Building Meaningful Exhibitor Relationships

For many event organizers and marketers, it’s easy to get caught up on the tiniest of details when organizing an event. We think of the venue, the event theme, the speakers, choosing an audience, sending out invitations, and ticket sales various onerous tasks. 

All this makes it easy to miss the forest for the trees. Times like these, it is important that you go back to the fundamental question of events organizing: What’s the point of having an event in the first place? 

Obviously, it’s to generate leads, sales, and brand awareness. But have you ever stopped to think what your exhibitors’ goals are? 

This is precisely why you need to have a post-event strategy that follows up on, and builds relationships with your exhibitors. As an organizer, don’t underestimate your role when it comes helping exhibitors get the most bang out of their buck when joining your events. After all, you and your exhibitors have a symbiotic relationship—if they turn a profit during your show or capture leads, the stronger your event brand becomes. In other words, your organizers need to walk away from your events having engaged their prospects and hit revenue goals.

Moreover, your exhibitors can be a goldmine for feedback, helping you gather insights on what things could have been improved about your event. In turn, this information can be used to organize better events in the future.

In this guide, we go over some methods to reach out to your exhibitors and maximize your event ROI. 

1.    Act Quickly

Planning your post-event strategy needs to happen before the event takes place, not after. Begin planning early so you have time to build your message, gather information and resources, and make as many adjustments as possible to your follow-up strategy. 

Ideally, you should follow-up with exhibitors at least 4 to 7 days after the event date. This way the event experience should still be fresh in their minds. 

2.    Focus on Event Value Instead of Cost

If you are having problems retaining exhibitors, you are probably thinking that cost is what’s keeping them away. And this wouldn’t be a completely wrong assessment—cost is one of the primary issues that keep exhibitors from joining events.

Cost isn’t the real factor that prevents exhibitors from wanting to invest in your event.

But cost isn’t the real factor that prevents exhibitors from wanting to invest in your event. Remember, exhibits are investments that have the potential for significant returns.  So the next time you organize a trade show and reach out to exhibitors, focus on providing value, not cost.  If spending on your events leads to prospects and sales that exceed the cost to attend, your exhibitors will be happy to part with their money.

3.    Form Partnerships with Your Exhibitors

Many event organizers and marketers make the mistake of only caring about their side of the event, failing to consider how their exhibitors are doing. 

Sure, many organizers will see to it that their events get as many people inside the venue as possible to help exhibitors to generate leads and sales. But why not take things a notch higher? 

You can nurture meaningful relationships with exhibitors by actually helping them instead of just leaving them to their own devices. For starters, you can share important metrics and data about your event before and after the event. Better yet, you may want to gather performance metrics for each one of your exhibitors for them to use as a reference.

Doing so does two things:

• First, event metrics and data help define the scope and value of your show’s target audience
• Second, performance metrics for an exhibitor’s exhibit will help them figure out their strengths and weaknesses for future reference

Sharing this kind of information allows your exhibitors to set realistic ROIL goals and make informed decisions about their participation in similar events in the future. 

4.    Provide Lists for Exhibitors to Use

Besides metrics, you can help exhibitors by providing them with lists of the attendees they interacted with at your event, which will make it easier to follow up on hot leads. Be sure you offer the lists in a wide variety of formats, whether it’s CSV, image, or PDF. 

Of course, doing so will require having a system that actually tracks attendees. And let’s face it, business cards are not exactly cutting edge, so consider providing technology that lets you scan attendee badges as they visit exhibits. 

5.    Stay Active on Social Media 

Sure, it’s important to be active and make noise on social media on the days leading up to your event. But it’s just as important to be visible and active afterwards. Be sure that your exhibitors know that you’re willing to listen to them on social media. Encourage them to share their experience through photos, video, and even reviews.

Better yet, you can incentivize sharing by holding a contest for exhibitors to share their most notable experiences during their event. Likewise, you can reach out to attendees to share which exhibits were most memorable in exchange for sponsored prizes.

6.    Ask Exhibitors About What They Like and Didn’t Like

And finally, when it’s all said and done, don’t be afraid to just ask what your exhibitors think. 

• What did they like about your event? Ask them to enumerate your event’s strengths in specific terms.
• What did they not like? Ask what they think could have been improved about their event experience.

Remember, you have a symbiotic relationship with exhibitors. Listening to them allows you to improve your next event, which in turn lets you create more value for them.

As for how to obtain exhibitor feedback, your options include email, social media polls, or better yet, your event app, which can be customized to have a review feature.

In Summary

As an event organizer or marketer, your goal is to nurture happy organizers during and after your trade shows and other events. The happier your exhibitors are, the easier it will be to retain them. If you treat them with great customer service, and events should become a top choice for them in the future.

Written by Tabitha Naylor