At many of your events you’ll find a number of new companies that are trying to make a significant impact. They have the energy, the interest, and the money to drive that effort. How can you harness their excitement (and their funds) to create an experience that is profitable, both for them and for your event overall?
- Information – Ensure these companies have all the details they need about your event when they are determining their marketing budgets. Although not every company’s fiscal year coincides with the calendar year, make sure that all the information for your next year’s event(s) is available by the current year’s Labor Day. This will help prospective exhibitors as they conduct their planning meetings for the upcoming year.
- Access – Make yourself available to prospective exhibitors for discussions about the different ways they can make an impact at your event. Your event is a multi-faceted experience, but your exhibitors may not be aware of all the options available to them or the different packages. And engaging with them directly (vs. just providing published material) may allow you to adjust or offer discounts that increase their overall spend.
- Advice – Provide guidance to exhibitors on how to position themselves within the context of your event. Gauge their aspirations: do they want to merely have a presence, be competitive, or do they want to dominate.* How they answer will determine what options – and the associated costs – you choose to offer them.
If you can start to cultivate the up and comers, it may serve to disrupt the complacency of your bellwether clients, pressuring them to make decisions by key deadlines, if not earlier. Competition from firms with more agile decision-making means that your traditional clients cannot assume the availability of event activities or resources (e.g., booth spaces, speaking slots, event sponsorship opportunities). You’ll have increased the demand for assets that have a limited supply.
You also will have an actuality of urgency about making decisions that is more than the words “Buy now before the best booth and options are sold!”
I recently managed an event with only 19 available exhibit spots. Once the newer companies started signing up, the pressure grew to the point where a handful of incumbents missed out on exhibit opportunities because the event sold out before they had signed agreements, which they spent weeks sitting on, in some cases. Everyone interested was informed throughout the process that the number of available spaces was shrinking. What a powerful sales message! No one could claim ignorance or complain; yet a handful still missed out.
The net impact was that the companies that did miss out took steps to book earlier for the next event, thus creating even greater sales momentum and doing so earlier in the cycle. This means that the events are selling earlier and faster, inspiring even greater exhibitor efforts to contract events further into the future.
This activity also has increased the near-term cashflow of the company given that deposits are required in order to reserve a spot in an event. That means exhibitors now are more attentive to sales outreach and your champions within the exhibitor companies are more motivated to overcome the internal barriers associated with getting contracts signed.
Of course, if your future sales depend on rebook activities during your events, make sure that what you do with these new companies doesn’t go against current stated policies. My opinion, however, if you want to increase revenue, you must figure out how to leverage the presence of new companies as a catalyst to shake up your “traditional” (i.e., old and tired) ways of getting exhibit revenue.
As your event gains visibility with new companies that want to make an impact, you can help those companies and your events by being prepared and ready to do business. Your CFO will thank you.
* Thanks to Ryan Dohrn on the exhibitor positioning terminology: