Exhibitor Retention StrategiesFebruary 1, 2014

Extend Exhibitor ROI Beyond the Trade Show Floor By
February 1, 2014

Exhibitor Retention Strategies

Extend Exhibitor ROI Beyond the Trade Show Floor
The show floor at EIBTM - The Global Meetings & Incentives Exhibition. Credit: EIBTM

The show floor at EIBTM – The Global Meetings & Incentives Exhibition. Credit: EIBTM

ACF-2014-0203FebMar-Column-212x140Dave Weil is a vice president and Pat Dwyer is a senior manager in event services at SmithBucklin, an association management and services company. www.smithbucklin.com

As an industry professional, you likely already know — because of firsthand experience — that it is easier for associations to keep current members than to recruit new ones. The same can be said for trade show exhibitors. Unfortunately, the economic downturn has forced many companies to reevaluate their involvement in trade shows, from attendance to sponsorships to exhibit booths. This puts immense pressure on event planners to prove tangible return on investment for exhibitors.

However, a formal exhibitor retention plan can do just that. Created with the help of trade show administration, along with your sales and logistics team, a successful retention plan should be a collaborative process that clearly outlines a strategy to identify challenges, build loyalty, create educational opportunities and ultimately improve the overall exhibitor experience to increase ROI.

Flagging any year-to-year changes can assist the team with identifying trends and possible solutions to retain exhibitors.

Be Data-Driven

Before creating a retention strategy, you must understand why exhibitors are not renewing. The success of any trade show can be traced back to upfront planning and preparation. Therefore, before doing anything, thoroughly review your previous shows and reevaluate their culture and mission, objectives, and operating policies and procedures. Conduct an analysis to determine trends — is there a particular segment of the industry that is not seeing your show as an important marketing option? Also, have your sales team report any reasons why the companies they are in contact with are not renewing. Is it strictly monetary? Has the company had a shift in their marketing approach or directive from corporate? The responses directly derived from your target audience can help you identify new opportunities to adjust your strategy and address your exhibitors’ issues, concerns and challenges.

Furthermore, at the conclusion of every show, key performance indicators (KPI) should be tracked and measured by the event team. These indicators include changes in square footage, exhibitor segments and overall investment in the show. Flagging any year-to-year changes can assist the team with identifying trends and possible solutions to retain exhibitors. Through this deliberate approach, you can better ensure the success of your trade show.

Reward Loyalty

Once areas of concern are identified, the event staff can implement a variety of tactics to mitigate problem areas and enhance the overall exhibitor and sponsor experience, thus, improving and cementing loyalty to your trade show. Furthermore, establishing loyalty programs for your long-term exhibitors recognizes and further rewards their commitment to the show. By extending your appreciation to those exhibitors who have been with you for a number of years, you might encourage them to support you at a higher level than they might otherwise.

For example, one cost-effective way to have leadership interface with the long-term exhibitors is to have your board and/or committee make personalized visits to assigned exhibitors during the show. It’s a simple way to thank the company for participating.

Other exhibitor rewards programs can include discount pricing, special badges, signage to display in their booths, a VIP event and marketing assistance, to name just a few.

Amp Up Education

Consider producing several webinars during the months leading up to the show. The webinars would educate exhibitors on how best to implement strategies, perform better as a team, and network with leads and prospects at the show in order to maximize their experience and outcomes. The idea is to provide your exhibitors with tools to ensure their success before, during and after your trade show. Sample topics can be selecting and training sales staff, exhibitor/attendee marketing, attendee engagement strategies, onsite exhibitor customer service and cost-saving ideas to assist with budgeting/financial management. In creating compelling, unique educational offerings for exhibitor staff, you can provide additional value to exhibitors.

Focus On Communications

Retention plans also should focus on an open line of communication between exhibitors and event staff. Establishing an Exhibitor Advisory Council, made up of event attendees and exhibitors, allows you to meet directly with companies to discuss their ideas to enhance deliverables in the future (believe us, they’ll have ideas!). Always look for ways to add value for the exhibitors that go above and beyond what was originally promised and successfully communicate that value. Surprise them with free lead retrieval machines, additional allotment of badges or an appreciation breakfast.

An important aspect of exhibitor and sponsor retention is the ease of doing business with the show producer. Creating an exhibitor resource page or portal is helpful when sharing a variety of details about the show or updating information that has been changed. This can be the one place where you post all of the information that has been sent throughout the year — exhibitor bulletins, FAQs, contact information, taped webinars — anything that an exhibitor would want for their planning process. This is also a great place to remind exhibitors about the unique services you provide and encourage them to take advantage.

The sales process really begins very early on. If you wait until the exhibit space application is sent to your team before you engage with the exhibitor and communicate the value of participating in your trade show, it’s too late. The trade show competition is fierce, so make sure your data is accurate and useful, your communications are clear and helpful, and your event team and trade show are viewed as valuable to the exhibitor community. By listening to their needs, showing them how to succeed and telling them what the ROI is for participating in your show, you will realize increased exhibitor retention rates in the future. AC&F

Back To Top