Get Them on the Floor: Attract New Attendees to Your Tradeshow

A new study sheds light on how associations can attract a desirable new group of attendees to their exhibitions: executives—with the power to make purchasing decisions—who are actively looking to go to tradeshows they’ve never attended before.

Of course you want to make sure your first-time attendees have a good experience at your meeting—and the same goes for your long-time attendees. But before you can focus on their onsite experience, you need to get them excited and interested enough to register, right? What’s an association to do?

To sum it up, they’re executives who attend lots of tradeshows—and who have the power to make purchasing decisions.

A newly released study by the Center for Exhibition Industry Research may offer some insights.

The study asked 421 exhibition attendees whether they expected their exhibition attendance to increase, decrease, or stay the same in the coming year. Fifteen percent said that their exhibition attendance would increase and that they do not necessarily attend the same exhibitions every year, making them representative of potential new attendees.

Who Exactly Are These New Attendees?

Turns out this potential posse of attendees can be pretty valuable to your association. The research shows that they are twice as likely as repeat attendees to be the final decision makers when it comes to purchasing decisions. In addition, this group attends, on average, four or more exhibitions annually—compared to two for all other groups—and they are twice as likely to be executives.

To sum it up, they’re executives who attend lots of tradeshows—and who have the power to make purchasing decisions. Sounds like an audience any association, as well as its exhibitors, would definitely welcome to its expo.

How Do They Select New Exhibitions to Attend?

The study concluded that attendees decide to go to an exhibition for the first time if they can trust it “to deliver the best experience to connect face to face with colleagues and gather information they need to help them make successful business decisions.”

The consideration they listed as most important in deciding whether to attend an event is its reputation, followed closely by the ability to network with other colleagues and to obtain specific information for issues and decisions they are currently facing. Quality of speakers and value for the money also were in the top six.

On the other hand, least-important considerations were the ability to purchase products onsite, ability to earn continuing-education credits, and attractive locations. The survey featured respondents across industries, and it’s likely that continuing education would rank higher for certain association meeting attendees, but the ability to connect face to face and get solutions to problems are things most association meeting attendees are looking to do.

How Can Your Association Get Their Attention?

Since these people are actively seeking new conferences to attend, they are likely to use different sources of information to determine whether they’ll attend compared to your regular attendees. The group favored sources that uncover new exhibitions, rating industry publications and internet searches as significantly more important than other attendee groups. Other sources that also are more important to their decision-making are social networking sites, telemarketing from vendors and suppliers, word-of-mouth sources, and personal invites.

The study’s authors suggest that combining highly targeted promotions and word-of-mouth marketing techniques is likely the best strategy for attracting new attendees. “This report … points to the importance of multichannel marketing,” said CEIR Research Director Nancy Drapeau, PRC, in a statement.

Associations could do this by advertising their exhibitions in industry-related publications and websites. In addition, more emphasis on paid and organic search should be considered, given the significance this group places on internet search.

Once associations identify this new market, they can ask former attendees to email this group of potential new attendees to tell them the value they received from attending in the past.  Traditional marketing messaging should also show how exhibition content will deliver solutions to the problems prospective attendees are currently facing. Associations may even want to consider having vendors and exhibitors invite this group to attend.

While none of these techniques are earth-shattering or new to many associations, the study serves as a good reminder that identifying a core group of potential attendees and then marketing to them in a number of ways may achieve the best result and deliver new buyers to your expo floor or meeting.

Has your association tried any of these efforts to attract new attendees to your meetings and events? Which have been most successful? Please share in the comments.

(Photo by David Becker/Getty Images)

Samantha Whitehorne

By Samantha Whitehorne

Samantha Whitehorne is editor-in-chief of Associations Now. MORE

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