Three key ways to keep your event's exhibitors engaged

Research from Gartner Group tells us that 80 percent of your future profits will come from just 20 percent of your existing customers. A trade show organizer understands, this and their biggest fear is the loss of long-time exhibitors.

In a paper titled “An examination of the factors effecting tradeshow exhibitors’ decisions.” JuHee Kang and Thomas R. Schrier of Iowa State University looked at the effect “social value” had on whether or not exhibitors would increase their willingness to pay and return intentions. They defined “social value” as networking opportunities and image development.

What they found was that the more times an exhibitor attended the same show, the less they are satisfied with it. Kang and Schrier attributed this to the fact that the feeling of excitement and anticipation diminishes as time goes on, and the exhibitor knows what to expect. That exhibitors are no longer as interested in the show as they were the first time they attended.

So how do you battle an exhibitors perceptions on business value and diminishing excitement and anticipation? You can add new experiences, provide tools that help exhibitors connect with buyers, and replace distorted memories and feelings with historical data.

Adding New Experiences

No matter how much your attendees raved about you keynote speaker, an event organizer would never bring that same speaker back year after year. What was magical one year would become routine.

The same is true for all aspects of your event. Instead of repeating what’s working exactly the same way, you must break it down into each success's individual components. What is it about your education that attendees love? What is it about your networking events that pack the room. Don’t repeat the experience in the same way. Build on that experience at your next event. Improve what’s working and eliminate or tweak what is not.

 Tools to Connect Exhibitors with Buyers

You can’t just pack a bunch of buyers into an exhibit hall and consider your job done. There are so many great tools available today that help trade show organizers match buyers with exhibitors who provide the products and services in which your attendees are most interested. Exhibitors will have a much better perception of a trade show that drives the right kind of attendees to their booths, and they’ll have the data to back up those perceptions. But it’s not just your exhibitors who will be happy. Your attendees will appreciate the connections as well because they will be able to accomplish more in a limited amount of time.

Provide Historical Data

While there is no way to stop an exhibitor from factoring in their perceived value of your trade show when determining if they will come back again year after year. You can provide historical data to balance their perceived value. Historical data is also important as an exhibitor’s marketing decision makers change over time. Instead of basing their decision to participate in your event on a feeling or memory, they can look at the hard numbers showing their company’s performance year after year. If, over the span of five years, they can see that only one event had a lower ROI they will be more likely to consider the bigger picture as opposed to focusing on one event.

Instead of hoping that an exhibitor will incorporate their own tools and methods to track their performance at your show year after year, you should provide the tools for them. This gives you a huge leg up on your competition when it comes time to evaluate shows to which the exhibitor is dedicating their marketing dollars. Exhibitors will be more inclined to invest in a show they can track year after year, as opposed to a show about which they simply have a feeling.

Photo Credit: By ampheta via morguefile