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28 JUNE 2011 EXHIBITIONNEWS.CO.UKThe UK exhibition industry is arguably the country's most insecure marketing medium. We're constantly on the defensive. So much energy goes into defending exhibitions and justifying them as a way of doing business, yet many of us refuse to audit our shows. And we put in all this effort only to have an unprepared and uninformed exhibitor cut us down for not being effective enough. The return on investment (ROI) argument is a well-whipped horse in this country's exhibition circles. It comes up again and again: How can we best justify this expensive medium? Why, demonstrate its benefi ts of course. How do you do that? By proving to exhibitors how much cold, hard cash they made by taking part. But how? What counts and what doesn't?Build-upThere are three tiers of exhibiting and for each progressive tier lead times are longer. It also becomes increasingly diffi cult to demonstrate ROI.First-tier exhibitors show up mostly at consumer shows and are the people selling wares from their stands. Joe Bloggs sells pots of huckleberry jam or monkey wrenches. Revenue successIt can take a lot of work to convince exhibitors that a show will be benefi cial, and ROI is notoriously hard to prove. Mike Trudeau looks at ways to address the challenge. EXHIBITION NEWS main featureSelling them onequals units sold multiplied by the price per unit minus cost of exhibiting. Easy as anything.The second tier of exhibitors appear at the bigger-ticket consumer shows, which often have a signifi cant if underlying trade aspect. These are your London International Boat Shows, Farnborough International Air Shows and even big home project shows like Grand Designs Live. Obviously there will be a certain number of on-stand sales, and you'll have a contingent of fi rst-tier exhibitors, but nobody's going to sail away from Excel London with a super-yacht they bought on impulse (unless they're a Russian oligarch). Lead time for these exhibitors is longer, and while a 'where-did-you-hear-of-us' survey of visitors may reveal those that fi rst got the idea to buy at a show, they are far from complete. Third-tier exhibitors are trade exhibitors. To them, a trade show is probably as much an opportunity to cultivate relationships as it is about qualifi ed sales leads. It's here where determining ROI from the show itself is a futile exercise. Fortunately, exhibitors tend to understand this more at a trade show than they might at a consumer show. At this point, making the show about a bottom-line fi gure actually diminishes its value.These three categories aren't clear-cut, of course. Mrs Jam-Jar may sell more products on her website following the show, or may make a good impression with a supplier at an exhibition that leads to a deal a year-and-a-half later. But the primary focus of exhibitors tends to fall into these groups. Get your trainers onThere are several aspects of business development not strictly associated with actual dotted-line signing. Exhibitors go to trade shows to check out the competition and be seen themselves. According to John Blaskey, MD of exhibitor training company The Exhibiting Agency, there are at least fi ve things other than direct sales an exhibitor can get from a show. These include showcasing new products to existing clients; generating client meetings on the stand rather than travelling to see them; market research; brand recognition and learning from competitors. At a time when potential exhibitors are under more June 2011 29pressure than ever to justify their attendance, a reminder of these benefits won't hurt."It doesn't need to cost more money," Blaskey said. "People employed at an exhibition can do more listening."According to Blaskey, determining ROI is something so complex that it has to lie outside the remit of the organiser. However, keep in mind that an exhibition organiser is nothing if not a facilitator. It is because of this that Farnborough Air Show organiser FIVE recently hired Blaskey to do a workshop with its salespeople on showing exhibitors how to better determine their ROI. "It is the job of the organiser to have a methodology by which their exhibitors can select a way of deciding how they want to measure ROI," Blaskey continued. "If you are an organiser or an association and you don't give your exhibitors these tools, you are failing them. You need to know exactly how to tell the story to your exhibitors about how to measure ROI."Another exhibitor trainer Richard John believes there is a formula for ROI and claims the basic calculation for a company's objectives is simple. The goal for number of leads equals: (number of staff on-stand) x (working hours per day) x (show days) x (leads expected per hour). For example, three people on a stand seven hours a day for a three-day show, pulling in three leads an hour, should result in almost 200 leads of varying quality. Add to this the average cost of one staff member per 4sqm of space and the number of leads a potential exhibitor wants becomes a powerful selling tool.According to John, it is the exhibitor's job to optimise and determine its own ROI, but the organiser has to make that as easy as possible. In other words, the organiser supplies the water and the exhibitor does the drinking. main feature exhibition news here's a refresher for your salespeople to pass on to potential exhibitors: A Existing customers may decide to buy something new or be looking for a quote on a new product of yours.B Bring customers to your stand instead of travelling out to see them, thus saving on the travel budget.C Save money on market research: Most of the players in the market will be under one roof. D Brand recognition and PR exposure: How many people know your brand before a show versus afterward?E Learn from your competitors: See what they're doing. Anything you're doing that they're not could be an important part of your marketing message.Reporting the figuresWhen the task of determining ROI falls at the feet of the exhibitors, who need more and more evidence to justify time out of the office, there is one solution that, bafflingly, has lost its grip on UK exhibitions: Auditing.How often can it be said? Audit. Audit. Audit. For some reason, the UK is one of the only countries in Europe where the majority of organisers simply refuse to audit their shows. Why? Fear of being exposed as frauds? Being taken to task by exhibitors? Exhibitor trainer and group business development director for the Association of Event Organisers (AEO) Jane Murphy claimed audited show data is crucial for justifying time out of office for potential exhibitors."How can you really decide which exhibitions to attend if they aren't audited?" she asked. Not only will this help promote a successful show (plain "You need to know exactly how to tell your exhibitors to measure Roi."