Last autumn saw the release of some telling research results. The research had been carried out among exhibitors globally on behalf of UFI the Global Association of the Exhibition Industry.
What it highlighted for show organisers, trade associations and other bodies that organise exhibitions was worrying. Exhibitors are growing disillusioned with trade shows.
Exhibitor advocacy is falling
Comprehensive analysis of survey data gathered from visitors and exhibitors was undertaken on behalf of UFI by event research specialist Explori.
In total, 1040 trade shows from more than 40 countries conducted post-show research using Explori’s research platform.
Findings were further enhanced via in-depth interviews conducted with 57 trade show directors (organisers) from 17 different countries.
The report delivered key findings related to exhibitor behaviour based on:
- Levels of exhibitor loyalty to events and advocacy of the industry
- Exhibitor needs
- The extent to which those needs are being met by the industry
- Exhibitor advocacy is low across the globe: Only 25% of shows have a positive Net Promoter Score (NPS)*
- Globally, exhibitors rate the exhibitions they attend with a negative average NPS of -17
- More than one-third of global exhibitors declare low levels of satisfaction with exhibitions but show a high level of loyalty towards individual shows. This group of exhibitors is understood to be open to defecting to competing channels
- Shows with high exhibitor NPS are more likely to experience growth: 71% of shows with positive NPS are experiencing growth in exhibitor numbers whereas only 32% of shows with negative exhibitor NPS do
- In addition, more than twice as many high NPS shows are experiencing notable revenue growth when compared to low NPS shows.
- Exhibitions that offered exhibitor training to all, or most, saw a 23 point boost in NPS vs shows that did not provide this service. This suggests that educational offers for exhibitors are a promising reaction to poor NPS scores
- And a proper newness strategy also boosts exhibitor satisfaction: Shows that actively promote newness have notably higher exhibitor satisfaction score than shows that do not: 3.71 vs 3.35 (out of 5).
- For more details on the research visit Explori here
*A Net Promoter Score (NPS) is a management tool that can be used to gauge the loyalty of a firm’s customer relationships. It serves as an alternative to traditional customer satisfaction research.
Trade shows should be engines of sales growth for small and medium-sized businesses
Explori’s research findings are both sad and worrying.
The big opportunity that trade show participation has always offered, the potential to significantly grow sales, is being lost. And why is that? Because so many exhibitors don’t know how to exhibit successfully.
This fact is borne out by the NPS scores of exhibitors who received some form of event training.
Most people who handle trade show participation for their companies are not full-time events people* which is why they need help
In today’s digital workplace, organising stands at trade shows is outside the scope of most marketing-related jobs. This lack of familiarity combined with a lack of preparation can lead some participants to question the value of their spend.
Exhibitors who feel this way are post-event likely to become unsure as to whether or not participation has been effective. This feeling of unease leads in turn to the low advocacy rates highlighted in Explori’s research.
*The positions they hold can vary greatly depending on the size of business. Managing Directors, Sales and Marketing Directors, Marketing Managers and Marketing Executives. These are all common job titles among the clients of exhibition organisers.
The poisoned chalice assignment
Being nominated as the stand organiser is often seen as a poisoned chalice assignment for many marketing managers. I explain why this is in the video below.
How to ensure that you stay outside the “event-disillusioned”
Be clear on what you want to achieve when you exhibit
Setting clear and measurable objectives for show participation and measuring your results against those goals is the building block of event success.
It’s a subject that I cover in detail in our white paper “15 Steps To Effective Trade Show Participation.” You can grab a copy here.
Get some training
One thing the research highlighted clearly is that exhibitors who receive training enjoy far better results than those that don’t. The good news is that there are many suppliers of training that you can work with including, of course, Exhibitors Only.
Decide on the type of training that is most needed. Do you need help with your own stand and event organisation skills? Perhaps it’s your stand team and their face to face skills that need addressing? Either way, seek the help you need to improve your event performance and your post show sales results.
Work with professionals
You can hire skilled stand personnel to work on your stand when you exhibit. If your stand design needs updating or upgrading, there are loads of specialists that can help you with this task.
Do you want to build exports? Participate in the conference programme? Build attractions into your stand? There are specialists for all of these skills that you can work with. If you want help in finding someone drop me a line to firstname.lastname@example.org
Be very enthusiastic about the opportunity
Mindset is a huge factor in the success of any endeavour. When it comes to exhibiting you have every reason to be enthusiastic about the positive benefits of participation.
Many exhibitors will cite lead generation as being their key reason for exhibiting. That’s good but for me, the big reason is to build sales. Yes, leads are important. That’s because without them you can’t have a sale. They are the start of the sales process. And sales are the real point for exhibiting.
Trade shows can have a massive impact on the sales of a business. Especially for small businesses. Their order books can be transformed and the transition can occur very quickly.
But it won’t happen if you don’t prepare well. If you throw things together at the last minute. If you let your very busy day job always get in the way of some serious thinking about the opportunities that a show presents to your business.
Real live people from real businesses will be walking through the doors. Those visitors are not there out of mere curiosity. Their day jobs are far too busy to allow them to do that.
Don’t let your business be counted among the disillusioned. There is no reason why it should. Get trained. Get ready. Make sales not excuses.