Every year, associations that have a tradeshow (either as a stand-alone event or as a component of their conference), seek out sponsors and exhibitors. Some are great at matching these suppliers to their delegate needs and requirements, some are not. I am going to address those who do not here.
I was recently at an industry conference and tradeshow, and as a delegate had the opportunity to hear some feedback from the professionals in the room. They were extremely frustrated with the way they were inundated with emails in the two weeks leading up to the conference.
Here is an example: A provincial, west-coast association was receiving invitations to stop by the booth of a hotel properties located in eastern Ontario. As much as this delegate understood the importance of supporting the tradeshow, as the contribution of the exhibitors and sponsors directly impacts conference fees, he did not understand why a property located in eastern Ontario would ever consider sending him an email. He will NEVER have potential for them, unless he changes organizations. And, if he did, he would do his research at that time, not now.
As a result of this conversation, and a few others, I got to thinking about the supplier side of the business. I believe sponsors and exhibitors really should only be marketing to those who have immediate and/or future opportunities and interests. But that will take some profiling of your members, which is not something we are provided with now. When your next tradeshow is done, reach out via a survey campaign and uncover the following information:
- Products and/or Services they are in need of NOW
- Products and/or Services they are interested in for the future
- Whether they are an influencer or decision-maker in the buying process
- Confirm the format they would like to be contacted by these suppliers/sponsors for the following year (i.e. by phone, by email, through social media channels such as LinkedIn, etc).
Maintain this information in your system. Then, when it comes to sending out the conference/tradeshow attendee lists pre & post show, filter on those who selected the product/service type that matches the exhibitor/sponsor, and send them ONLY that list. Does it not make more sense to send them a list of pre-qualified contacts to place in their sales funnel, instead of sifting through hundreds or thousands of people to find the diamonds in the rough?
And how can you ensure your sponsors and exhibitors follow the new protocol? In the final stages of your sales process, when getting them to sign the contract, add in your terms and conditions a clause that reflects that they are only able to contact those delegates who visited them at their booth, or that have been spoken to at a session, etc. Receiving a complaint from a delegate that they were marketed to by someone outside of their profile, can result in non-admittance of the exhibitor in the future.
It sounds extreme, but it can help satisfy your members, and exhibitors will see value in a smaller, qualified, more manageable list.