Your Points System Should Influence Current Spend Decisions
Like any storefront business, exhibitor booth selection is heavily influence by three factors: location, location, location.
Most trade-show organizers use a priority-points system to help determine the order of booth-space selection for next year’s expo and their system has been in place for quite a while. Over the past couple of years, we’ve studied dozens of priority-point models to formulate best practices for progressive expos. We’ve found that significant spend increases or decreases don’t have as big as an impact on the order of selection as they should.
If your points system is collecting dust and having little influence on exhibitors’ spend decisions, consider a loyalty program that rewards the three R’s: Recency, Reoccurrence, and Revenue, and allows for a wild card, partnership. Here’s how it works:
American Airlines couldn’t care less that I’ve been a member of its loyalty program for 30-plus years. It only cares about my loyalty and spend this year. On the other hand, many exhibitor priority points systems look back 10-plus years — and I’ve seen some go back 75 years. We recommend a three-year rolling point system that leverages recency. This simplifies tracking while allowing new disruptive companies to leap frog others.
2. Re-occurrence and Revenue
This is where the points are earned. Be sure to allow multiple ways of accruing points — points per 10’ x 10’ booth and points for sponsorship, promotion, and/or advertising spend (e.g., one point for every $5K in integrated marketing spend). Exhibitors who downsize their booth, but invest more in sponsorship, should have point accrual based on overall spend.
Consider awarding points to exhibitors who help with attendance promotion/acquisition. If you have a category for supplier or affiliate members, award points for that, too.
4. Punitive Policies
Some shows impose penalties for skipping a year, not staying in the contracted block, breaking down early, etc. Keep this stuff out of your points system and deal with it in another way. Simplicity and carrots work better than complexity and sticks. Your system should influence spend decisions. The rolling three years takes care of downsizing or skipping a year.
5. Mergers & Acquisitions
Many organizers have weird policies on this one. Most will default to whichever party has the larger points balance. We believe a better practice is to allow the points to be combined. When your points are viewed as an asset to an industry deal, that’s a beautiful thing. Your job is to try to protect spend of those mergers and acquisitions.
No matter what priority-points system you adopt, be sure to create documents that describe how it works and FAQs. Publish all on your show website or exhibitor portal. Provide a listing of each company and its current number of points. Create two versions of the list: 1) alphabetic by company with total points and 2) company listing sorted from highest to lowest points earned. Use the priority points system to set the table for an orderly and fair booth-selection process.
When is the last time you refreshed your priority points system? Do you consider any other factors in the awarding of priority points?
Adapted from Dave’s Forward Thinking column in PCMA’s Convene. Reprinted with permission of Convene, the magazine of the Professional Convention Management Association. ©2016.
Stuart Ruff-Lyon says
I began implementing a change like this in 2015. Our new priority points recognize longevity but now include a new formula to reward for things like total spend, membership, and sponsorship and support of smaller events and RIMS initiatives. The results are fantastic. Our customers are now paying to attention to our organization on a frequent basis and not just for the annual. We are evolving our traditional “four day friends” into 365 day friends. Results: more engagement, happier partners, and increased revenue.
Dave Lutz says
Stuart, thanks for sharing the adjustments RIMS has made. For some associations, it makes a ton of sense to base their loyalty/points program on the holistic, year-round spend. Glad you’re seeing positive results!
Roy Benear says
Another item to be considered and something I’ve seen recently, is extra points for exhibitors who work with the shows approved vendors.
Donna Jarvis-Miller says
We are looking at starting a priority point system for our tech show – and – this information will be very helpful to the implementation. i cringed at the idea as past systems have not been fair or only rewarded the largest companies on the floor. If anyone wishes to share their loyalty program, please contact me directly – email@example.com. Thanks for the timely post!
Karen Brown says
Great article Dave –
Q re: early tear-down. How DO you deal with this? The point penalties have been the only thing our exhibitors have responded to in the past.
For the most part, we incorporate the carrot approach – offering discounts for those who stay in the block, for instance. I just haven’t found a ‘carrot’ that works for this. We’ve found that there’s a huge disconnect between those who sign the contract and those who actually work the show. The penalty points have been big enough that the message of staying until the end gets conveyed. Offering rewards to those in the booth really have no effect if they booked their flights weeks ago.
Also – can you provide some examples of integrated marketing spend?
I’d love some new ideas.
Dave Lutz says
Karen, glad this is helpful. One of the examples we like to point to for integrated marketing spend is Natural Products Expo – https://www.expowest.com/en/exhibitor-resources/priority-points-program.html
From my experience, most exhibitors who tear down early are smaller 10 x 10’s. Usually points aren’t that big of a deal for them. If the stick approach is working to deter exhibitors from tearing down early, keep doing it.