Would You Like Fries With That Booth?

Attendees are changing the way they plan and consume trade shows. If you’re still using static PDF floor plans and exhibitor listings, you’re missing out on the opportunity to upsell — and to connect buyers and sellers.

According to research conducted by CEIR (Center for Exhibition Industry Research), nearly 75 percent of young professionals (40 years old and under) create a must-see list of exhibitors before coming to a trade show. That staggering percentage has opportunity  — and win/win/win — written all over it:

Attendees want to browse before they shop and plan their time wisely.

Exhibitors want visibility — page views, clicks, and personal visits from interested buyers.

Organizers benefit by connecting buyer and seller, extending the life of their show, and monetizing the opportunity.

Are you capitalizing on this? If your exhibit hall has more than 50 exhibiting companies, you’d be wise to research online floor-plan technologies that include rich exhibitor profiles. The payback and added value make it one of the easier event-technology investments to justify.

Here’s a cheat sheet for researching and implementing a self-funding plan.

  1. Schedule product demos with a short list of vendors. Currently, the ones I like are EXPOCAD, a2z Inc., Map Your Show, and Core-apps. Be sure to get advice on how to build and price online booth packages. Ask the vendor to demo how exhibitors upload content and familiarize yourself with the attendee experience. Without attendee searches, page views, and use of the planning tools, the technology will fail to live up to its promise.
  2. Create add-on packages. Give every exhibitor a free basic listing. These usually include a brief company description (50 words), contact info, URL, and a single product category. Offer two upgrade packages that include more product categories, a longer company description, company logo, product listings, press releases, show specials, and videos. Incorporate other exposure opportunities like print, e-mail sponsorship, and banner ads.
  3. Consider pricing. Upgraded listings are priced from $99 to $1,500 each. Average pricing is around $400–$500, and a premium listing can run $750–$995. Check out what other shows in your industry are yielding; it’s more about what your market will bear. If you have a healthy show and stick to your plan, you should see adoption rates of about 40 percent by the second year.
  4. Create examples. Spend extra resources when you’re launching the program to make it stick. Help a few exhibitors to build rich profiles and point others to those best-practice samples. Offer to help all exhibitors create their profile the first year.
  5. Ask for the sale. Add these packages to your order form. If you are pre-selling next year’s event at this year’s show, ask for the buy. I’ve seen analytics that prove that the longer these profiles are up on your website, the greater the exhibitors’ traffic (both online and onsite).
  6. Promote the heck out of it. Initially use this rich data to help attendees make the decision to attend. In the final 30 days before the show, encourage attendees to make a booth-visit plan.
  7. Provide analytics. The number of times each exhibitor appears in search results, the categories or search terms used to get there, and how many times each exhibitor was added to a personal expo plan are all data that can be used for retention and upselling.

One Final Piece
Attendees want search tools that are similar to what they use as a consumer — including “mobility.” Around 20 percent of the page views are going to be on mobile devices — and that percentage is only going to increase. Your exhibitor profiles and attendee tools must be accessible from any device and the analytics from smartphones must roll up.

Adapted from Dave’s People & Processes column in PCMA’s April edition of Convene. Reprinted with permission of Convene, the magazine of the Professional Convention Management Association. © 2011.

What are some other ways of upselling exhibitors and sponsors that have worked for you? How are you communicating the value and ROI of those offerings?

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1 comment
  1. Jen Gargotto says:

    You absolutely hit the nail on the head! Our software, ZeristaPRO, allows people to plan who they want to meet, what they want to attend, and where they need to go way before the event itself. From virtual exhibitor booths to interactive floor plans to the “matchmaking feature” event software will make an event far more lucrative and valuable for everyone involved.

    Great article – thanks for bringing these issues into the limelight!

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