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A satisfied exhibitor returns next year and often increases their investment. Here are a few tips on how you can delight them and make an impression.
Seasoned conference professionals and newbies know that exhibitors want one thing – return on investment. Without that, it doesn’t matter how accommodating the conference planner is. Return on investment, means they need to see traffic to their booths and they want people in their ideal target demographic.
Since it's easier for association meeting planners to keep the exhibitors they have versus recruit new ones, making your exhibitors happy by helping them meet their sales goals is one of the most important things you can do for the success of your conference.
1. Return on Investment Trumps Booth Cost
If you’re struggling with exhibitor retention, it’s likely not the cost of your booth that’s making them rethink their investment with you. The key word here is investment and not fee or charge. If they are receiving a worthwhile amount of new sales, prospects, and reconnections with former customers, as long as the revenue they generate from your conference is significantly higher than the cost to attend, the actual booth rental matters little. Exhibitors are investing their marketing dollars in your conference. If it doesn’t provide them a sizeable return, they’ll look elsewhere.
2. Provide Excellent Materials Online and Off
If your exhibitors have been happy with your conference in the past, they may be looking for ways to increase their investment. Make sure you provide them with professional sponsorship packets, materials, and online information. Since marketing decisions are often made by multiple people within an organization, make sure your online options are as up-to-date as possible so that everyone will be looking at the same information.
3. Personalize Opportunities to Help Them Reach Their Target Market
Contact them personally to talk about their marketing needs. It may be that their ideal sponsorship is one you haven’t thought of yet. But don’t put the onus on them solely to come up with the idea. This is your event. You know what has been successful and what hasn’t. Work together to find something that will provide a good return on investment and add value for your attendees. A conversation about your exhibitor’s needs can help you better help them. Plus, personalized sponsorships feel special.
4. Use Content Marketing
The strategy behind content marketing is becoming a resource for your audience by providing information that’s helpful to them. When working with exhibitors, providing them with tools that help them establish more meaningful connections with your attendees is important to their success. Use a drip marketing campaign with helpful information on working a booth, using social media at the meeting, blog topics, host city information, and more. Making their content creation efforts easier and helping them reach people with good content will be appreciated and will help your conference stand out from others.
5. Drive a Higher Percentage of Attendees Their Way
Conferences and meeting professionals are using a number of apps, contests, and even gamification to drive traffic to their exhibitors. From a vendor’s perspective, it doesn’t matter how many attendees you have at the event if they aren’t making it to the exhibit hall. To this end, don’t schedule popular activities or speakers during exhibit hall hours and don’t host hours at the beginning or end of the day, especially on the first and last days. Attendees may use this time to leave early or sleep in instead.
6. Get Them Out of the Hall
Driving traffic to booths is important, but so is giving exhibitors an opportunity to connect with potential customers in a less formal setting. Some association meeting planners have gotten creative and encourage vendor meetings in poolside cabanas. That’s a much more pleasant place to do business than a loud exhibit hall.
7. Provide Easy-to-Use Tools
You want to allow for frictionless connecting between your exhibitors and your attendees. Help them connect with powerful, online tools for scheduling private meetings and other ways they can do business more effectively. If you’re auditioning conference apps think about them from an exhibitor’s perspective too.
8. Reverse the Tables
The Restaurant Facility Management Association hosts a reverse exhibit hall where the attendees are in the booth and the exhibitors walk the floor stopping in to speak with restaurant facility managers who are a good fit for their offerings. This is very efficient approach to sales for exhibitors and one that’s enjoyable for your attendees.
9. Provide Comprehensive Lists for Follow-up
Help your exhibitors follow up with the attendees they met at your conference through providing up-to-date lists in a preferred format. Also, help ensure they have the technology to scan badges by providing it, renting it, or giving information on how it can be obtained. Scanning is a lot easier than collecting business cards that never make it back to the office.
10. Give Guarantees on Non-Exhibiting Vendors
Your exhibitors have invested in your conference. It’s important you give them some peace of mind that you are equally committed to them. There may be non-exhibiting vendors at your conference, but make sure they don’t have advantage over your exhibitors. Many associations ban non-exhibiting vendors from the exhibit hall so they are unable to conduct business near their exhibiting competition.
Ensuring your exhibitors are happy and satisfied with the networking and sales opportunities is critical to retaining them. If you want them to continue investing in your association and your event, give them personalized attention and the tools they need to succeed. Doing these things will help you remain a top choice for them, even if their conference budget requires them to trim other events where they don’t receive this type of personalized attention.