Measuring the True ROI of Marketing Events

Measuring the True ROI of Marketing Events


When measuring the ROI of a marketing event, most companies look only at the exhibition cost. But in order to get a true understanding of the investment and the value it's provided, you also need to look at the travel and expense spending for everyone attending from your company.

Unfortunately this isn’t always as easy as it seems. Late expenses and travel booked outside of a central system obscure the true ROI of participating in marketing events like trade shows and conferences.

In this post, we’re shedding light on all of the expenses you should keep track of to calculate the true ROI of exhibiting at events.

The investment

Exhibiting at a trade show or conference costs more than just the registration fees. From exhibition costs to travel and expense (T&E) spending, there’s a lot more to keep track of than you may initially think.

Some of the most common exhibition fees include:

Registration, exhibitor, and/or sponsorship fees - Attending conferences, exhibiting at trade shows, and sponsoring events are major marketing expenses. Don’t forget to account for both the fees associated with registering the company and individual attendees.

Marketing materials - You can’t go to a marketing event empty handed. Include what you spend on marketing materials - booth displays, branded giveaways (e.g., t-shirts and water bottles), extra business cards, snacks and beverages, etc. - in your overall investment in the event.

Labor costs - It’s important to count people as an investment, whether your company is staffing a marketing event with salaried employees or with contractors. Calculating labor costs for contractors is straightforward, as they typically charge on an hourly or daily basis. You can also easily figure out a daily rate for salaried employees. If a marketing coordinator at your company earns $65,000 annually and spends three days at a conference, her “fee” for attending the conference is $750 ($65,000/26 pay periods/10 days = $250/day*3 days=$750). It’s important to make these calculations, as even though you’re not necessarily paying salaried employees extra to be at the event, you’ll be able to see if it’s more economical to hire a local freelancer than to send a salaried employee to a marketing event.

You'll also face large costs when it comes to travel and expense spending. T&E spending often includes:

Flights - From airfare to baggage fees and seat selection fees, flight costs are not as straightforward as they seem. Book from a centralized platform like to help keep all of these expenses organized and transparent.

Accommodations - When a large conference comes to a small city, the hotels quickly book up with conference attendees. Avoid having to spend exorbitant amounts on last minute bookings by planning who will be attending the marketing event well in advance so that accommodations can be arranged at the same time as flights.

Ground transportation - From taxis and Ubers to subways and scooters, there are many ground transportation options available for business travelers. Account for the costs associated with getting from the airport to the hotel, from the hotel to the site of the marketing event, and from the main event venue to other business events, like networking opportunities.

Food - Your people have to eat! A daily per diem set by your company’s travel policy will help your company estimate food costs.

A tool like Expensify can help staff keep track of expenses while traveling to a marketing event.

The return

The purpose of attending and exhibiting at marketing events is to generate business and gain visibility. Here’s how to measure what your company gets back from its investment in these kinds of events.


Sales are the purest form of return on investment. Your sales team should have a system in place - CRM software, sign up forms, etc. - to track which deals are generated by the marketing events your company attends.

Beyond sales, your marketing team should nurture leads generated at conferences, trade shows, and meetings for long term gains. The return created by a sale is, of course, equivalent to the size of the deal.

Brand awareness

A secondary outcome of exhibiting at conferences and attending trade shows is increased brand awareness. When people are familiar with your company, they'll be more likely to do business with you.

How can you measure the ROI of something as unquantifiable as brand awareness? Track metrics like online search inquiries for your company, social media engagement and audience size, and website traffic. If you see spikes in these activities close to the dates of your marketing events, you can likely attribute increased activity to the events.

How do you put a dollar amount on something like social media impressions or website views? Compare the event-related results to ones you’ve gotten from past paid advertising campaigns. For example, if your company has spent $80,000 on a digital marketing campaign that’s resulted in 30,000 new social media followers and a 300% increase in web traffic, and your company sees a 15,000 increase in followers and 150% increase in traffic during a marketing event, you can equate that spike to a $40,000 gain in brand awareness.

The goal of attending and exhibiting at marketing events is to get back more than you’ve put in. In order to accurately measure ROI, you must track all of the spending and gains related to the event. With a precise picture, you’ll be able to maximize the return by spending your marketing budget on the right opportunities.

About the Author: Rebecca Morrison
As VP of Finance and Operations, Rebecca Morrison oversees financial reporting and analysis, forecasting, and budget management for Previously, she was VP of Global Finance and Operations at Midaxo, and has held various roles in Finance and Operations at HubSpot and EMC.