Report: Marketers Struggle to Justify Tradeshow ROI

While most respondents to a recent survey of tradeshow exhibitors say the shows are important to their businesses, some have struggled to measure the return on their investment.

Associations work hard to give attendees and exhibitors a right-place-right-time experience that helps both sides score business deals.

But according to a recent study by the Exhibit and Event Marketers Association (E2MA) and the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) Council, at least one side is having trouble measuring that value—the marketers.

The exhibit and event marketing medium needs to develop generally accepted practices for measuring outcomes from face-to-face marketing efforts.

More details:

The problem spots: According to a study of 260 marketers in the fourth quarter of 2012 and first quarter of 2013, most respondents find great value in tradeshows—89 percent, to be exact, with another 31 percent calling them essential. The problem is that they’re finding it difficult to make the shows part of their overall business strategy, with 45 percent challenged to explain the business benefits and 19 percent unsure of how to act on leads. And big events aren’t really doing it for marketers, either—40 percent are focusing on smaller events, and 44 percent say they prefer to host their own gatherings.

Measuring things out: How can marketers help show the value proposition? While 42 percent of respondents use customer relationship management (CRM) platforms, the data from those systems only go so far. CMO and E2MA say they plan to work on that problem. “The exhibit and event marketing medium needs to develop generally accepted practices for measuring outcomes from face-to-face marketing efforts,” said the E2MA Executive Director Jim Wurm in a statement. “It is imperative for marketers to obtain and employ exhibit and event marketing analytics to inform the value of their spend and guide them on their future investments.”

Tech helps: One thing that gives extra value to tradeshows, however? Emerging technology. While in the past many marketers worried that new technology would harm the tradeshow experience, they’re finding success using these tools to engage customers, with personal technologies (34 percent) and mobile (24 success) proving most valuable.

Ultimately, marketers need a better way to measure tradeshow ROI, according to the CMO Council’s vice president of marketing programs and thought leadership, Liz Miller. “Events and their ability to host intimate, face-to-face dialogues with customers, prospects, influencers, and even competitors remains critical to many marketers across a multitude of industries, but until very recently, the same rigor and attention to measurable return have not been enforced to define the return of investments,” she said in a statement.

The full study is available for sale on the E2MA website.

(Digital Vision/Photodisc/Thinkstock)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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