Harnessing the Power of Loyal Event Attendees
Loyalty. It’s coveted in many industries and events are no exception. Loyal attendees are one of a trade show’s most important assets. Show organizers can use their enthusiasm to improve their events in numerous ways, increasing overall attendance among them.
David Saef, executive vice president of strategy for GES, explained the importance of loyal attendees.
“They come every year, they know the event in their own way and they may know it better than the organizer,” Saef explained. “They’re willing to do anything for the organizer to help make the show successful.”
Leana Salamah, account strategist and executive director for mdg, confirmed the critical importance of loyal attendees by comparing them to the customers of many other businesses.
“The experiences, opinions and recommendations of those who have eaten at a restaurant, seen a movie, bought a product, or visited a doctor are a major factor in every decision we make,” Salamah said.
She added, “That truth is no different when it comes to prospects deciding whether or not to participate in events.”
Trade show organizers should be taking concrete steps toward identifying, cultivating and amplifying word of mouth marketing, she added.
In addition, organizers can use many approaches both before and during events to encourage attendee loyalty.
Blair Dempster, creative director at The XD Agency, believes that turning someone into a passionate brand advocate, whether for events or anything else, hinges on providing value.
“Attendees need to feel like they take something away from the experience that they couldn’t get anywhere else,” Dempster said.
He added, “A big part of that is delivering innovative and bespoke content. Get them hooked on something they can’t get anywhere else and not only will they keep coming back, they bring others with them, too.”
One way of increasing value and providing a unique and memorable experience is by involving loyal fans in the planning process.
“This could be anything from creating attendee advisory groups that you call upon a couple times a year to see what’s on their minds, to creating an enhanced on-site experience that they’ll be dying to tell everyone else about,” said Salamah.
She continued, “People, especially those who are wired toward fandom, love to be ‘in the know’ and to be the one with the ‘hook-up.’”
Salamah also suggests giving your event fans advance information about something happening at the event and let them spread the word for a while before announcing it outright or empowering them to distribute discounts to their networks.
“All of these things tap into the emotional reward of feeling special,” she added.
Saef encourages trade show organizers to create special opportunities for the event’s loyal fans.
“Host a reception at the event for loyal fans, ask them to be mentors for first timers or invite them to write their own unofficial guide to the event including not-to-miss activities and sessions,” Saef recommended.
Show organizers can also ask loyal fans to be ambassadors at the event or invite them to lead tours, Saef suggested.
Once organizers have built a group of loyal fans, they have to let them fly on their own.
“Send them off into the world to be a fan, but on their terms – get comfortable letting them be themselves,” Salamah said.
She continued, “Know that they are not going to articulate your exact value proposition or stay on message. They may voice some opinions you don’t agree with but their authenticity is exactly what cannot be bought and is therefore the most valuable thing they bring to the table.”
Finally, take a moment to express your appreciation.
“Give them a call or send an email, just thanking them for their engagement and inviting them to share what keeps them coming back,” Salamah suggested.
Authentic word of mouth is something no amount of money can buy. Creating a unique and valuable experience that includes expressing appreciation can only help trade show organizers harness the power of this asset.