Boost Your Exhibitor Retention Rate

Successful trade shows have high exhibitor retention rates—here are some tips to improve yours.

A successful trade show hinges on three components—venue, attendees and exhibitors. You can divert all your attention to the first two, but if you don't retain exhibitors well, then your event will ultimately suffer.

Keeping an all-star cast of exhibitors can help the event in a number of ways, but first, it's important to understand what it means to lose one.

The impact of losing exhibitors
Companies and organizations presenting at trade shows are like the organizer's customersthey keep revenue flowing through the business and ensure annual exhibition success. Losing a booth or two every single year can cause the brand to take a negative hit, once loyal attendees stop showing up as well. These two factors can lead to poor financial support.

Trade Show News Network gathered a couple of eye-opening statistics on the importance of keeping exhibitors:

  • Retaining an exhibitor is five times less expensive than bringing on a new one.
  • Improving retention rates by just 5 percent can boost profits between 25 and 125 percent.
  • More than two-thirds of exhibitors leave due to poor servicelikely coming from the organizer.

Not only will letting any amount of exhibitors leave your event each year cause financial distress, but it will mean you have less time to organize the trade show next year as you'll need to recruit new organizations to present.

Exhibitor retention is all about proving value in the event.Exhibitor retention is all about proving value in the event.

Asses event performance
Perhaps the best way to boost retention rates is to give exhibitors a reason to stay. It seems simple, yet is often overlooked. Your job shouldn't end when the event concludes. The Meeting Magazine reported trade show organizers should track key metrics throughout the event that can then be given to decision-making exhibitors as a means to show just how successful their attendance was.

These metrics can include steady improvements in attendance year-to-year, overall fiscal investment in the show from a number of different benefactors, or even how many leads the average booth collects. Some key performance indicators are easy to find, some might be more difficult and may require an event app to keep track of conversations, meetings and exchanging information. Providing exhibitors with a proprietary lead capture application is incredibly useful in determining how successful an event was, and how much of a return on investment each exhibitor received.

The gathered statistics can then be used to create a guide detailing how exhibitors can achieve all of their goals at your event, according to TSNN. The handbook could include quotes from successful exhibitors, or flat-out instructions on how to utilize the event app to their best benefit. The idea is to make their jobs easier.

Loyalty program
Consider creating a program that reimburses exhibitors based on how many consecutive years they've attended your event. The rewards could come in a number of different ways.

One way to entice repeat customers is to simply mark down the cost of admission. So, for each year the exhibitor presents, they receive a small discount on the initial buy-in cost to be there. Another way to provide value is by allocating certain valuable sponsorship opportunities to the longest tenured exhibitors. There are so many different ways to institute a loyalty program that the only hard part should be turning away new exhibitors looking to get in on the action.

"Keeping attendance numbers high entices exhibitors to stay."

Boost attendance
Sometimes the exhibitor retention issue simply comes down to the fact there aren't enough attendees to go around. There are a couple of different methods that can be implemented to avoid this dilemma.

The first solution is fairly obviousimprove attendance rates. This means more marketing on your end, which is always easier said than done. Work with your current exhibitors to obtain videos and photos for use on social media to create awareness about the event.

TSNN reported that one way to better route traffic is to utilize email as a means of sending out exhibitors' marketing material before the doors open. While it isn't legal for these organizations to have the attendance list, your staff can still figure out which attendees are most interested in certain products, and cater the email list to that crowd.

Ultimately, the goal should be to prove to current exhibitors that presenting at the trade show provides more than just monetary gain. Aim to help them generate brand exposure and improve their reputations—two intangibles not found through any mere marketing campaign. Also, don't be afraid to help them have fun. While trade shows are a big expense and should be taken seriously, all work and no play makes for a less enticing experience.

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