For many businesses, attending one or more trade shows each year is a vital part of marketing and sales. And when it comes to choosing which shows to attend, exhibitors tend to be highly selective. How do you get exhibitors to your trade show, rather than a competing event? It all comes down to proving ROI. If you can show potential exhibitors that your event has high ROI potential, they’ll be more likely to make their investment in your show.
Why Do Exhibitors Attend Trade Shows?
There are many reasons exhibitors attend trade shows, but they all boil down to the same things: marketing and sales. Depending on the business, that might mean launching a new start-up or a new product, generating new leads, or simply raising a brand’s industry profile.
What do Exhibitors Look for In a Trade Show?
Audience. For exhibitors, the most important aspect of a trade show is the audience. To make the expense of exhibiting worthwhile, they need to attend shows with an audience demographic that fits whatever they’re selling. That’s why it’s so important that your exhibitor pitch includes details about your past trade show attendees and who you expect to be at your upcoming event.
ROI. Exhibiting at a trade show represents a sizable financial investment. When you add up the price of a trade show booth, booth space, travel and accommodation, and other costs, it runs into tens of thousands of dollars, even for a small in-line booth. Big brands with large peninsula or island exhibits may spend ten times more. Exhibiting is expensive, there’s no doubt about it. If you can show an exhibitor that the ROI potential justifies the expense, they’re much more likely to consider your event.
How to Get Exhibitors for a Trade Show
1. Reach Out to Prospective Exhibitors
Whether you’re launching an entirely new trade show or holding a recurring annual event, you don’t have to sit back and wait for exhibitors to find you. Researching and contacting prospective exhibitors can—and should—be a part of your event marketing plan too.
Find Potential Exhibitors
Holding a successful trade show means bringing together the right mix of attendees, exhibitors, and sponsors. This means creating two similar, but separate, marketing campaigns: one for attendees and one for exhibitors and sponsors—and running them concurrently. Each uses similar tactics but is aimed at a different demographic. To reach exhibitors for a trade show, consider:
- Email – Any email lists you have, including website subscribers, previous years’ exhibitors, etc.
- Content marketing that focuses on exhibitor solutions – Use this to funnel potential exhibitors (and attendees) to your event website.
- Social media – Find out which platforms your target exhibitors use, and create social media content that gets their attention.
The first contact between you and potential exhibitors will often be an email or event website landing page. These two documents can be developed in the same way to provide the same essential information.
Bearing in mind the info that exhibitors need before they decide to attend a trade show, what details should you include in an email invitation or landing page?
- Expected attendance figures and demographics
- Event schedule highlights, such as key industry figures scheduled to attend and networking opportunities for exhibitors – Make this brief. The focus of this email invitation isn’t what’s happening at the show, but how exhibitors can benefit.
- Testimonials from previous exhibitors, if applicable
- Summary of exhibitor packages
- Call-to-action for more information and/or registration
- (In an email) Further details, such as a full conference schedule, venue layout, and registration information
2. Give Exhibitors the Info They Need
When an exhibitor assesses a trade show to determine if they should attend, they need information to help them make the decision. It’s your job to provide that information. What are they looking for, exactly?
Attendee numbers and demographics. More specifically, what they really want to know is: How many attendees at this event will be people with the ability and authority to make buying decisions?
ROI opportunities. It’s not enough to simply say that buyers and decision-makers will be in attendance. Exhibitors also want to know things like:
- Will they have good access to those people?
- Does the event provide ample time for both exhibiting and networking?
Cost. To determine if the ROI potential is worth it, an exhibitor needs to know what it will cost to attend the event. Don’t make it hard for them to find this information.
How does it work? The same principle applies here. Potential exhibitors need information about space availability, purchase process, and other logistical details. Make sure they can access it easily and quickly.
3. Create a Valuable Exhibitor Experience
Ultimately, what a potential exhibitor is looking for is an idea of what the exhibitor experience will be like if they attend your show. Make it easy for them to imagine and show them that it will be a beneficial experience. If you can do that, you should end up with plenty of businesses eager for floor space.
Providing demographic info is important because it assures exhibitors that their target audiences will be in attendance. But a valuable exhibitor experience is more than demographics. It’s also about creating an event environment that actively helps exhibitors meet their goals. There are lots of potential ways to do this. Some options include:
- Event schedule – If your event includes more than just a trade show, make sure your schedule supports the trade show aspect. For instance, don’t schedule high-profile speakers at the same time as the trade show floor is open.
- Networking – Provide bonus networking or educational activities for exhibitors during off hours. Considering the expense of attending a show, many exhibitors consider free time to be wasted time and appreciate being able to fill in gaps in their schedules.
- Increased exhibitor visibility – Give exhibitors opportunities to stand out. For instance, offer premium exhibitor or sponsorship packages with prominent app or website advertising, and other perks.
- Help developing leads – Utilizing digital tech such as Swapcard can make your event more exhibitor-friendly. For instance, Swapcard’s smart algorithm can use attendee and exhibitor data to match exhibitors up with the most qualified buyers.
Make Your Exhibitors Happy So They Keep Them Coming Back
Your trade show success hinges on bringing together the right mix of attendees and exhibitors in an environment that helps them find each other. Do the hard work up front and get this part right, and you’ll have a show full of satisfied exhibitors, who are happy to come back year after year.