Unlocking the customer’s voice in the exhibition industry6 min read

The exhibition industry is making its first tentative steps into digital. If we look at their marketing channels, traditional offline methods are heavily preferred to digital. According to Statista, in 2016, the 2nd largest expense in the marketing budget of a US exhibition organiser was direct mail, representing 27% of total spend. Number one was emailing campaigns at 31%. Social networks, the poster child of digital marketing channels in most other sectors only makes up 9%, ahead of online advertising which was 7%.


This trend shows a discrepancy in the manner which event buyers choose their exhibitions and the marketing methods favoured by organisers. When speaking about the benefits of digital to most sales and marketing professionals, you’re essentially preaching to the converted in almost any sector. First stop for them when seeking out information on specific events will be online and social media. Taking cold calls and paper brochures are too old school. How fast did the last admail package complete that arrived on your desk go in the trash?


When faced with a lack of information online, apart from the websites of the events themselves, industry word of mouth plays a hugely important role in the buying process.


Word of mouth, primary source of information


Before exhibiting at a new event we’ll never know for sure if it will bring business. This is why word of mouth is a crucial factor in determining whether to exhibit or not. A previous exhibitor is a promoter or a detractor based on experience. What’s the first step for a marketing manager when they discover a new trade fair? Go to their network, speak to partners, other marketing managers, former colleagues: ‘What was your experience last year? Were the attendees qualitative?’ Did you do much business off the back of it?


Brand advocates, your secret weapon


Utilise your best customers and unleash their voice to promote your event. These are your brand advocates, those clients who are willing to advocate you online via social media and review platforms. What’s important to bear in mind is you have more brand advocates than you think.


Did you know? If you ask them, 7 out of 10 clients are willing to leave a review.


How do we identify brand advocates ?


  • The most satisfied clients: remember those feedback surveys you sent out post event? The exhibitors that responded most positively would make ideal candidates to leave a review
  • The most engaged clients: an exhibitor tweeted using the hashtag of your event or liked Facebook or Linkedin posts? Why not ask them to leave a review as well?
  • Face to face: Speak with exhibitors and visitors in person during the event itself. Towards the end of the day for example, have a chat, get feedback face to face, use your judgement and see if they’re ok to post a review.


To implement a strategy for a successful e-reputation, you need to keep track of your  influencers. The value of these advocates to your audience cannot be understated.  


Transform your customers’ voice in a powerful marketing vehicle


Web ambassadors have extensive influence considering 85% of prospects have as much confidence in an online review as a recommendation from someone close to them. When it comes to building up a solid e-recommendation online reviews is the way to go. Although not yet present on the exhibition industry, they are very much the norm in most sectors whether BtoC or BtoB (tourism, retail, SaaS, hospitality etc.)


Studies on this topic turn up some impressive figures :


  • 97% of B2B buyers feel that user generated content, like scores and reviews is more credible than other content
  • 72% of buyers complete a purchase only after they’ve read a positive review
  • A customer is ready to spend 31% more with a business that has ‘very good’ reviews

However, developing an e-reputation using online reviews doesn’t happen on its own. How do we develop a coherent and proactive strategy to engage influencers so that they leave reviews?


Ask and you shall receive: This mind seem obvious but the primary reason certain companies don’t harness their e-reputation is their apathy. If a few customers spontaneously recommend your event, the vast majority just need a gentle push, so show them that their opinion counts, explaining transparently that it can have a positive impact for you.


Email campaigns, social media, face to face: There are multiple channels to engage potential influencers. Email campaigns to your customer database, a targeted tweet using your event’s hashtag and asking clients in person during the event will bring the best results


Incentivise: Combining a request for an online review with an incentive will increase extensively your success rate and it doesn’t have to break the bank. Use social media to push competitions, discounts, goodies, vouchers. What’s more a customer is more likely to leave a positive review if they are rewarded. When one positive review can increase customer spend by 31% why not invest a little to harvest a few of them.


Make life easy for your customers: Outside of your event, your clients are extremely busy so it’s important to be sensitive to this, contacting them in an appropriate manner. The best moment to ask a potential ambassador is up to one week after the event. Send a couple of reminders as they may not have time to do it first time around and show them your appreciation once it’s done.

The three watchwords: Quality, Quantity, Recency


A good client review strategy is based on 3 pillars: quality, quantity and recency. In the eyes of potential customers, events with a greater number of reviews and strong social engagement stand out from the crowd but the quality of reviews will be seen as the most informative for your event.


But of course the global score also carries considerable weight as it is with this piece of data that potential customers will compare your event with others. Don’t fear negative reviews, it’s all part of the game and will give even more credibility to other more positive reviews. 68% of potential clients will trust reviews even more if there’s a mixture of good and bad. Once you an optimal review acquisition strategy you’ll always have more positive reviews than negative ones.


What are you waiting for?


Organisers in the exhibition industry have a lot to gain in implementing a horizontal marketing strategy to leverage the customer’s voice from one edition of an event  to the next rather than investing in traditional vertical marketing channels (direct mail, cold calling etc) which are not very efficient.


Client reviews are the most convincing content for potential customers and it’s very easy to implement. Here at Tradefest we’ve developed Trust Feed a widget that allows you to seamlessly integrate your best client reviews or overall score directly on your website.  


If you’re an organiser in the exhibition industry for a conference or a trade fair and are interested in implementing a rock solid strategy to boost your e-reputation to inspire customer loyalty as well as boosting sales and expanding global reach, get in touch with us. Trustfeed include methods to gather reviews from your best clients quickly and easily. Head to Tradefest for more information.

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