Doing the calculation is the easy part--its all intangible, at least for my company, because we are making connections, meeting current connections, hoping to create goodwill and cultivate new suppliers. Until I actually buy/sell to/from these new connections and establish a relationship (long term?) other than calculating expenses what is my ROI? Its all PR Expenses, no?
To answer this, you have to start with your goals for exhibiting. Some people exhibit to increase sales, increase brand awareness or to cultivate relationships etc. Based on your goal, you can easily devise a method to determine your ROI. Every effort that goes into the tradeshow has to be included in the calculation; from the booth space to coffee for the sales team. I do ROI calculations for my company and I include every expense that was incurred because of the tradeshow. This is important because if your costs are wrong; your ROI will also be wrong.
You should set up a time line; set your goals and follow up with questions to you clientele during marketing or sales calls. In addition you may have a web survey or Social media survey to determine the penetration or awareness you may have garnered or generated. Much of the “ROI” on exhibiting may be intangible. It may also be tied to how much you invested in the exhibit itself and it’s actual location as well. You might find that subsequent exhibits “ROI” are tied to earlier exhibits in an accumulating effect.
I’m not one of these guys who has to come up for a number for everything. I’m from the school that ‘Just because it’s measurable, doesn’t mean it’s meaningful”. Having said that, we always look at the pluses and minuses of attending. Having time with B and C list customers is favorable. I’m going to see my A list guys at their place anyway. Tying up time with A list customers and suppliers has it’s good and bad. Bad...I am going to see them anyway, so it’s redundant. Good...if I’m with them my competitor isn’t (that drives the big evening events). I tend to disregard surveys taken at trade shows about ‘new business’. Until I can get back and vet a customer of supplier (reputation, credit check, food safety) it’s just a lead.....not even a qualified lead. One of the minuses is how much time we waste with people to whom we wouldn’t give the time of day if they showed up at our office.