Driving Return on Investment to Exhibitors and Sponsors

October 27, 2014

By Alexa Newman and Benjamin Rabe

Exhibitor X has been a staple in your trade show – and your show’s budget – for years. But Steve, the new marketing manager, is questioning his company’s sponsorship next year. “We’re not seeing enough return on investment,” Steve writes in his evaluation.

That’s worse-case scenario. Hopefully, you’re already addressing Steve’s concerns before it goes to an eval form.

Still, the more your team works on giving sponsors and exhibitors access to your attendees, the more success your show will enjoy. Following are some tips that will help attract and retain sponsors and exhibitors to your event.

Building Pre-Show Momentum

Early on, work with your exhibitors to start building excitement for the event. Pre-show outreach and training will allow for more meaningful and fulfilling interaction between exhibitors and attendees at the show.

·         Create a marketing toolkit and share it with your exhibitors, advertisers and sponsors. The toolkit should include logos, web banners, an email signature, PowerPoint slides and sample promotional content.

·         Invite your exhibitors’ customers to the event. Show your exhibitors how to use the toolkit to create dynamic invitations and reminders. 

·         Provide exhibitor training webinars. Webinar content can include educational topics, such as how to be successful in a booth, how to save money at the event and how to follow up with attendees after the event. The tips are tailored to the ultimate goal of creating ROI.

During the Event

Make the exhibit hall the “can’t miss” hub of your event.

A healthcare association calls it the Top 5 reasons to visit the exhibit hall. 1) Attend a 15-minute educational session.  2) Win prizes (with sponsors’ logos) for taking fun quizzes. The brain teasers change regularly for more opportunities to win. 3) Update your professional photo. A photographer takes head shots for members’ use.  4) Join a focus group. They meet for 15 minutes to discuss relevant topics. 5) Get help for your association. The area is dedicated to the association’s advocacy arm. 

Other tips include:

·         Promote, promote, promote your exhibit hall.

·         Create plenty of networking opportunities throughout the event, including off-site events and receptions away from the exhibit hall, and remind exhibitors of the value of informal networking.

·         Appeal to exhibitors as speakers by creating a dedicated vendor track or the opportunity to host theater presentations on the show floor.

·         And don’t forget to show exhibitors some love by introducing them to the board members and key audience members during the event.

Post-Show Follow-Up

Engagement doesn’t stop at the event’s conclusion. Post-show, ensure your exhibitors have the opportunity to provide feedback, such as meeting at the close of the show and providing focus groups throughout the year. Feedback is valuable as it lets organizers know where they hit the mark and, more importantly, where they can improve.

Forming an Exhibitor Advisory Council is a great way to engage exhibitors throughout the year, allowing them a voice at the table. It’s also a great way to gain buy-in on new initiatives while showcasing the value the organization brings to them both at the conference and potentially year-round.

Post-show reports are another way to highlight value. Provide key event metrics, such as statistics on sponsorships, marketing and advertising impressions. Also send pictures of sponsorships in action. Include quotes and impressions by attendees.  

Ongoing Engagement

Throughout the year, continue to develop meaningful relationships with exhibitors and facilitate conversations between exhibitors and attendees. Make an effort to connect with exhibitors without asking them for money or communicating a deadline.  Some ongoing engagement ideas include:

·         Learn about exhibitors’ and sponsors’ companies and their customers. Keep informed about company changes. 

·         Communicate changes happening within the association and any updates related to the event or attendees. 

·         Provide opportunities for exhibitors to connect with the audience throughout the year based on their goals. 

Working side by side with your exhibitor teams ensures you will deliver an experience that will be valuable for everyone.

Benjamin Rabe and Alexa Newman are senior managers in Event Services at SmithBucklin, the association management and services company more organizations turn to than any other. For information, contact us at brabe@smithbucklin.com and anewman@smithbucklin.com, or visit www.smithbucklin.com.

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