What happens when the target market that you serve decides that they don’t like the product that your business depends on?

And to make things more difficult, what do you do when the product in question is not one that you own or control directly?

Actually, these are not hypothetical questions.

Last autumn saw the release of some telling and for some businesses, scary research results.

The research had been carried out among exhibitors globally on behalf of UFI the Global Association of the Exhibition Industry.  

What it highlighted for show organisers, trade associations and suppliers to the exhibition industry was worrying. Exhibitors are growing disillusioned with trade shows.

Exhibitor advocacy is falling

You may have already read the UFI report. ESSA members were given full and free access last November. If you haven’t seen the report here is an overview.

Comprehensive analysis of survey data gathered from visitors and exhibitors was undertaken on behalf of UFI by event research specialist Explori.

In total, 1040 trade shows from more than 40 countries conducted post-show research using Explori's research platform.

Findings were further enhanced via in-depth interviews conducted with 57 trade show directors (organisers) from 17 different countries.

The report delivered key findings related to exhibitor behaviour based on:

  • Levels of exhibitor loyalty to events and advocacy of the industry
  • Exhibitor needs
  • The extent to which those needs are being met by the industry

Key findings were as follows:

  • Exhibitor advocacy is low across the globeOnly 25% of shows have a positive Net Promoter Score (NPS)*
  • Globally, exhibitors rate the exhibitions they attend with a negative average NPS of -17
  • More than one-third of global exhibitors declare low levels of satisfaction with exhibitions but show a high level of loyalty towards individual shows. This group of exhibitors is understood to be open to defecting to competing channels
  • Shows with high exhibitor NPS are more likely to experience growth: 71% of shows with positive NPS are experiencing growth in exhibitor numbers whereas only 32% of shows with negative exhibitor NPS do
  • In addition, more than twice as many high NPS shows are experiencing notable revenue growth when compared to low NPS shows.
  • Exhibitions that offered exhibitor trainingto all, or most, saw a 23 point boost in NPS  shows that did not provide this service. This suggests that educational offers for exhibitors are a promising reaction to poor NPS scores
  • And a proper newness strategy also boosts exhibitor satisfaction: Shows that actively promote newness have notably higher exhibitor satisfaction score than shows that do not: 3.71 vs 3.35 (out of 5).
  • For more details on the research visit Explori here

*Net Promoter Score(NPS) is a management tool that can be used to gauge the loyalty of a firm's customer relationships. It serves as an alternative to traditional customer satisfaction research.

Why you can’t just sell a product anymore

The big danger to many exhibition supply businesses, the thing that will lose them sales, is not the quality of the product or service that they provide.

The bigger danger is that some or many of their clients decide that exhibiting is not for them anymore. That their marketing spend will be better served elsewhere. Decisions like that will take huge chunks out of a revenue plan in no time flat.

Fact 1: Most people who handle trade show participation for their companies are not full-time events people.

That’s why you need to provide advice with your product. Increasingly, I believe that suppliers will need to go beyond pure product promotions when selling their stands, screens, furniture etc.

Advice and inspiration about the potential that live events offer will be needed too. Why? Because you need to ensure potential clients see the opportunity; see the reason why they should exhibit in the first place otherwise they will have no need for your product.

Fact 2: In today's digital workplace, organising stands at trade shows is outside the scope of most marketing-related jobs. This lack of familiarity combined with a lack of preparation can lead some participants to question the value of their spend.

Exhibitors who feel this way are post-event, likely to become unsure as to whether or not participation and therefore their spend has been effective. This feeling of unease leads in turn to the low advocacy rates highlighted in Explori's research.   

Carried further, it’s quite likely to lead to an exit from events.

Fact 3: Exhibitors get very little direct support from most show organisers as highlighted in the research. Yet, when they do receive training support there is a huge turnaround in satisfaction rates and I’d guess in re-bookings.

This lack of support is an opportunity for your business to stand out and be above the competition.

Content marketing or if you like advisory marketing, is the strategy to use now to support and develop sales. And not just with exhibitors but with organisers and venues too.

Research confirms that exhibitors are in danger of falling out of love with trade shows. Our job is to woo them back. To show them that £ for £ there are few rivals that can match shows for building sales quickly.

If we don’t do this, the exhibiting pie is going to shrink and that’s no good for anyone in this industry.  

Disclaimer:
The views and opinions expressed in these blogs are those of the authors alone and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of ESSA, its members, board or staff. Our members represent a broad range of views within the event industry, and we have provided this section of the website for their opinions to be openly heard and discussed.

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