According to the Center for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR), 73% of respondents to their June 2020 survey canceled 1+ B2B exhibition due to COVID-19. CEIR calculates an average gross revenue loss due to postponements or cancellations at 52 percent per organizer which will cause an impact on your exhibitor list.
While these tough and uncertain times are hurting associations, they are just as hard on your exhibitors. For many of them, your conference or exposition is a key part of their annual marketing strategy. They depend on your events to generate new business leads and interact with customers. They depend on your events to launch new products/services and showcase new innovations.
As a result of COVID-19, now is the time to rethink your exhibitor list and support strategies and offer new ways to give them the exposure they need to sell their products and services and remain visible to your members. Their goals – generate leads, build awareness, and connect with qualified prospects – can and should be met outside of your event. It takes a different mindset and in some cases a different policy regarding outreach to allow this to happen. But the benefits can greatly outweigh the risks.
What are those benefits of utilizing those on your exhibitor list?
- You demonstrate goodwill to the companies that have for so long supported your association. Rather than keeping them at arm’s length, you are helping them connect with members and educate them on key industry issues and problems;
- You potentially generate a significant amount of new revenue outside the exhibition to support new programming and further your mission.
- It helps exhibitors become more effective in selling to your audience, which helps them generate better ROI information to justify their investment in your association.
One additional consideration many of you are worrying about is the effectiveness of a virtual conference exhibitor offering versus your traditional face-to-face exhibition. With the uncertainty of COVID-19 and what we can expect for conferences this fall, here are seven tips you can use to support your exhibitors during these challenging times:
- Lists – your membership list is a key asset. If you don’t sell it to exhibitors, consider making an exception right now when they need access to your members the most;
- Re-targeting and monetization – online digital marketing tools offer effective ways to monetize your web site’s traffic by selling access to site visitors to your exhibitors. This provides them an opportunity to target and re-target your audience with their message;
- Podcasts or videos – allow them to develop and distribute these to your members on a coordinated schedule;
- E-newsletters – carve out some content in your current publications to let them get their messages out to your audience – or create a new one just focused on your exhibitor/supplier audience;
- Letter to your members – send a goodwill letter to your members asking them to support the industry and your important exhibitor audience in these tough times;
- Supplier directory – if you don’t offer one, create one now and distribute it to all members;
- Presentations – make sure you give suppliers podium time during your virtual events.
Going even further, one way to approach this is to structure exhibitor marketing support like a marketing agency might support you. In other words, you could sit down with an exhibitor to craft marketing objectives and strategies targeting your association covering 12 months. You would then put together a tailored 12-month outreach program that targets all or a subset of your members. You would then create a budget and timelines, and begin execution. If you can arrange a retainer type relationship you could charge to execute the marketing plan and divide the fees over 12 months. Depending on the industry you serve and the type/size of exhibitors you work with, a retainer of $5,000 to $10,000 per month would not be out of the question.
Think about 10 exhibitor marketing campaigns at $5,000 each month – that is $600,000 in new revenue to your association – not including what they invest when your annual conference is back up and running. Of course, there are costs involved, most notably staff to execute the campaigns. However, between staff, your marketing agency and/or contractor support, you could go a long way to supporting your exhibitor partners while generating new revenue to shore up your finances.
Looking at your exhibitors/suppliers in a different way while everyone struggles because of COVID-19 could be the goodwill gesture that pays major dividends for your association in the long-term.
Looking for more details on our going beyond the exhibitor list to support your industry vendors tips…
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