Successful trade show exhibitors will tell you that a key factor for their success is to increase the number of quality attendees that visit their booths. In an effort to increase their ROI, and therefore the odds that they will return to the event, they turn to the organizer to increase the number of exhibition hours, not schedule key sessions in competition with exhibiting and to co-locate the food or beverage service in the hall. While all are helpful there is one area that is sometimes overlooked – access to the registration database to support exhibitor pre-show marketing programs.
Recent CEIR research suggests how important access to the attendee data is by pointing out that 76% of attendees arrive at a trade show or event with an agenda, spend quality time with 26 exhibitors and half of these 26 exhibitors scheduled appointments in advance. Thus is clear, the successful exhibitor has to get on the attendee’s agenda and to do this effectively they need the help of the organizer.
CEIR also commissioned a study by Deloitte & Touche that concluded exhibitors who conducted a pre-show campaign raised the quality of the audience they were able to attract by 46% and their conversion of booth visitors to qualified leads rose 50%. Competition for the attendee’s limited time on the exhibit floor is fierce and if exhibitors just rent space show up and hope people find them they will lose out. They must employ targeted pre-show marketing programs to get on the attendees’ agendas before the show opens.
Perhaps the three (3) most effective of these are; direct mail, email and telemarketing and all require access to the show’s registration list for the mailing address, phone number or email address of the attendee. Therefore, without the organizer’s participation these programs cannot be implemented.
While some organizers still give this information freely to all their exhibitors, most do not. In an effort to protect the privacy of their attendees, avoid list abuse and prevent spamming, many organizers simply refuse exhibitors access, especially to email addresses. While this helps the attendee and protects a valuable organizer asset, it does nothing for the enthusiastic exhibitor or exhibitor retention. The smarter approach taken by many organizers that helps the exhibitor and protects the data is to offer the exhibitor access through “bonded” third parties who perform the work and control the data.- the best of both worlds.
Direct Mail – direct mail remains an effective pre-show marketing vehicle. Sending prospects and clients an invitation with a VIP registration ticket will help get the exhibitor on these attendees’ show agendas. Directing potential visitors to the show-specific page on the exhibitor’s website also works well. According to CEIR, companies that send multiple pre-show invitations see 50% more traffic in their booths than companies that don’t. However, direct mail can be very expensive for shows with several thousand attendees and exhibitors will need a way to fine tune the list to only those that meet their prospect criteria. If organizers do not want to distribute the attendees’ physical addresses, they can contract a third party vendor such as AmazingMail® (www.amazingmail.com) to control the list and work with the exhibitors.
Email – used wisely, email is an important part of an exhibitor’s pre-show promotion. Personalized emails with links to company web pages for demo sign ups or scheduling appointments can be extremely effective. Unfortunately, after years of complaints from attendees about getting SPAMMED or the attendee data being used for non-show purposes , a great many organizations no longer distribute attendee email addresses under any circumstance. However, there are third party services like eShowMail™ from Event Technologies (www.eshowmail.com) that can solve this problem by sending emails on behalf of the exhibitors without ever revealing the attendee contact information. eShowMail™ controls the database, creates and sends the emails, manages the “opt outs” and maintains the analytics. This approach provides great benefit to the exhibitor while being extremely cost effective.
Telemarketing – adding telephone calls to other marketing efforts will increase the chance of getting on high priority attendee agendas especially starting one month before the show. However, personally calling thousands or even hundreds of attendees is labor intensive, costly and will result in a lot of voice-mail messages, which might be done less expensively with an automated approach such as that provided by Boxpilot (www.boxpilot.com).
Regardless of the approach the exhibitor takes it is clear that pre-show marketing programs aimed at the registration database will assist enthusiastic exhibitors in getting on the agenda’s of the busy attendee and aid in their trade show success. When you look around the show floor take note of the booths with the most activity. Odds are good that they worked as hard if not harder getting the word out as they did on their graphics and booth staff. They will also be the ones who will have the greatest success and be the first to sign up for next year’s event.