It has been estimated that major exhibitors’ investments total up to $10 per second, with all costs included. As a leader in show management, your most fundamental responsibility to your exhibitors is to provide value in booth space and other components of exhibiting, creating a positive experience for all exhibitors.
Creating that positive experience does not happen through random schemes or hit-or-miss contact; it takes thorough planning. Before you pick up a phone or even touch a keyboard, carefully scrutinize your exhibitors’ needs. Review exactly what you are selling them. Your package might be more valuable than you think:
• Access to a highly targeted market
• Marketing opportunities to their target demographics
• Your expertise within this specialized marketing arena
• A forum for direct customer feedback
• Insight into what their competitors are doing
Don’t assume all exhibitors are at your show for the same purpose. They all have their agendas and reasons for attending. It is up to you to identify and optimize those agendas. And while selling the above concepts to your exhibitors is essential, most companies’ bottom line is the bottom line. The only way that many companies will relate to the opportunities that are open to them is if they see how it will advance their profit-making goals.
Put Out the Red Carpet
It’s your responsibility to bring in qualified buyers. You must get the most extensive group of influential, targeted, willing-to-spend decision-makers through the show entrance door. Willing to spend is a critical factor over which you have little or no control. However, creating a positive environment for visitors is where you can shine. The more time buyers spend on the show floor, the more likely they will spend money with your exhibitors.
This positive environment is composed of many small details. Putting down carpet, for example, creates a more comfortable environment. As a result, they may stay on the show floor for two or three hours, making them more likely to spend more.
The overall environment of the show also has an impact on long-term memory. Suppose your trade show floor is fun, stimulating, educational, progressive, or high-tech. In that case, visitors will stay excited about the show and keep coming back if you constantly work to improve the floor environment. The last thing you want is visitors leaving the show feeling that their time could have been better spent elsewhere.
The highest turnover of trade show exhibitors is first-time exhibitors. Statistics indicate that approximately 30 percent of first-time exhibitors will not return in the second year. You spend a great deal of time and money convincing exhibitors to attend your event — make sure the investment continues to be worthwhile for all parties.
Begin by helping companies understand the power of trade shows and their unique selling environment. First-timers, in particular, need a certain amount of “hand-holding” to appreciate the opportunities open to them fully.
You could offer a pre-show seminar on booth requirements, successful booth design, and booth-staffing techniques. Improve the usability of your show manual or the communication of important information — maybe with a hotline or website dedicated to suppliers. The key is to provide vital and easy communication links to new exhibitors so that they feel informed, aware and prepared.
Walk through your exhibitors’ needs from start to finish: hotel reservations, transportation, and so on. If the environment poses specific challenges, such as a lack of parking, take on the responsibility to ease the problems. If that means supplying shuttle buses, then do it. Look for ways to turn challenges into sponsorship or advertising opportunities for industry partners, covering your costs simultaneously.
When the show opens, make it a point to visit with every exhibitor. It makes them feel important and gives them an excellent chance to ask for feedback. However, remember that you must act on comments promptly once you receive them. Responding promptly will show your exhibitors you care about their success and comfort at your show. The more you are seen as helping your exhibitors be successful, the more they will support you.