9 Easy (but Powerful) ways to boost your exhibitor retention

When you make life easier for your exhibitors, you keep them coming back for more. In this article, we’ll show you nine things you can do right now – before, during and after your event – to ensure your exhibitors return year after year.
9 Easy (but Powerful) ways to boost your exhibitor retention

In a volatile economy, businesses want the most from their suppliers – and your exhibitions are no exception. As an event organiser, you must do everything possible to deliver the best returns for your exhibitors. Otherwise, they’ll choose a competitor next year. But it’s not simply all about the bottom line. Your exhibitors also place a high value on the service you provide. In a straight shoot-out, they’ll always choose a tradeshow that’s pleasant and straightforward to exhibit at.

We all know the famous stats:

  • It’s seven times cheaper to retain a customer than win a new one
  • Boosting customer retention by 5% increases profits by 25-95%
  • Loyal customers spend 67% more than new business

But how often do you apply this thinking to your exhibitors? In this article, we’ll show you nine things you can do right now – before, during and after your event – to ensure your exhibitors return year after year. Let’s get started.

1. Solve your exhibitors’ problems

When event organisers survey their customers about what they like and don’t like about their experience exhibiting with them, there are often several common pain points (you’d think they’d do something about them!). These include:

  • Stress – It takes too long and it’s too stressful to manage all of the pre-event requirements, build and break down.
  • Cost – Exhibiting is too expensive with too many confusing extra charges
  • Time –  Exhibiting at a show is too time-consuming
  • Confusion - Too much information before an event with not enough support to deal with it all
  • Forms – Forms are often daunting and difficult to complete, so exhibitors tend ignore them

If you can iron out these issues, your exhibitors will thank you at renewal time. For example, you could make your exhibitor manual more user-friendly, showing your exhibitors only the information that is relevant to them. Make exhibiting with you a pleasure rather than a chore.

2. Tell them (only) everything they need to know

Show how much you value your exhibitors by better managing the flow of information between you before an event. Rather than dumping reams of paperwork on them and leaving them to get on with, take time to educate your customers and help them get the most from their investment with you.

Here are five ideas you can try:

  • Ditch your PDF exhibitor manual and switch to a tried and tested online exhibitor manual solution that makes your content simpler to locate and read and their tasks far simpler to execute.
  • Break down essential event information into bite-sized chunks separated by clear, easy-to-read headings
  • Create an FAQs section in your online exhibitor manual. If you get a lot of enquiries from your customers asking similar questions, put the answer in your FAQs. This will save you some time too
  • Be clear about your cost breakdown in your exhibitor manual so there are no nasty hidden surprises for your exhibitors
  • Make sure your exhibitor manual is searchable. Your customers don’t always know what to look for, but a search engine will help them find what they need when they need it. Another reason why you need to ditch the PDF!

3. Communicate better

Between booking their space and the start of the show, communicate regularly with your exhibitors to ensure everything is under control and iron out any minor issues before they become big ones.

With a modern exhibitor manual solution like Eventflow, you can automate messages to chase up your exhibitors when they need to complete a task. Using your exhibitor manual as  a ‘bad cop’ frees your team from those uncomfortable conversations. Instead, they can talk with exhibitors about improving their event experience and boosting their ROI.

4. Simplify your processes

Perhaps the most time-consuming and cumbersome part of the pre-event process for your exhibitors is filling in all your forms. If you require your exhibitors to print, scan and email Word, PDF or Excel documents, trust me, you are putting up barriers that will stop your customers from filling them out. You will need to continually chase them and your relationship will suffer. 

The thing is, eliminating this issue is such a quick win. Create digital forms in your online event manual. It will save your customers (and you) considerable time and set you apart from your competitors.

5. Get them participating

If you stage activities and promotions during your event, ensure your exhibitors know about them. Do everything you can to get them to participate if it’s relevant or beneficial to their business. Even if it’s something like a free exhibitor drinks event, make sure they know it’s happening and feel welcome to attend.

You’d be amazed how many exhibitors miss out on these opportunities to improve their customer experience and boost their ROI simply because they didn’t know they were happening. We have first-hand experience of this exhibiting at shows ourselves.

In a straight shoot-out, your exhibitors will always choose a tradeshow that’s pleasant and straightforward to exhibit at.

6. Help them make connections

Exhibitions and tradeshows are all about making connections. It’s how your exhibitors turn their attendance at your event into tangible business.

Give your exhibitors every opportunity to connect with their target audience and each other. An event app is a great way to facilitate these conversations, but make sure you test different systems first. You will be amazed at how many poor event apps are out there.

7. Solidify relationships with your customers

As mentioned earlier, retaining customers is easier than winning new ones, and loyal customers spend more. Take time to nurture relationships with your exhibitors. People buy from people, and come renewal time, the time you spent building rapport with even your smallest exhibitors could yield value. 

Someone who is a small exhibitor today could be your headline sponsor in five years if you treat them well now.

8. Learn from your mistakes

Before, during and after your event, take time to document what did and didn’t work. Ask for feedback, take note of it and act on it. Don’t just rely on your post-event email questionnaire!

For example, if many exhibitors struggled with a particular form or finding a supplier, find out why, document it and improve it for the following year. If a lot of your customers ask the same question, include it in the FAQ section of your exhibitor manual. You could even add a video explanation.

The hours you spend now could save you days later on.

9. Reward repeat exhibitors

Incentivise exhibitors to rebook with you by offering discounts on services or preferential fees. For example, create a structured rewards programme to encourage your customers to come back year after year.

Which of these nine ways to boost exhibitor retention are you doing at the moment? Which ones do you need to start doing today? When you put customer experience at the heart of what you do, the rewards are sure to follow.

Eventflow is a fully-branded exhibitor manual solution that automates time-consuming event management tasks, so you and your exhibitors can focus on what you do best. Features include:

  • Searchable information depository
  • Simple digital forms your exhibitors will love
  • Automated pre-deadline email chasers 

And much, much more.

Book a demo that's customised with your branding to see how Eventflow can help boost your exhibitor retention for 2024.

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