The most important metrics to track the relevance of your trade show

Organizing trade shows is bringing, at a specific time and in a specific place, an entire industry’s demand-and-supply together and providing full opportunity to meet and

But how do you make sure you covered the entire industry in your show’s exhibitor offer ?  Because that’s where you differentiate from the competition : relevance !  You’ll fool a man/woman once, but not twice.  If you’re missing key players or you don’t cover all aspects and solutions of the industry for which you claim the trade show was intended, you’re visitor retention rate will drop sharply.  Visitors expect you to show them new and innovative solutions in the industry.

Two steps to achieve insights

1. Make a good overview of the show’s industry in terms of product groups and subgroups.  Include everything you can find and then select what you must offer on the show.  This list is often referred to as the “show taxonomy”.  Then start categorizing your potential exhibitors in the taxonomy.  Company x has products and solutions in this field, and this field and this one.  You can use online resources or each company’s individual website to check as many boxes as possible.  Sublevel categories inherent checks from the levels above.  Each checked box is an opportunity to sell a participation and provides you great CRM intel.

To make a workable listing, you could use the 10/10/10-rule allowing for 10 items in 3 levels of depth, and eliminate 1 level.  So you get the 10/10-rule which at maximum will give you 100 product categories.

Source company details from dependable data sources in each group and subgroup of your show taxonomy, join all data, deduplicate and import into your CRM-solution.  Dependable data sources include the major data providers like Dun & Bradstreet, Bisnode, and others but also trade organizations.  Almost any industry has one or more and they all have members and useful data on them.

2. Categorize your companies in terms of their importance to the industry.  This one has nothing to do with your categorization of clients, you can use a different one for that.

In this case the ABC-listings assign an ‘A’ to top notch, really important, big, innovative industry leaders.  But also for visionairies on the rise in a specific product category.  ‘B’ is for good representative and established companies, ‘C’ stands for the bulk of companies in this industry.  Ideally you would attach ABC-categories to a company for each product group of your show taxonomy they’re represented


Now you can start tracking your relevance.  Each signed exhibitor fits in a category and has an ABC-listing assigned.  Analyze how well you’re doing in terms of :

  • global representation of ABC-companies on the show in comparison to market reality
  • global representation of companies in each taxonomy category in comparison to market reality
  • specific representation of ABC-companies in each taxonomy category in comparison to market reality

Integrate these metrics in your weekly sales reports and KPI’s to track the health of your show, not just how many square meters you sold and your targets.  Act upon those metrics if major players are missing or you have under-representation in one or more taxonomy categories, especially if they’re top level categories.  It allows you to assign your sales efforts and priorities  intelligently.  Next edition you can use the metrics as KPI improvement targets.

Of course relevancy also comes from a excellent, coherent, interactive and educational side program with lectures, workshops and get-togethers featuring thought leaders in the industry as speaker or chairman or discussion moderator.  But having a relevant exhibitor base present at your show, is at least 60% of the work.

Alternatively to the ABC-technique you could also use the Gartner MagicQuadrant-technique and split your customer base into “Leaders”, “Challengers”, “Visionairies” and “Niche Players”.  Or combine both where you play out ABC in terms of financial contribution to the product group’s market gross revenue and MQ for the company’s contextual value.  This approach of course requires more tangible and reliable data on your customers’ and market’s financial figures.

Start with the excellent show taxonomy, using the 10/10-rule.  You can expand on it later on.  You’ll likely be able to just write down and remember who the A companies are in each category.  Any good sales guy should know those or have the listed pinned to his desk anyway.


As said in the introduction, visitors will stop attending your show if it doesn’t offer them a good overview of the industry. And a good overview must include the right, representative mix of big and small, important and niche companies in each product category you’re offering in your show.  Remember that “getting a good industry overview” is one of the top reasons for attending, mentioned in visitor surveys.  If you can’t offer enough players in a certain product category on your show but the market proves you wrong, then you must react.

You can’t keep finding 50% new visitors for every next edition of your show.