One of the keys for hosting a successful, growing annual conference is to keep your sponsors and exhibitors coming back year after year. After all, the cost for converting a new sponsor or exhibitor can be as high as five times that of retaining a current one.
That’s why at The Profitable Association (PAI), we’ve incorporated a comprehensive “Pre-Show Selection” initiative into events that we sell, including building a Priority-Points system for incumbents that includes an automated Space Draw program. And, we have “trained” our marketplace of customers that the process will begin early – with announcements and initial actions for Next Year beginning two months before This Year’s event.
By doing so, our best-supporting companies can be ensured they have the best opportunity to get the best space and the lowest rate. It is a win for the exhibitor/sponsors, and also a win for the association client who gains a much earlier picture of their following year’s financials. And, as the association’s Sales Partner, it enables us to maximize retention at their events, year after year.
Our “Pre-Show Selection” process works something like this:
- We’ll start marketing the sales of sponsorships and exhibit booths for next year’s conference prior to the start of this year’s conference – all at discounted rates.
- We build the next year’s show website, online floor plan, forms, rates, packages, priority order program, and automated Space Draw program – complete with assigned appointment algorithms and automated weekly and daily reminders.
- We execute the Space Draw phase first.
- We reached out personally to VIP exhibitors and sponsors to ensure they did not blink and miss the opportunity.
- We sent out e-blasts featuring the special rates available to current exhibitors and sponsors who signed up before the start of the 2019 show.
- Next, we continue the pre-show marketing and sales outreach – right up until the day before the show.
We recently used this process to great success on behalf of Design-Build Institute of America (DBIA), where we were able to exceed $1 million in sales from sponsorships and exhibit sales for their 2019 event in Las Vegas. Serving as DBIA’s partner, as their staff focused on the final preparations for the 2019 conference, we were hard at work getting them a head start for their 2020 event in the Nation’s Capital.
The real fun got underway once we landed in Vegas. We set up a full-fledged sales operation on-site at this year’s conference, with a Sales Office where we hosted one-on-one meetings with vendors, distributing promotional materials, and more.
- As exhibitors set up their booths, we greeted them with promotional materials for the 2020 show as well as special candy treats with an invitation to visit us.
- Later, we left them personalized appointment cards reminding them of their onsite “Space Selection” time – cards that were printed on the back of a vintage Washington, D.C. postcard.
- We double and tripled back throughout the show and engaged directly to ensure they were fully aware of their on-site discount and that the 2020 floor plan was filling up.
- We also sent out daily e-reminders, reminding them of the special on-site discounts available in the Sales Office.
All of this hard work paid off. Company signups increased by 119% over the year before, while early exhibit and sponsorship revenue was up as well. And, most importantly, we were able to add a personal touch combined with an automated program, resulting in great sponsor and exhibitor retention, and a fast start for our association client’s 2020 event revenue.