If you’ve read my previous articles, you know that I start a lot of these the same way; by beating a dead horse that is one of a few foundational challenges for every meeting. So I’m going to do it again…

Costs. Costs are rising and nobody seems to be getting anymore money from either end. So why would I ever suggest giving away some commercial real estate away for free at a meeting? Well, because exhibitors are needing more bang for their buck.

Costs are rising for exhibitors in every aspect of meeting participation and aren’t seeing a relative increase in ROI. They also don’t want to cut meetings out of their marketing budgets completely; so they need to make smart choices when choosing which meetings to plan for.

I am not suggesting that you start giving away high-ticket items like program ads, signage, or any elevated exposure in comparison to other exhibitors; BUT, have you taken time to consider adding value for ALL exhibitors that is low-cost (or no-cost) to the meeting in an effort to (1) make your meeting stand out as a stronger choice to add to the calendar when cuts are being made and (2) send a message that your team genuinely cares about exhibitor success.

Obviously there are not a large amount of items that are cheap to produce, but I think there are some that can be transitioned from a paid-for add-on to a value-add at no cost. Consider these:

Exhibitor Bingo (or similar “games”). We see meetings solicit participation for these types of activities for an additional cost to their booths. Unfortunately, if all exhibitors aren’t able to afford to participate, then the luster of the game with attendees isn’t quite as appealing and the strategy to increase foot traffic ultimately dies. Let’s let every exhibitor participate at no charge.
Registration Bag Stuffers. The meeting literally has no cost to produce the stuffers that exhibitors voluntarily provide. If there are shipping fees, then the exhibitor would be responsible for shipping the items to the meeting for stuffing. Most of the time a sponsor has to pay to get their item into a registration bag. The sponsorship fee is usually too expensive to make that item anything worth while for hundreds of attendees; so let every exhibitor participate if they wish. They can provide a small item to go into every registration bag. They feel like they are getting more exposure (win) and the attendees get more swag than they would if you are counting on a small list of paying sponsors (win).
Pre-Meeting Email Blast Shout-Out. Ok, this one is not super complicated, but it does take some explaining. But let’s first acknowledge that it’s LOW-COST. You already have an email marketing program (like Constant Contact or Mail Chimp); and these programs don’t charge more for sending more messages out (they only charge more if you add more people to your recipient list). The concept here would be a two-step process.

When a DPM registers for the meeting, use a part of their registration form to inquire about what products and/or services they might also be interested in learning more about while they are at the meeting. With that, you would have categories (i.e. orthotics, EMR, marketing, laser, etc)

A week before the meeting (after you have been able to collect the data from most of the attendees) send an email out to those who selected “orthotics” (for example) and tell them which companies are going to be exhibiting at the show and supply orthotics – along with their booth numbers. You’ve given your vendors exposure to a qualified lead (win) and you’ve given the DPMs information they need to maximize their exhibit hall time (win.)
There are so many more ideas that we can come up with that won’t break the bank, won’t cause a massive amount of lost revenue, but provide significant value to your vendors who are making large investments to participate in your meeting. Exhibitors notice these things and if more meetings provided small bonuses, the appreciation and loyalty would definitely be reciprocated.
Thoughts? Questions? Email Me!
Sarah Breymeier: beheard@podiatrymeetings.com