How to Measure Success at Your Event

By Francis Stones, Director, European Operations,
BPA Worldwide

Given the importance of exhibitions in the marketing mix, one would expect most companies to measure their exhibition activities closely. In reality, all too many don't — a fact that concerns marketers and organisers alike.

Every exhibition is different for every exhibitor. No single "off-the-shelf" measurement tool will work for everyone. Instead, each company must to develop a simple measurement methodology that is appropriate to its needs and goals.

BPA Worldwide has provided third-party audited attendance data for many years. This data has proven to be valuable to determine the size and demographic profiling of an event. However, more can be done to ascertain the success of an event both from an organiser and exhibitor side.

An event, whether trade or public, is not simply a three-day event. It is a 365-day brand, often with many other media channels funnelling in to make up this brand in its entirety.

For an exhibitor there are number of reasons exhibiting should be considered as part of a brand's marketing plan. Whether it's for building brand awareness, launching a new product, or simply serving as a central location to meet current clients and potential prospects, exhibits can—and should – play an important role in your marketing mix. In the majority of cases, sales and sales lead generation is behind the reasons for marketers to exhibit.

So how do you decide where to exhibit and how to gain the biggest reach by using an event as part of your marketing strategy?

There are two questions each exhibitor should ask themselves:

  1. How will I measure my return on investment?
  2. How will I measure my return on objectives?

When looking at the first question, common metrics include cost per lead or cost per contract. However, are these accurate metrics for you? Should the metric be cost per qualified lead? Cost per contract could be dependent on the length of the sales cycle. This can be difficult to analyse on a per-show basis as it could take over a year to finalise a sale.

I presented to the PPA Events Committee last year and spoke about organisers providing reports showcasing what an exhibitor/sponsor received from an event: accountable, tangible information which can then be processed and acted upon. The result was a report that combined both qualitative and quantitative data which provided the "why?" to the "what?" when looking at an event as a multi-channel, multi-faceted brand. This in-depth information gave an overview for both the event as a brand and the individual company as a sponsor/exhibitor and what they received from taking part in the event.

But this is just the beginning. Events — especially b2b events — need to integrate themselves more in the planning process of advertising agencies. They need to combat the growing trend of multi-national companies organising events themselves. There are many strong event brands globally and providing detailed audience information and potential reach to buyers of media will ensure events are at the forefront of their marketing activities.