ROI Business Advisors | 7 Steps to Get Awesome ROI from Trade Shows
Wondering if trade shows are still an effective use of marketing money and effort? Here are 7 steps to make trade show exhibits an important piece of your sales and marketing strategy, with awesome ROI.
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7 Steps to Get Awesome ROI from Trade Shows

7 Steps to Awesome Trade Show ROI

7 Steps to Get Awesome ROI from Trade Shows

Do your trade show investments bring you a substantial ROI for your time, effort, and marketing dollars?

If you said “no” you’re not alone. Many businesses exhibit at trade shows, but few do it profitably.

When you consider the financial cost, as well as staff time and effort, you need to be sure it’s worth it. Do you exhibit because it is a profitable customer or lead generation source, or is it an expense that leaves you wondering why you exhibit at all?

The following are the 7 steps to make trade show exhibits an important piece of your sales and marketing strategy.

1. Define Your Trade Show Objective & Goals

Is your objective to create leads for follow-up, direct sales, or just maintain a presence in the market by exhibiting at a few key shows per year? If just having a presence is your goal, why not focus on creating leads from the booth as well? How many leads or sales would you like to have from this event? (Check out this article on the importance goal setting.)

2. Confirm Trade Show Target Market Concentration

Once you’ve defined your objectives, discern if the show you picked has a high enough concentration of potential leads or sales in your target market. (You have defined your target market, right?) If you sell mortgages, a show filled with real estate agents is a good fit, whereas a sports and fishing expo would be a poor choice. Keep in mind the attendee to exhibitor ratio (i.e. the more attendees per exhibitor, the greater the value of your booth at that show).

3. Plan Trade Show Booth Enticements

To keep people from speeding by your booth, you must to create a reason for people to stop. This is one of the most critical planning elements after you’ve decided to exhibit. Figured out what is of the greatest interest to show attendees will inform how you get more people to stop at your booth. Getting a list of registrants you contact before the show can be pure gold when you use it to invite them to your booth. Raffling off something of value to your target market is another great way to entice expo goers.

4. Decide What Your Booth is “Selling” to This Target Market

Once you’ve gotten people to stop, what you’re offering needs to be something they want to buy.  Use your understanding of your target market’s thought process to guide you. Remember to train your salespeople and provide specific selling scripts before the show; selling at a booth will be different than the way they normally sell. Also remember to provide them with appropriate promotional materials, and that it matches the pre-event branding and messaging.

5. Is Your Booth Closing, Leading, or Both?

Your industry and business model will determine if you’re trying to close sales at the booth or just getting quality leads. If trying to create a lead, your entire exhibit plan must support this, including a follow-up system. If you are trying to sell, have everything you need to make the entire transaction as smooth and seamless as possible.

6. Trade Show Fortune Is In the Follow Up

If success feels like a fishbowl full of business cards, it’s time to reevaluate your sales process. The work has just begun because each of those contacts needs to be added to your follow up system. You DO have a follow up system, right? Even if it’s just Google spreadsheet you share with just yourself, the lead information has to be captured and pursued until it the sale is closed or they tell you to go away. If someone buys, what is your process to get them to buy again? For trade shows especially, “fortune is in the follow up” and can provide dividends for many years to come if you work your system.

7. Analyze Your Booth Results

After a trade show is over and all the leads and/or customers have been contacted, take an objective look at the event and crunch some numbers. Were you successful in attracting the right people to your booth? Were the messaging and promotional materials effective? How did people respond to the salespeople? What was the quantity and quality of leads and sales? What was the cost per lead/sale and how could you do it better and at a lower cost for each next time? This kind of objective analysis is the tool you need guide you in planning for future shows with an even greater ROI.


Like every other sales and marketing activity, FOMO isn’t a good reason to do a trade show. You’ve got to make sure the investment of money, time, and effort will be good for your bottom line. By identifying your marketing “why,” your customers “what,” and putting together a cohesive “how,” your trade show booth can bring you the ROI you’re looking for.


Bob Kamemian, co-founder of ROI Business Advisors, has spent his career helping businesses become stronger, their teams become more effective, and their owners became better at running operations. Clients often move from barely surviving to thriving, many grow over 40% in the first year of working with ROI, and some became multi-million dollar companies.

Learn More About Bob and ROI Advisors