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Pre-show marketing: The art of visitor attraction

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Posted by , 7th February 2017

Pre-show marketing is powerful tool in attracting stand visitors

        Lots of visitors made it to the show, but for exhibitors, it could have been even busier and better

Anyone who has ever organised a party will tell you that their biggest fear is guests not turning up.

Guess what, trade show organisers share this same fear. In fact, it’s their biggest fear because lack of attendance to their event can be catastrophic to their business.

Trade show organisers and party planners

When I’m asked “what does a trade show organiser do?”  the fastest way to explain things, is to use the party analogy.

  • For a party the host goes to a lot of trouble and expense. They do this to create what they hope will be a great event for all the guests they have invited
  • They have to organise a venue. This may be their home or somewhere built for the purpose. There’s catering to arrange, music to be planned, sometimes, a decision on a theme, perhaps one that involves fancy dress
  • Invitations need to be sent. Accommodation arranged for guests who need to sleep over….a host of details large and small. And all of this work, effort and expense will be for nothing if only a few of the people expected to attend actually come on the big day or evening

That’s what being a trade show organiser is like (not so much of the fancy dress). However, you are often going through this process more regularly and usually on a much bigger scale and, with much larger sums of money involved and hundreds of exhibitors relying on you to do a great job in attracting lots of people. No stress involved at all then!

Trade show party-poopers

What has all of this got to do with you and with the business of exhibiting? Quite a lot as it turns out.

You might be surprised to learn that for most trade shows only half of the people who register in advance to attend, actually turn-up.  Only half, perhaps a little more of the people who go to the trouble of completing an online registration form, will actually make it to the show.

Think about that…. most trade exhibitions would be well on the way to doubling their attendances if the majority of those “no-shows” followed through on their initial registration.

This is a problem but it’s also an opportunity (and a challenge) for organisers and exhibitors. This 50/50 statistic, pre-registrations vs. actual attendance, is in part caused by the time pressures that many of us feel and live with daily.

It’s why email open rates are so much lower than they used to be. Why it’s so hard to get appointments with buyers – everyone’s time is in great demand.

In the not too distant past, conversion rates of people who registered and attended trade shows were much more likely to be around 80%. On leading shows they could be even higher. There are a few events that still get close to those heights but 50-60% is much more the norm.

Pre-show marketing is an opportunity for exhibitors

Some readers will already know that I put great store on exhibitors taking a partnership approach in their relationships with the people that organise their trade shows. Doing so is one of the best and easiest ways to extract extra value from your event spend.

With that in mind, you must realise that those non-showing visitors are not just hurting the organiser, they are potentially hurting your business and your ability as an exhibitor, to make new sales too.

Plainly stated, trade show visitors don’t attend to meet the organiser. Exhibitors are the show. You are the reason that buyers and specifiers attend. So now, let’s get more people to the party and that means getting busy with some pre-show marketing.

Why do people (buyers) go to trade shows?

The single biggest reason cited by visitors for attending exhibitions is to see what’s new. By this, they mean what’s new to them and that dear reader, is an important distinction to note.

They really mean products and suppliers that they have not come across before. It doesn’t mean brand new launch products. It means things that are new to their businesses.

There will always be visitors attending a show because they have a problem that needs a solution, but and by far the biggest reason quoted for attendance is, to see what’s new.  “New” is what helps show visitors to keep innovating within their businesses and to stay ahead of their competition.

Here is another way to increase visitor engagement on your stand

Using this knowledge when you market to visitors pre and post-show

Knowing what motivates people to visit trade shows, i.e. “new,” think about the new things in your business that will resonate.

  • Product modifications, tweaks, new case studies, new applications that have been launched. Price reductions or savings. They all count as “new”
  • Communicate “new.” Agree on the words that will describe your take on “new” both internally and with any external agencies that you work with
  • Think of all the channels you can use to communicate this message to visitors before the show and during
  • Use your website; email marketing; press advertising; news releases; social media
  • Promote “new” via the organiser’s marketing team
  • Include it on your stand graphics or screen displays. Within entries in new product showcase features, innovation trails around the show; the show guide
  • For more ideas on this read our free white paper, 15 Steps To Effective Trade Show Participation (you can download it here) 
Always provide visitors with good reasons to visit your stand at the show
  • “We can show you how this new widget works faster than others in the marketplace and costs 8%-10% less than others currently being offered to you.” “ We can show you how you will save 20% from your current energy spend in the next three years via our new energy management service” “This will revolutionise your production process, saving XX hours from your current process.”
  • Keep in mind that you are not hoping to meet everyone that attends a show, rather, you are hoping to meet people from businesses most suitable for what you have to offer
  • Therefore make your messaging as relevant as you can to those visitors and show them why taking time out of the office to be at the show (and on your stand), is the best possible use of their time

Any percentage increase on pre-registration conversion i.e. converting more of the people who indicate that they will attend to actual attendees is potentially good news for your company.

It means there will be more of the right people attending the show and if you have been able to raise the profile of your company in the minds of visitors before they arrive; if you are using your stand and perhaps some sponsorship investment to promote your brand and messaging clearly; the chances are that more of the visitors that you would most like to meet and do business with, will be at the event to meet you.

Well attended parties have more buzz and are much more fun to be at. Help make your show the one that you and the people that attend it, remember for all the right reasons.

David O’Beirne 

Want to exhibit like a pro? Download this FREE white paper

Posted in Stand Management  /  Trade show advice  /  Trade show marketing  /  Trade show sales

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