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Exhibition Performance Analysis: From the Selection of Measurable Criteria to ROI 2. Global Association of the Exhibition Industry (UFI)

In this article, we discuss advanced exhibition result analyses and the relevant assessment frameworks focusing on the cases from Global Association of the Exhibition Industry (UFI), Association of the German Trade Fair Industry (AUMA) and UK Trade & Investment (UKTI), 3-stage exhibition performance assessment model suggested by American marketing researchers and Hewlett Packard (HP)’s trade show follow-up practices, where it is possible to not only quantitatively evaluate the performance of participation, but also to assess return on trade show investment (ROTSI).

It is expected that the comparison of these advanced exhibition assessment frameworks can facilitate the further discussion over the accuracy and efficiency of established exhibition assessment models, which have been required to be improved in its quantitative and economic feasibility, so that the tens of billions of won government aids on hundreds of foreign exhibition events could have more fruitful results.

2. Global Association of the Exhibition Industry (UFI)
: Developing Exhibition Performance Assessment Matrix & Establishing a Quantitative Exhibition Performance Analysis and Assessment Framework

Importance of Analyzing and Assessing the Exhibition Performance from Marketer’s Point of View

The Global Association of the Exhibition Industry, (hereafter “UFI”) has took a marking-oriented approach to study exhibitions, exhibition-relevant statistics and researches, since 1990s. Barry Siskind, a Community Manager of UFI published an article on March 2011 on UFI’s Live (the official blog of UFI) that highlights the importance of objective measurement of exhibition participation performances. Barry’s point was that the performance measurement is a must, not only simply for proving the short-term performance, but also to have an insight to cope with a long-term changes.

Interviews with Experts
UFI established its Marketing Committee and funded marketing-oriented researches on exhibitions, which shows that UFI’s efforts to establish their own marketing perspectives on exhibitions. The committee hosts an annual plenary session to discuss subjects including ‘how to position exhibitions in the marketing mix strategies’, ‘ROI for all participating companies and individuals’ and ‘concept for creative exhibition business’. Also, the committee holds UFI Marketing Award annually, to recognize and award exceptional marketing programs that have achieved outstanding performance in exhibition business. These all shows the UFI’s commitment to combine exhibition business into marketing programs, to develop sophisticated exhibition programs

UFI recognizes that exhibitions are very important tool for corporate marketing strategies and accurate assessment of the performance is a necessary task. As a part of analysis and research on the performance assessment, UFI published a workbook titled ‘How to Measure Exhibition Success’. This workbook consisting of a series of round table sessions and face-to-face interviews with many marketers from various industries, describes why it is important to set up a specific purpose of participation and to conduct the performance analysis and assessment.

The two important things UFI stresses in this workbook are; the importance of the establishment of participation purpose and performance criteria, and the necessity of establishment of purpose tailored to the participatory companies’ situations. UFI also suggested a proprietary matrix (quantitative performance assessment criteria) that measures the performance against intended purpose. UFI premises that a meaningful and specific implications can be achieved only when individual companies can assess the performance compared to the intended specific purposes. In the following sections, we discuss how this premise can be materialized and what it implies to the relevant business.

Why Should We Measure, Analyze and Assess the Performance?

First of all, let’s think about the reason why UFI recognizes the exhibition performance analysis as a necessary task. In its workbook, ‘How to Measure Exhibition Success’, UFI justifies the necessity of performance measurement and assessment as follows.

1) To justify your investment
Participating in an exhibition program costs the company a lot of money. Analyzing the return of investment can help the company understand and justify their investment on exhibition.

2) To help choose the best exhibitions for you.
There are literally millions of exhibitions and trade shows in the world and each has its own characteristics and natures which are different to those of others. So evaluating the performance of participation allows companies to distinguish best events for themselves to keep participating and investing on.

3) To improve your own activities
Follow-up activities (before, during and after the events) are as important as identification of optimum events. By analyzing and assessing the performances, companies can understand whether the relevant follow-up activities are properly taken place and therefore improve the effectiveness of those activities in the long term.

4) To encourage goal-driven activities
To achieve tangible and immediate results from an exhibition, it is imperative to clarify your staffs on what specific performance your company pursues through the exhibition, and make them sure that there will be an assessment process to evaluate whether and to some extent the specific performance has been achieved. In this way, your staffs including booth operators can also be motivated to be more active in their responsibilities.

Through UFI’s case, we can understand how much it is important to companies to conduct quantitative and economic assessment of exhibition performance. UFI’s perspective is worth to refer to in that it considers the assessment and measurement process can not only bring immediate, economic benefits, but also indirectly encourage the companies’ internal capabilities such as motivation of booth operators. This is in line with the fifth guideline Andy Bass suggested; ‘Have and remain in a big picture while assessing the effects.’

Specific Objectives and Performance Criteria through Designing a Matrix

UFI pointed out that the economic and social expectation on exhibitions are running high but contrastingly the efforts for accurate assessment of the effects are insufficient, indicating the importance of a systematic performance assessment framework. It also highlights that it is imperative to set up a specific objectives and performance criteria for an exhibition participation to bring up with a systematic performance assessment framework. This is because a proper exhibition performance assessment is not possible without a set of specific criteria established.

Setting up specific participation objectives and performance criteria is also in line with a factor that UFI highlighted in its research, ‘How to Measure Exhibition Success’. The three important factors UFI highlighted in exhibition performance measurement and assessment system are objectives, objectives and objectives. Also, UFI insisted that companies must establish objectives different to those of others such as discovery of more sales leads. Those basic objectives are also important but a comprehensive assessment covering all activities can only be possible only when there has been a comprehensive objectives covering all activities.

Exhibition Objectives Established from a Marketer’s Point of View
UFI suggested a matrix to measure and assess an exhibition participation based on the specific objectives. The objectives largely divided into six categories; sales, customer relationship, market research, brand building, channel building and public relations. This also shows marketing-oriented approaches UFI takes towards the exhibition performance assessment.

Focusing on Relationships with Stake Holders You Can Meet at Exhibitions
One of the interesting aspects UFI takes is that it focuses on the relationships with stake holders such as customers, press, partners and distributors companies can encounter at exhibitions. This implies that building up as many relationships as possible with any sorts of stake holders can be one of the objectives of participation, since companies make huge investment to participate in a single exhibition, and have to bear a maximum result by making a best use of the event.

Measurable Objectives, Not Vague Ones
Also, it is worth to note that UFI suggests participation objectives as much specific as possible, which otherwise can be somewhat vague. Many companies expect a brand building effect through participating in exhibitions, but only few knows how to measure and assess the effects. Therefore, the specific objectives UFI suggested through its matrix is expected to provide objective and effective assessment criteria for many companies.

Suggesting Highly Specified Participation Objectives
In addition to suggesting comprehensive goals for each category, UFI also suggested specific objectives to help achieve the comprehensive objectives. For example, the goal of ‘brand buiding’ is supported by specific objectives such as improving brand awareness, brand positioning/repositioning, brand exposure effects, financial improving brand awareness of experts/investors, exploitation of new markets, etc.

Suggesting Various Methods to Measure Specific Objectives
UFI also suggested methods to measure those specific objectives independent. For example, the performance of the objective, ‘improving brand awareness’ can be assessed through figuring out the number of individuals and journalists participated in a seminar or demonstration, or exposed to a certain brand awareness show. In this way, companies can build up their own methods to specifically assess the effects of exhibition agains each objective, during and after the event.

Additional Cautions for Each Measurement Method
In the last row of the UFI matrix, named ‘note & suggestions’, tips and advise are suggested to help achieve the relevant objective. For example, for ‘brand building’, cautions goes like; it is recommended to take a consistent approach to measure the extent of brand exposures, and do not simply show brand identities for more effective exposure.

Standard Template for Exhibition Performance Measurement & Analysis
Along with the matrix discussed above, UFI suggested a standard measurement report template as shown in Figure 3. The template starts with basic information inputs such as company name, department name, exhibition title, dates, venue, number of visitors, persons in charge of event/booth operation, report author, etc. In the next entry, all marketing activities relevant to the event should be described. Specifically this entry is for any activities taken in advance (advertisements, press releases, mailings, email campaigns, etc.), activities taken during the event (booth size, themes, related activities, competitors, sponsorships, etc.), activities taken after the event (follow-up mails, press releases, etc.), and other marketing activities (competitors’ activities, discussions regarding the booth location, etc.). Specific description such as enclosing photos is recommended.
After describing all marketing activities, the objectives of the participation will be discussed. For example, specific objectives are described in this section. Examples can be ‘offering product demonstration to at least 35 established customers’, or ‘achieving at least 3 feature articles and 5 product reviews from any of top 6 journals.’ After description of all specific objectives, it should be assessed whether all of them were properly executed or achieved. Specific numbers should be suggested to quantitatively measure the effects of those objectives. In the last section, the implications and conclusion should be described.

Tailoring Objectives to Company’s Own Strategies

Tailoring objectives to the company’s own strategies is what UFI stressed along with establishing specific objectives in its workbook, ‘How to Measure Exhibition Success’. Based on 21 objectives, UFI suggests the matrix we have discussed previously, but it is not necessarily applied uniformly to all companies. Rather it is recommended to build up goals and objectives which are supporting and tailored to the company’s own strategies and directions. Of course the UFI’s matrix has been formulated based on professional marketers opinions, so it can guide companies to commence their journey to establish participation goals and objectives as well as the tools to assess the performances. However, there is no method that can fit to all situations. In this regard, it is highly recommended that companies should prioritize the objectives, based on the UFI matrix, with their own strategies taken into account, and then establish a set of objectives that best reflect the priority.

Marketing is a Science ? Establishing Measurable Objectives and Criteria

As previously discussed, UFI recommended a tailored approach in setting up objectives and criteria, but also warns not to establish them merely based on the experiences. It is because experimental factors can be meaningful and important for marketing, but they often times are lack of measurability and objectiveness, which supports marketing as a science. So it is important to establish objective goals in addition to experimentally important objectives. Market trend analysis and competitor research may be helpful. Also, the assessment criteria should be established in such way that they are quantitative and measurable, as those suggested by the UFI matrix.
UFI recommends that the participation objectives should be as specific and measurable as possible. For example, the objectives should be specified as ‘achieve at least 5 articles or review exclusive for this product from top 3 journals within two months from now on’, instead of just specifying as ‘secure articles in media’. Establishing a measurable objective simplify the assessment process, as well ? you can simply find out whether a certain number or quantity has been achieved or not. In addition, having specific performance assessment matrices in place enables the company to achieve broader objectives, and therefore to maximize the ROI. Ultimately, the analysis and assessment data will provide useful information to budget and investment plans for future exhibitions.

Follow-Up Activities for Exhibition Assessment

UFI also underlines the importance of follow-up activities. The five strategies UFI suggested to support the activities are like the followings.

1) Have Participatory Staffs Briefing Sessions
After exhibition, all staffs are exhausted and want to wrap up things as fast as possible. However, it is necessary to have the participants prepare a briefing session to share the results of the event. The staffs have ideas on things to be improved or assessed. So it is best to have a briefing session at the end of the event, so that the valuable ideas can help improve the assessment process.

2) Have Exhibition Overview Report Created and Shared
Coming back to the offices after having a briefing session, all the results and wrap-up discussions should be documented. This is to remember and share the ideas derived from the events as well as the issues to be addressed.

3) Have Eyes On Research Trends
Even while the exhibition assessment report is prepared, there might be updates and changes in the business and relevant researches. To reflect these changes, companies should always monitor any changes in the business and researches.

4) Analyze In the Long Term Customer Management Perspectives
It is not desirable to focus on the customer satisfaction and brand awareness that have been found to be improved by a certain event. The word of mouth effects and further development of potential leads should also be in the list of considerations. That is to say, the exhibition results should be analyzed and assessed in the long term perspective as well.

5) Have a Comprehensive Analysis Report Suggesting Assessments for Specific Objectives
An assessment on how the goals and objectives which have been established through the matrix are achieved should be performed as well. It is important to establish the goals and objectives as well as the criteria to the point, but further importance should be placed on the documentation and assessment processes. A comprehensive assessment report will significantly help establish the goals, objectives and assessment framework of future exhibitions. It is also important to communicate the reports with sales reps, marketers and any other personnel involved. To develop collective knowledge, and establish a comprehensive but to-the-point exhibition and business strategies, it is important to let all staffs know the key objectives and implications of previous exhibitions.
UFI insists that the entire process of performance assessment and analysis should not be merely focusing on the report documentation practices, but should be utilized as a tool to enhance the company’s exhibition operation capabilities and skills while facilitating the effectiveness and efficiency of participation. UFI concludes that the measurement and analysis of the performance is not a choice but a must for the participating companies.


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