Guest Post: Meagan Rockett is Director, Client Solutions with Greenfield Services, Inc.. She works closely with professional and trade associations in consulting and implementing unique strategies to increase all aspects of member engagement.
Associations that have a tradeshow will have to seek out sponsors and exhibitors every year. Some match these suppliers to their delegate needs and requirements (and do a great job at it!), and many do not. In this blog, I am going to address those who do not.
I recently returned from an industry conference and tradeshow, and had registered both as a delegate to attend the sessions, and as an exhibitor to market our services to the executive attending. In one of the education sessions I attended, I had the opportunity to sit at a round table and hear some feedback from other attendees. Consensus at the table was that they were frustrated with the amount of emails they received in the two weeks leading up to the conference.
One example of what I was hearing goes as follows: An association executive who managed a provincial/state association located on the west coast continuously received emails from suppliers with locations outside their province/state. These suppliers were asking the executive to bring the association meeting to their locations, and invited this executive to visit the properties booth at the tradeshow for more information. As much as the executive understood the importance of supporting the tradeshow, as the contribution of the exhibitors and sponsors have a direct impact on conference fees, there was confusion on why this particular email was sent. This association will NEVER have potential for them.
As a result of this conversation, and a few others, I got to thinking about the supplier side of the business (such as myself). 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 any organizations are not providing. Consider utilizing your online community or conducting a survey campaign to uncover the following information:
This information should be maintained in your system. Then, when it comes to sending lists to your exhibitors and sponsors before and after the tradeshow, you can filter on those who selected the product and/or service type that matches the exhibitor/sponsor. Send them ONLY that list or you can house the information in your online community and allow the suppliers to filter it themselves. 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?
The next question may be how you can ensure your sponsors and exhibitors follow this protocol? It can start with the contract when they sign, add in your terms and condition a clause that will require the exhibitor to only contact delegates who have visited their booth, OR that have attended a session with you, or has the correct profiling information. Take the high road and point out that a complaint from a delegate, who receives marketing information by someone outside of their profile, could result in non-admittance of the exhibitor in the future.
It may sound extreme, and difficult to get started, but it will help your keep members' satisfied, and long-term, exhibitors will see value in a smaller, qualified, manageable list to market to.