For exhibit and event professionals  

Your Dilemma Answers: How do you measure success?

June 3, 2010 By Editor

I’ve heard a lot about measurement in the media and at conferences, and I’d like to start my own performance measurement program based on real stats. But I don’t know where to begin. We go to five big shows a year, each with a different division of our company, so it’s hard to make adjustments. Is anyone getting value and results from measuring trade show performance? What do you measure, and how do you employ the data? I’d really like to know.

— Althea, Conventions Manager

Create the proper “yardstick,” and half the job’s done

ROI. ROI. ROI. It’s become mantra in the events and exhibits industry, as management that demands organizers and exhibitors justify every expense. The pressure is on, but what data should you gather to explain your expenses and show that you’re making a real contribution to your company’s bottom line?

Your peers suggest that you:

  • Use basic measurements.
  • Establish a system.
  • Organize data upper management can appreciate.

Use basic measurements

If you’re not sure where to start when it comes to measuring ROI, begin with a relatively simple process that will provide the basic information you need.

A trade show coordinator provides pointers on how to do this.

“Track all show-associated costs and document cost per lead at the close of the show. At an appropriate point in the sales cycle (six to 18 months later), put together a report tracking the status of all of the leads generated at each show. That report shows revenue results from participating in events. Each year, that report may change as you touch some leads periodically to stay on their radar.”

Establish a system

A more detailed system generates more detailed information. Although the prospect of setting one up may seem daunting, it’s really not that difficult.

Ed Jones, president of Communication Constellation Corp., lists areas you should concentrate on and explains how to use their data to determine payback.

“Properly planned events produce measurable results. When you plan your activities properly, whether it’s to increase sales; retain current business; promote your company brand, products and messages; or reduce costs, you can achieve positive business results.

“What to measure follows this same logic. Payback is a simple index of success, and it comes from tracking value from four sources:

  • Revenue (increase in sales).
  • Customer relationship management (customer and revenue retention).
  • Cost savings (efficiencies using events as the catalyst).
  • Promotion or communication value (equivalent value of advertising required to achieve similar promotional impact in the market, or for internal events, the cost of alternative means of communication).

“Put four tabs in a three-ring binder and collect every bit of data regarding value you produce in each of these four areas. Add these values together, and divide the total by your budget for the event to produce a payback ratio such as $2.30/1.

“Finally, consider productivity. For example, determining your number of visitors, engaged visitors and leads — and combining this information with ‘cost per’ indices, such as cost per engaged visitor — provides valuable indicators of the success of your events and your program overall.

“You can find case studies and articles on event measurement in the ‘Solutions’ section of the Constellation Communication Corp. Web site at http://constellationcc.com.”

Organize data upper management can appreciate

Having the right information is only half the challenge; to prove the worth of what you do, you also need to present this information the right way to the higher-ups.

Janet DiFabio Good, CTSM, senior account executive at MC², has a slightly different slant on the four factors to include in your measurement system — as well as advice on how to put your data together.

“First, make sure you define your target audience(s) and determine specific, measurable objectives to gauge your success. Then, measure your success in: new revenue, retention and growth of current revenue, cost savings (achieved by event activities vs. sales contact equivalents) and promotion value (an estimation of gross and targeted impressions). Your payback ratio is your total positive benefit: revenue + retention + cost savings + promotion value divided by expenses for the event. This can help you compare shows (apples to apples) and help you set goals and budgets for future shows.

“Prepare a report on each show and share it with upper management. They love to see payback values!”

Althea, managers everywhere are scrutinizing the bottom line like never before. Prove your return on investment with simple metrics, or if you’re up for it, create a detailed system to demonstrate your ROI. And be sure to share with the higher-ups the results you achieve at each event. Show them what a valuable asset you are and how the company benefits from all your efforts.


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