Every event manager wants to make more money from their events. There are two ways to get there on the exhibit side: attracting more exhibitors or raising the prices that you charge them. Since it is easier to make money by raising exhibit fees than finding new customers, increasing prices is often the more attractive option. But how do you determine whether you can take that step and how you can do so with minimal resistance?
Raising exhibitor fees is an art, not a science. To be successful in the endeavor, you must know your customers, know your product and the perceived value to those customers, and you must understand the market in which you operate. Raising exhibitor prices, without understanding all those areas, could spell disaster.
What conditions are required to be successful at raising prices?
- Things have previously sold well, giving you sales momentum creating inventory scarcity and demand.
- You know your exhibitors have previously received value for their investment in your event. Note this will be hard to know if you contact them only when you are trying to sell them something.
- Your exhibitors are happy. This might be challenging, given that Freeman’s recent Trends Report of Q2 2023 reports that only 50% of exhibitors are happy with the results of their tradeshow participation.
- Your executives are connected with your main exhibitors and they’re also confident that you also have strong relationships with them.
- You are one of the top events in the market. This is self-evident, but it does not mean you should not be aware of new entrants and continually upping your game in anticipation.
If you have all these elements covered you can consider raising prices, given you have established value that can justify the increases. However, you should be careful if:
- Your customers are cutting staff and budgets, and the market you serve is experiencing a downturn.
- Exhibitors who have not signed up in response to your marketing outreaches are also not returning your follow-up calls or emails.
- You lack insight as to whether exhibitors are happy with past results (not knowing likely means they aren’t.)
- You are missing great person-to-person relationships with your customers (e.g., your clients do not take your calls.)
- Sales are not at the same pace as the prior year, suggesting your event might be in a downturn.
- You cannot offer a strong business justification for the increase, thus implying that you simply want to make more money.
- You are not a top event in the market.
If your situation includes any of the cautions above, an effort to increase exhibitor prices risks encountering resistance and endangering – not enhancing – your revenues. If this is your situation, what can you do about it?
- Figure out how to get your customers’ attention and start to sync with them on how you can improve your events to increase their value.
- Ensure you have a plan to attract more buyers to your events.
- Highlight the unique benefits of your event in exhibitor prospectuses.
Knowing your customers and understanding their expectations – and their view of your performance in meeting/exceeding those expectations – will be key to raising revenues.
Move forward without this information at your peril!