In-person events like conferences, conventions, and trade shows remain crucial to associations and organisations who want to attract new members and draw people to understand the value of their products or services. These events require reliable sources of funding, which means organisers must be willing to work side-by-side with sponsors, who can benefit from enhanced exposure and access to a highly targeted audience at conferences and exhibitions.
A cost-effective marketing strategy is critical to make the most of the symbiotic nature of the organiser – sponsor relationship in events where exhibitors or sponsors have a booth. However, many sponsors and organisers are reluctant to adopt fresh or novel ideas. This results in missed opportunities as foot traffic ends up elsewhere. The good news is that you can attract visitors to your booth even if your budget is limited or do not have a dedicated marketing department. In this post, we discuss how to maximise the win-win nature of the organiser-sponsor relationship and drive more traffic to your exhibition booth.
A fundamental principle to guide your strategy
Before moving onto the tips to generate foot traffic, we must highlight the importance of finding common ground between the sponsor’s goals and the organiser’s objectives. For optimal results, it is essential to be very specific and get a good grasp of what success looks like on both sides, so get granular when defining objectives.
This also applies to the expectations of attendees. You will need to use research data to understand what motivates your audience to register for a conference or event and use this as a springboard to design appealing booth spaces that deliver outstanding value. With that in mind, let us take a look at six useful tips you can implement to generate more foot traffic to an exhibitor’s booth.
1. Start generating traffic before the event
Building buzz before the event is one of the critical steps to ensure your target audience stops by your booth. Research shows that up to 70% of attendees decide which booths they will visit in advance. Yet, pre-event marketing is under-utilised since only 15% of exhibitors invest in pre-show promotions and similar marketing strategies.
Email and social media campaigns are a cost-effective way of generating interest and getting attendees to visit your booth. You can also mail eye-catching postcards or event guides, or even add an exclusive component by setting up a landing page and offering attendees the option to book pre-show appointments.
2. Bring wayfinding into the equation
The idea of “if you build it, they will come” does not apply to exhibitor booths at professional events. Sponsors have to compete for the attention of attendees as there are already many other things in their minds, from getting through the day’s sessions to finding the right lecture halls or answering work emails. And since exhibitors only have 8 seconds to grab an attendee’s attention, some booths could even be overlooked entirely.
Here it could be useful to build the principles of wayfinding into booth design so that attendees do not miss the sponsor’s exhibit. This can contribute to a pleasant and memorable experience that can turn into new leads or higher sales. Wayfinding relies on five main principles:
- Creating a recognisable identity (i.e. use of logos, specific colours, booth staff uniforms, etc.).
- Using landmarks that attendees can quickly identify. If there are no suitable physical landmarks at the venue, you can turn the booth into a landmark by offering something unique, such as a coffee corner, a mobile device charging station, etc. Even a mascot will do!
- Having a structured path to the booth and product/service. Think about the product/service as an experience: how do you want the audience to move through it? What signage is required?
- Break down the space: for optimal attention retention, booth space must be broken down into regions, each with unique characteristics. For example, if presenting a medical device, think about the stages users need to go through to understand the problems it solves, how it works, the potential benefits, etc.
- Avoid giving too many choices. A booth should not be cluttered but instead, have a coherent theme and show a clear connection between what is on offer and how it is relevant to the audience.
3. Address attendee pain points
We have already mentioned that for optimal results, it is essential to find alignment between the sponsor’s offerings and goals and attendees expectations. One of the most effective ways of drawing people to your booth is ensuring that whatever is on offer solves a problem or pain point. There is a core of common attendee complaints that emerge year after year, suggesting there is scope for improvement in areas like catering options, WiFi and availability of charging outlets, ease of mobility around the venue, or having to queue for registration, access to the site, etc. Could a booth offer branded, healthy snacks and beverages to alleviate long buffet queues? Could it feature a charging station?
Information overload and mental fatigue are common pain points at events like medical conventions. If the exhibit hall or conference venue does not have dedicated rest space, consider getting your sponsors involved in building the “rest-and-relaxation” concept into their booth design. By doing so, a booth fulfils the sponsor’s objective while simultaneously providing a respite from a busy conference schedule.
4. Make it rewarding
Attendees need a reason to visit a booth, but they also need an incentive. Giveaways, prizes, and competitions tap into powerful psychological urges and have already been successfully used in the business world. Incentives can break down mental barriers and make the audience more receptive. Instead of viewing trade show booths as places that are there primarily to “sell something”, they could be perceived as must-visit micro-destinations. All within the event venue where attendees will obtain something valuable. As long as the rewards are relevant to the audience and solve a pain point, there are countless possibilities. These are ranging from branded merchandising (for example, business card holders or thermal cups) to discounted rates or preferential access to training as soon as new products become available.
In a previous blog post, we discussed how to incorporate gamification into conference design. Social media platforms are excellent tools to implement this due to their potential reach and ease of use. Sponsors could promote their booth or any mini-events taking place in it using these platforms, broadcast live giveaways, or set up other types of live streaming using the tools already available in social media.
5. Sponsor an event app
More than 80% of event planners use dedicated apps, so exhibitors can maximise their visibility by sponsoring the event app and ensuring their name is top of mind. To drive traffic to your booth, assure the app you sponsor features practical functions. Consider including real-time updates, polls, giveaways announcements, downloadable guides, personalised event agendas, speaker and attendee bios, or the option to schedule appointments with exhibitors at their booths.
6. Do not be afraid to get creative
Some exhibitors avoid disruptive marketing ideas thinking that traditional strategies are best suited to professional events. But disruptive marketing is a sure way of getting noticed and being remembered. To generate novel ideas, ask yourself questions like “what is it that our competitors are not doing?”, “what would surprise show attendees?” “How could we challenge the status quo in our industry?”, or “Is there an elephant in the room in our industry that no one dares to talk about?”.
Having a booth at a conference can be a fantastic way of generating leads and building long-term relationships with clients and loyal advocates. Of course, merely having a booth set up is not enough: you will need to craft an innovative strategy, ideally with the guidance of experts in event organisation within your sector. The best time to start planning your strategy to generate more traffic to an exhibitor’s booths is now. As a professional conference organiser agency, at Congrex, we are ready to listen to your needs and goals and to create tailor-made conference experiences that deliver tangible results. Get in touch to find out how you can benefit.
Congrex Switzerland is an internationally operating agency providing customised solutions. This encompasses the overall organisation of conferences and meetings, including the management of hotel rooms and the strategic consultancy. Annually Congrex Switzerland organises approximately 45 events with over 73’000 delegates. Amongst our clients are international associations, governmental organisations and corporations. Say hello!