Tracking the Online ROI of Your Offline Trade Show Efforts

May 21, 2016

Emily Long

Emily Long is a member of the communications team at BaslerCo Inc., a national supplier of custom printed Post-it®Notes, notepads, data protection sleeves, and other corporate identity pieces. 

Tracking the Online ROI of Your Offline Trade Show Efforts

For many companies, trade shows are an important part of their revenue stream. They spend thousands of dollars on booth design, demonstration materials, and promotional items to distribute at various shows. And at the end of each event, the hope is for these companies to gain enough new business to make their efforts and expenditures worthwhile. Yet for a lot of businesses, tracking a lead’s progression from initial contact to further steps in the sales funnel remains a challenge, especially when the desired next step involves visiting the company’s website.

Here are two easy ways to track how effective your offline promotional efforts are in attracting visitors to your website.

Promo Codes

Special discount codes are a great way to incentivize trade show attendees to visit your website and take a specific action online (claim an offer, download a free whitepaper, etc.). Each time your code is used to complete the desired action, you are provided with valuable data that can help you understand whether or not your offline promotions are driving qualified traffic to your website. It can also help you determine which trade shows attract the most engaged attendees for your business.

We recently employed this strategy at a business conference where our post-it note cubes were included in the event’s swag bags. We created a specific coupon code for the conference and printed the code on the top sheet of every post-it cube distributed. Then, we were able to track how many orders were placed on our website using that particular promo code, providing us with valuable insights about whether or not we should supply free items for the conference’s swag bags in the future. 

Here are a few things to keep in mind when distributing trade show giveaways with promo codes.

Keep the Codes Unique

In order to track your website engagement properly, each event you attend should have its own promo code. This allows you to compare the number of online conversions you’ve received from all the trade shows you’ve attended. Comparing conversion data can help you see which events were beneficial and which events may not be a good fit for your company moving forward.

Capture the Lead’s Contact Info

If your promo code entitles users to some sort of discount, you should already be capturing their contact information during the checkout process. But if you are offering trade show visitors a free download or trial, remember to ask for their basic contact information when they redeem their code—only ask for the information that is absolutely necessary for you to follow up with them later.

Keep it Simple

One of the most important things to remember when distributing promo codes is to make the redemption process simple and user friendly. Require leads to fill in as few information fields as possible when claiming your offer. Minimizing the barrier to entry for your promotion will help increase conversions.

Set an Expiration Date

Remember to set an expiration date for your promo codes, especially if you’re offering monetary discounts. This will help prevent users from redeeming the same coupon code on repeat purchases from your website.

Vanity URLs

If your business is not in a financial position to offer trade show attendees a discount or free item, you may want to consider using Vanity URLs as a way of tracking how much web traffic is generated by your branded swag.

WordStream defines a vanity URL as “a unique web address that is branded for marketing purposes.” For example, Performance Sole Co., a hypothetical manufacturer of outsoles for various types of footwear, might use a vanity URL like when attending an outdoor retailer trade show to promote a new product that allows customers to walk on ice without slipping.

The vanity URL is easy to remember, simple to type, and closely associated with what the product does. And rather than existing as an entirely separate website, the vanity URL simply redirects, or forwards, visitors to the “Ice Walk Sole” product page on the company’s actual website,

It only costs a few dollars per year to buy an available URL, and it’s very simple to do through services like 1 & 1 or GoDaddy. Once you’ve purchased your domain name, you will need to set up what is called a “301 redirect” to the page on your website where you want users to land. HERE’S THE IMPORTANT PART: you must add specific campaign parameters to the URL of the desired landing page. Google’s URL builder makes this process very easy.

When it’s time for Performance Sole Co. to attend another trade show, the brand can repeat the redirect process using a different vanity URL.

The number of website visitors received from your trade show efforts can be monitored under the “campaigns” tab in Google Analytics. You can also view how these users interact with your site by setting up goals or events in Google Analytics.

Google Analytics Help

Both strategies discussed here require some type of web analytics service to be deployed on your website. There are various analytics tools available, but the most widely used platform is Google Analytics. Here are a few resources to help you use Google Analytics when implementing the above strategies to track online ROI of offline trade show efforts.

-          The Complete Beginner’s Guide to Google Analytics

-          Create, Edit, and Share Analytics Goals

-          URL Builder Tool

If you are new to Google Analytics and have questions about the platform, or if you have questions about any of the strategies discussed in this article, please feel to let me know in the comments section below!

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