Exhibit Surveys Inc., a Red Bank, N.J.–based provider of research metrics and tools for exhibitions and trade shows, has partnered with Dunwoody, Ga.–based event consulting firm Constellation Communication Corp. to offer an online planning tool that walks exhibitors through setting objectives for their trade-show participation, calculates return on investment, and estimates the effects of new trade-show tactics—for example, reducing or increasing booth size.

“The key thing is defining objectives, and the tool is designed to go beyond the typical trade-show data,” says Skip Cox, president and chief executive of Exhibit Surveys. “Yes, we want business development objectives, like leads and sales, and marketing communication objectives, but there are also other ways to be productive, like setting up meetings or thought-leadership positions. We see that as very important for medical and technical shows."

The Trade Show Planning and Measurement Tool prompts users with a series of “what if” questions, Cox says, to define the target audience and project different outcomes by implementing new strategies. Once planners manually enter basic information like leads and sales into the system, the site compares the data to industry benchmarks and to Exhibit Surveys’ formulas for determining what actions would be most cost-effective.

“For example, it’s cheaper to reach a prospect face to face on the show floor than out in the field,” Cox says. “There’s guidance in the tool about the difference in cost.”

The metrics are then gathered in a database containing both the client’s historical data and industry benchmarks compiled by Exhibit Surveys, which has served the industry for more than 45 years. The industry data includes sales-call metrics from the Center for Exhibition Industry Research and other industry organizations.

The company is planning seminars at industry conferences, and possibly webinars, to explain how the tool works and the value it can bring to a company, Cox says. The tool starts at $200 per show for a “self-paced” package intended for companies that participate in a limited number of shows each year. Additional pre- and post-show consulting services, training, and features are available at an extra cost. Users also can customize the tool to their company’s needs and with their own branding.

“It’s a tool used not just to justify why they are [at a particular show] but also to plan more effectively. Maybe they are overspending. Maybe they are under-spending. The point is that there are missed opportunities, which make the cost of the tool negligible. We don’t feel that many people look at an event from a strategic-planning view as often they should. It takes a few hours to go through the tool, but that investment of time and minimal cost more than pays off in increased results or potential cost savings,” Cox says.—Corrie Dosh