01 Aug 2013
Increase the Quality and Quantity of Attendees at Your Next Event
By Sam Lippman
Associations and independent convention and exhibition producers agree that attendee acquisition is the key to successful events. Delivering audiences is an endless and, during tough economic times, a considerable challenge. So just when and how should you build, manage and implement an attendee acquisition program? The following are some tips for successful event attendee marketing, courtesy of the Attendee Acquisition Roundtable Resource Book, a compilation of key strategies, tactics and guidance from event marketing professionals and experts in market research, registration, web development and online technologies. These insights, assembled by Lippman Connects, are punctuated by research conducted for the annual Exhibition & Convention Executives Forum held in Washington, D.C., each spring.
ATTENDEE MARKETING DATA FROM ECEF 2013
Leading exhibition executives attending ECEF in 2013 or earlier were asked to
share what they are doing to strengthen their events:
- 71 percent increased their attendee marketing budget in 2013 by more than 5 percent;
- 10 percent were planning a double-digit increase in their 2013 attendee marketing budgets;
- 40 percent say they track social media ROI “only infrequently” or “not at all”;
- 47 percent of organizers offer a VIP Buyers Program for their important attendees; and
- 20 percent of organizers are adding senior-level marketers to their staff.
The Attendee Acquisition Roundtable Resource Book begins with the marketing and research consulting firm Jacobs, Jenner & Kent sharing important steps in the market research process, as well as a questionnaire that helps you assess whether you need additional research. This questionnaire explores knowledge of:
- Your attendees. Do you know all you need to know about attendee buying frequency and buying cycle in your product categories?
- Your marketing. Do you know how effective your advertising is compared to your competitors?
- Your event. Do you have a reliable method for testing the effect of new or changed programs on attendance?
- Your competition. Are your salespeople,marketing materials and promotional efforts saying the right things?
- Your conversion rate. Are you satisfied with your attendance relative to your marketing efforts?
By answering the questionnaire’s 35 “yes or no” questions, you will be able to determine whether you need research. And if you do, you will know which areas to research.
Your attendee research should be designed to uncover the emotional components of your attendees’ decision-making process. You can rely on qualitative research such as focus groups and interviews to elicit this in-depth information. On the other hand, quantitative research--such as surveys--is useful for comparing attendees' attitudes among defined alternatives. An example of this kind of question is, "Who in your organization makes the final attendance decision?"
BRANDING YOUR EVENT
Do you want all your attendees to say yours is a “must-attend” event? Of course, you do. Making it happen? Not so easy. To get there, you have to “brand the experience.” That’s the message of the marketing primer provided by Washington, D.C.-based marketing agency ds+f. You may be surprised to learn that your brand is not your exhibit floor, educational program or logo. The experience you offer is your brand, crafted from a number of offerings to your audience, including your exhibit floor, location, seminars, speakers and keynotes. Here are some important considerations to communicate your brand:
- Develop a core message, which is your first investment in customer experience management so it’s imperative to not over-promise;
- Target your various cohorts--no more than 10--with segmented sub-messages;
- Be sure to include your core message to all your market segments; and
- Do not be afraid to modify your program mid-stream to reflect significant economic challenges or industry shifts — just remain true to your brand.
EFFECTIVE EVENT WEBSITES
Digital technologies have become an important part of attendee acquisition.
When you’re ready to update your website, start with these tips from ASP, a leading site designer for event producers. The following will help improve your website design and content to maximize search engine optimization, capture more and better data, activate successful mobile web strategies and extract new revenue from your event website:
- Your website reveals within three seconds what it is for;
- Make sure your website's design reflects the image of your event — traditional or cutting-edge, conservative or fashion-forward — and that your graphics reflect your event’s values;
- The average event website has about 40 pages. That same website with a dedicated page for each exhibitor will have hundreds. And if those exhibitors upload products, news releases, case studies, etc., you will have tens of thousands of pages;
- Allow mobile users to view your full, non-mobile version of your website, as well; and
- Charge more for advertising on the busiest pages of your event website.
It is also essential to ensure your website integrates seamlessly with your online registration process. Ensure the language, look and feel of your event website is consistent with your registration website, advises ITN International, a leading registration company. And confirm it’s easy to register — on average, 20 percent of prospects abandon the registration process before completing their registration. One way to increase the number of people completing their online registration is to limit the number of demographic questions.
Planning to redesign your event website? Change things gradually so alumni are comfortable. Explain your registration packages and costs on a prominent place on your website so when people register they will know what to expect and can complete the process without questions. Your registration contractor should be able to provide the following services to improve your attendee acquisition:
- Give registrants the opportunity to invite friends and colleagues;
- Integrate registration sites with social networking sites, including LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook;
- Provide an easy-to-use application that allows exhibitors to invite customers;
- Create automatic matching between attendees and exhibitors, and between attendees and each other;
- Offer the ability for attendees to schedule appointments in advance of the event;
- Build attendee and exhibitor mobile apps that can communicate with each other;
- Implement a registration dashboard that gives exhibitors and attendees access to all the advanced tools they need to enhance their show experience;
- Offer upselling of sessions and full conference registrations;
- Integrate registration and housing to provide a single confirmation; and
- Publish a post-event website that allows attendees to communicate with exhibitors who scanned their badges.
LEVERAGING YOUR EXHIBITORS
Exhibitors are a great source of new attendees. Exhibitor Invites explains how to convince your exhibitors to invite their customers to your event using their easy and secure online service. Some of the key features of any exhibitor invitation program should include:
- A dedicated calling team to convince exhibitors to send invitations;
- A customer service team to work with exhibitors to help ensure they follow through; and
- Three or more HTML email invitation templates that exhibitors can customize through a user-friendly system. Each template should allow for an equal amount of exhibitor and show branding.
CALLING ALL CHICAGOLAND EXHIBIT AND SPONSORSHIP
On August 15, unlock the secrets for increasing exhibit and sponsorship sales by attending the Exhibit Sales Roundtable at Association Forum. Sam Lippman, president of Lippman Connects, produces and facilitates this event at which up to 14 qualified sales and service professionals will qualify to attend. During this event’s Chicago debut, expect to:
- Learn innovative exhibit and sponsorship pricing--the key to increasing profits;
- Explore the benefits of various exhibit space assignment procedures;
- Determine the value of packages and communicate this information to prospects;
- Find out how to unearth, hire and motivate star salespeople;
- Share techniques for growing international exhibit participation;
- Discover the pros and cons of outsourcing sales; and
- Discuss non-exhibition floor participation such as meeting rooms, outdoor displays and special events.
Among the field-tested successes shared at a recent Exhibit Sales Roundtable
- "We contacted companies that haven't exhibited with us in 10 years and explained how our show has changed; they are exhibiting again."
- "New subject line of emails: Free burritos if you call me back. If they did, we sent them a Chipotle gift card."
- "For prospects that were not responding, we sent Godiva chocolates--and in every case they called us back."
- "Our recent sales campaign had a time-limited discount; we're ahead in sales."
For more information and to register, go to www.lippmanconnects.com/esr.
Sam Lippman is president of Lippman Connects and has more than 36 years of experience serving as show manager, education trainer, and executive-level consultant. He also is producer of the annual Exhibition and Conference Executives Forum in Washington, D.C., as well as the Attendee Acquisition Roundtable and Exhibit Sales Roundtable events. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.