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Of all the topics we have covered in theENBack to Basics series, this monthwe take on perhaps the mostelementary of all: Visitor numbers. Unlike retailproducts, where the consumer has no idea howpopular they really are, it is readily apparent tovisitors and exhibitors alike when an exhibitionhas flopped. We've all walked empty aisles andthere is no other desolate feeling like that of anempty floor or quiet stands.So how do you ensure the maximumnumber of visitors attend your show?"The old broadcast marketing approach nolonger works, especially as visitors arebecoming more focused on what they want toget out of an exhibition," said Neil Felton,executive director of exhibitions at William Reed.Relevance versus footfallBecause visitors and exhibitors are lookingmore closely at why they should attend, anorganiser needs to work harder to make theshow relevant."Our marketing and sales teams not onlyspeak to previous visitors and non-attendeeson a monthly basis, but actually work in thevisitors' businesses," Felton said. "This givesus excellent insight into what motivates them,the challenges they face and what wouldattract them to a trade show."The Source Marketing Group MD MichelleCrouch said personalisation is the key toeffective marketing and subsequently highervisitor numbers. "Consumers have become used to the ideathat they can have what they want, the waythey want it," she said. "If they're going toattend your event, you have to show themyou know them and strike up a personal andwell-timed dialogue that speaks to theirindividual agenda."Who counts?Of course, absolute visitor numbers are not thebe all and end all of exhibition marketing. If yourexhibitors aren't selling or gaining leads, theywon't deem the show a success, so quality is atleast as important as quantity."It is not as much about total visitor numbersbut more detailed information about the type ofvisitor and their buying power," said Felton. "Ourexhibitors' approach is increasingly measuredwith a focus on ROI, not visitor numbers.""It can be tough because our egos like to seeaisles crammed full of people," said consumermarketing manager for Centaur ExhibitionsColin Williams. "But for me quality is of theutmost importance. It is the quality of audiencethat makes the difference and helps a salesteam rebook."Crouch agreed good visitor numbers canmake your show look successful on the surfaceand can help organisers justify good brandexposure for exhibitors and presenters, but itwon't stop exhibitors demanding a refund ordiscount next year because they achieved noreturn on their investment."Smaller, more focused events, with thedecision-makers in attendance, will ensurethe right level of attention and information forguests," Crouch said. "It's also the bestopportunity for vendors to build more relevantand meaningful relationships with anaudience they want to and will do businesswith in the future."According to Williams, the aftermath of therecession and public sector cuts have causedexhibitors to place even more importance onquality visitors. "We were heavily affected by snow at lastNovember's Homebuilding and RenovatingShow in Somerset, where many visitors justcouldn't get to the venue," he added. "Despite lower numbers, the re-book rateswere still very good as the quality wasextremely high."RepetitionWhat about repeat visitors? People need to havereason to keep coming back year after year."It's important to treat repeat visitorsdifferently, and recognise their needs may havechanged," said Williams. "Events can neverstand still and must continually evolve andengage the audience.""Loyal visitors require a different approach tothe wider first-time market," Felton added. "Allrequire clear, concise reasons to attend. Thedifference is the level of detail in which youdescribe the show."While targeted marketing campaigns,analysis of data and personalised advertisingcan boost visitor numbers, an organiser'sresponsibility is to make it worthwhile to theexhibitors. This means doing everything youcan to bring them business.ENEXHIBITION NEWSback to basicsIn part four of our Back to Basics series, ENlooks at how you can maximiseyour visitor numbers, and asks if you actually should.28APRIL 2011EXHIBITIONNEWS.CO.UKThe numbersgameIdentify specific sub-demographics in your audience...Appeal to each group individually...Don't be tempted by quantity over quality...Recognise the changing needs of return visitors...Add new features to keep things fresh...Speak to non-attendees as well...Know the target industriesKey tips