“I’m a sponsor or an exhibitor, and I feel like an outcast. Sponsors and exhibitors understand the value they bring to conferences but, increasingly they don’t see the value coming back to them. These industry partners want to feel like real partners, however, many times they feel like a wallet.”
I saw this last month in a blog by Amanda Kaiser of Smooth the Path (http://bit.ly/2jntnds). Amanda focuses on helping associations increase recruitment, engagement, and retention through “Qualitative Member Research”. In her blog she summarized the responses across more than three hundred interviews, of mostly very engaged members, that pointed to a handful of typical weak spots in association conferences.
Amanda went on to suggest ways to mitigate this problem of exhibitors feeling unappreciated by identifying “ways for sponsors and exhibitors to work with event organizers to increase value to participants beyond the standard sponsor offerings and exhibitor booth.”
I totally agree with this point – adding value to the exhibitor experience beyond the standard sponsor offerings is required across the entire spectrum of the events industry to keep the exhibitors from “feeling like a wallet”. One area of particular interest to our business is assisting exhibitors in their efforts to effectively communicate with the registered attendees to increase booth traffic. A second idea we are pursuing in conjunction with the organizer is assisting exhibitors in their lead follow-up efforts.
Increasing Booth Traffic
Exhibitors who hope qualified buyers will randomly walk into their booth ultimately wind up disappointed. The truth is that by the time attendees get to the show, most of them have a list of exhibitors they are going to visit during the expo. As an exhibitor, you need to get on that list before the show starts or else you are leaving the success or failure of your lead collection to random chance.
The most effective way to communicate with registered attendees before the show is to send them an email. Handing exhibitors the email addresses of the registered attendees is no longer possible given the spam laws and concerns for privacy on the part of attendees and exhibitors alike. Services like eShowMail and others effectively solve the security problems associated with exhibitor to attendee email communication and deliver value to marketing savvy exhibitors by boosting their ROI.
When we talk to exhibitors that have used our eShowMail service to send emails to attendees, they almost unanimously say that the email they sent before the event made a noticeable difference in the traffic they saw in their booth.
Exhibitor Lead Follow-up
During the entire twenty year period that I have been in the trade show industry, leading publications and observers have discussed the reasons tradeshow leads result in such a low percentage being follow-up by sales. Most accounts put that figure as high as 80% of tradeshow leads are not followed-up.
Even with the advances in booth lead capture technology, which can help booth reps qualify leads on mobile devices, the lack of time often short changes the booth qualification process. The leads collected on the floor consistently suffer from inadequate qualification information and as such are really no more than a list of cold call opportunities. For most companies, their territory reps don’t have the time to call each lead 5 or 6 times, which is often how many attempts it takes to actually get a lead on the phone. As a result, many sales are lost because there is not a system in place to make sure each “hot” lead is contacted after the event.
One solution to this problem is to introduce an additional step in between the trade show booth and the territory rep following up on the lead. That step involves analyzing and prioritizing the booth leads, sending out a post show thank you email, and making the initial attendee phone contact to verify qualification. A 3rd party calling team that can make the 5+ calls necessary to get a lead on the phone can be used to schedule a phone meeting on behalf of the exhibitor’s sales rep, place the lead into the nurturing queue or discard the lead as not a prospect. Obviously current customers or prospects already in the sales “funnel” are excluded from the process.
Creating more sales for your exhibitors is a sure way to guarantee that they will return to your show next year. Helping exhibitors to increase their booth traffic and offering them a solution to help with their post show lead follow-up are two concrete solutions that will improve exhibitor results. That said, the organizer must recognize that regardless of the benefit only a small percentage of the exhibitors will actively participate in each program you offer. Therefore, it is important to offer multiple ideas with different perspectives to appeal to the broadest audience possible.