily mean you get a good return. As every businessperson knows, money in doesn’t always mean money out. However, through tracking your investment and how much you are laying out, you have the cold, hard figures in front of you to analyze.


Regardless of the key performance indicators you decide to measure, be sure you and your entire team are in agreement in terms of these on the day of the trade event.

The Theory and Practice Behind Customizing KPIs

In order to create customized key performance indicators, you must plan the route your organization wants to take. Not only do you need to look back at where you’ve been, but you must also examine your company’s overall strategic objectives, taking into account the measurement of those milestones.

trade show key performance indicators

In other words, when it comes to developing trade show key performance indicators that work for your organization specifically, you need to find out how to bridge the gap between goals and results.

  • Establish your company goals. Set out your company goals clearly, ones that reflect all the different areas of the company, such as spending, safety, revenue and profit, asset management and so on. Review your business goals and apply these to get the desired results.
  • Crunch the numbers. You need to ask yourself how much profit your company needs to make, how much you want to increase savings and how many new customers you need.
  • Identify progress. Look at what you’ve done so far and see how your company can keep moving forward.
  • Determine how much change has occurred. Focus on all areas of review, and work out all the current numbers, so you can move toward future goals with surpassing these figures in mind.
  • Establish the frequency of review. Determine how often to look at KPIs, and adhere to the schedule you set for your company.

Remember, there are numerous factors involved in measuring trade show success, and the more you take into account the more accurate your measurement will be. Through following the advice and tips above, you are better equipped to know how to measure trade show KPI and how to develop you own unique KPIs. More importantly, you’ll be helping your company establish a reputation of putting on trade show exhibits with a very healthy ROI.

At APG Exhibits, we’ve been helping businesses from a wide range of industries and every size up their trade show achievements. Contact us today and get ready to be blown away when you measure your next trade show success.

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