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Are business exhibitions worth the investment?

Blog Are business exhibitions...

We recently exhibited at the Event Production Show.  Our MD Anthony has attended as a visitor many times, but it was the first time that we have exhibited and the final costs were more than we had anticipated when we first signed up.  Although we are very pleased with the way it went, most marketing advice talks about measuring the return on your investment – is this as easy as it sounds?

At the moment our feeling is that the exhibition was a success for us, but if we measured this purely in terms of orders received as a direct result of the show we might struggle to justify the expenditure.  Certainly nobody signed on the dotted line at our stand!  However, if we include a few things that are not as easy to measure the picture soon changes.

Firstly the value of just being there: we met old friends; put faces to names of contacts that we have only ever exchanged emails or phone calls with, and met completely new people.  We chatted to them, handed out sweets, leaflets and business gifts and generally networked.  Without very careful monitoring, will we know how many of them think of us in the future because of this, and how many would have called anyway?

Many current contacts that visited our stand said they hadn’t known that we can provide front of stage barricade.  This is a really important lesson for us about the way the company is perceived – we assume that our customers know the range of products we supply, but that obviously isn’t the case.  Clearly we need to work harder on communicating all of our offering to all of our contacts.  How much is this lesson worth?

Our Twitter presence has also been enhanced.  The connections we made with potential customers and suppliers online were increased and enhanced by our Tweeting about our presence at the show, before during and after the event.  This has enhanced our online presence and will hopefully drive traffic to our website.  Again (without an IT genius to look at our analytics) the immediate value of this is very difficult to assess.

Some form of marketing is essential to every business, but how do you decide how much to spend and how to spend it?  And most importantly, whatever the investment, how do you measure the return?  We don’t know yet what our return will be from this recent investment – hopefully we will be able to assess it a bit better in a few months, but even then I suspect that most of the benefits will not be very easy to quantify.

Is it the case that for small companies like ours (without the benefit of a marketing department) you just have to feel your way through it?  Use lots of common sense and hope for the best?  How do you measure the ROI from your marketing activity?  We would love to hear your suggestions.

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