By: Robyn Davis, Exhibitors WINH LLC
CEIR’s Head of Marketing Insights series revealed so many interesting thoughts from marketers across North America and, after last week’s post, we’ve only scratched the surface on how event organizers, like you, can apply that information to your future trade shows! This time, we’ll take a closer look at the last three parts of this series… but, before we do, if you haven’t had a chance yet, definitely check out my previous post with more tips and takeaways from the first two parts of this series.
Half of the marketers surveyed don’t exhibit at trade shows… but, most of them say they could be convinced.
The third part of this series focused exclusively on feedback from non-exhibitors. Although, in my opinion, trade shows aren’t the right fit for every company (and, again, that’s okay!), there are some very helpful lessons in this section to consider.
For example, when asked why they don’t exhibit at trade shows, 37% of marketers noted that “negative perceptions” are an issue (this includes concerns about the cost vs. value we mentioned in takeaway #2, negative past experiences, and lack of leadership support), while 19% said that there aren’t any B2B trade shows available that meet their needs.
** These objections seem relatively easy to overcome, if you’re willing to shift your marketing messages and provide the necessary resources to better support your exhibitors. Also, because nearly a fifth of non-exhibitors said there isn’t a good trade show available for them, if you’re looking to grow your show and are willing to expand your audience, you may easily find more professionals ready and waiting to participate.
Also, although this survey was completed well before COVID-19, a few of the objections shared by marketers seem to align with some of the changes our industry has been seeing more lately:
- 54% are taking advantage of other (often smaller/more intimate) face-to-face engagements
- 26% are shifting their efforts to digital
- 26% are facing financial challenges within their sector or company
Now, these reasons don’t mean that trade shows are “dying” or in any sort of trouble. Remember – more than three-quarters of non-exhibitors say they “could be convinced” to consider exhibiting in the future and, personally, I don’t think their suggestions for how they might be convinced are unreasonable (pre- or post-pandemic). These marketers say they want reduced cost, more digital elements to enhance engagement and amplify their impact, less hassle (by reducing time for move in/out and show hours), and more opportunities to engage with attendees one-on-one.
** The key here is to translate what non-exhibitors are asking for into actionable ideas for your organization. For example, reduced cost doesn’t necessarily mean a lower price point, but often it means more justification for every penny spent (teaching exhibitors how to accomplish more, how to evaluate their efforts, and highlighting the successes others, who are putting in the work, are experiencing). Plus, reducing the time for move in/out and show hours doesn’t mean you have to cut down your show, just make it easier (e.g. by providing better service or introducing more of the right resources).
Most exhibitors evaluate their results and (again) they’re generally satisfied with their results.
Shifting gears, the next part of this series focused on insights from the half of marketers that do exhibit at trade shows and, specifically, if/how they evaluate their participation in those trade shows…
The survey showed that 73% of exhibitors track one or more ROI metrics. For example, a few of the most popular “best performing” ROI metrics include cost per lead, revenue vs. exhibiting cost, cost per conversion, and cost per client meeting.
Also, 78% of exhibitors track one or more intermediary metrics. Some of the most popular “best performing” metrics for this category include number of qualified leads, quality of leads, number of leads (overall), brand awareness and image, product feedback, and sales progress.
** It’s great that most exhibitors are tracking their results and that they’ve indicated which categories are performing best for them; however, my challenge is with the 16% of exhibitors who say they don’t use any metrics to measure their performance at trade shows… Ask yourself: do you know what your exhibitors are measuring? Are you actively encouraging and helping them evaluate their efforts (so that, ideally, they can justify their continued participation)? I’d strongly suggest doing so.
Exhibitors with higher Net Promoter Scores tend to also be those who are using metrics more.
In case you aren’t familiar, Net Promoter Score (NPS) is a metric many organizations use to measure customer satisfaction and loyalty. Ultimately, it tells us how likely your exhibitors are to recommend your show to others. This can be very useful, if your goal is to retain quality exhibitors and maintain a positive reputation so you can attract more exhibitors in the future.
This series showed that 80% of exhibitors who were categorized as “promoters” (high NPS) were likely to track their performance metrics (including intermediary metrics and ROI metrics), but only 52% of “detractors” were likely to do the same. This reminded me of the Attendee ROI Playbook study CEIR released in 2018, as that one said attendees who track their activities have a more positive opinion of a trade show they’ve visited “registering an NPS of 53% compared to 31% among those who do not track activities while visiting.”
** Although we can’t tell whether this data is showing causation or simply a correlation in either case, it surely couldn’t hurt to encourage your exhibitors to evaluate their participation in your trade shows. You can even help them evaluate their efforts by reminding them of key metrics to consider (as listed above) and by compiling relevant data to share with them for “benchmarking” purposes.
77% of exhibitors are planning on at least one “enhancement” for their future trade shows.
Even though the future we’re looking forward to now is different from the future we were anticipating when this survey was taken, the changes exhibitors were planning then are still worth keeping in mind today.
There were several types of changes listed in the part of this series, but to make it easier for you to support your future exhibitors in their improvement efforts, we can categorize their plans into just a few key focus areas:
- Alignment with internal initiatives (aligning exhibiting goals with the sales process and integrating exhibiting efforts with their other marketing efforts)
- Enhancing engagement/interactivity for attendees (using product experts, actual products, digital tactics, and other staff)
- Offering “voice of the customer” activities (note: I was especially encouraged by this one because, in my experience, any time an exhibitor chooses to listen and act upon their audience’s feedback, the better their results turn out!)
** As an event organizer, you can encourage and support your exhibitors as they work to improve their performance at your trade shows. If you’re willing to try (e.g. brainstorm new sponsorship opportunities, offer education/training/resources to help them better utilize their planned enhancements, adapt your exhibit hall and communications to align with their future plans, etc.), your role in their future will be an important one and your efforts will be appreciated.
Remember – as an event organizer, your main responsibility is to create a suitable environment for all key stakeholders (exhibitors, sponsors, speakers, attendees, and others) to thrive. However, it’s in your best interest to do more… it helps everyone (including you!) when you choose support each stakeholder’s efforts towards success. Fortunately, with these takeaways, along with additional insights provided in this series, you’ll have the superpower you need (understanding what marketers think about trade shows) in order to provide that extra support to your exhibitors and enjoy the subsequent benefits too!
Through her company, Exhibitors WINH LLC, Robyn partners with event organizers to teach their exhibitors the strategies required to win at trade shows, ultimately improving exhibitor engagement, satisfaction, and retention through her award-winning exhibitor success programs. Join her in Trade Show Summer School for more takeaways from industry research and “how to” tips (it’s free!).