2 Ways to Entice Exhibitors with Content Marketing

As a hospitality marketing professional who oversees my company’s tradeshow budget, I am often shocked by the lack of quality exhibitor prospectuses from conferences and tradeshows that are looking to gain a piece of our marketing spend each year. An exhibitor package that includes non-discerning tiers (Platinum! Gold!), click-through mobile ads (average CTR is 0.08%) and attendee lists (hold the emails) is getting sent to my trashcan (virtual or physical) faster than I can identify the tradeshow it’s promoting.

These stale sales tactics are in direct opposition to what teams like mine are eagerly pursuing today: content marketing. As a general term, content marketing is defined as “a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience—and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.”

77% of marketing teams today are investing resources in this lead acquisition strategy. If you aren’t helping us pursue this tactic, we will go elsewhere with our budgets.

Learning how to create content marketing opportunities for your exhibitors in 2015 will set your conference apart from the red sea of lackluster prospectuses that suppliers are routinely exposed to. By providing sponsorship packages that include brand awareness masked by education, you are offering your exhibitors a way to engage with their target audiences in a unique and impressionable way.

Here are two unique ways to entice exhibitors with content marketing opportunities:

Commit to (Quality) Cooperative Content

71% of B2C marketers use print or other offline promotion, making it the paid method they use most frequently to promote/distribute content--yet only 46% of them say it’s effective. To an exhibitor, that means that print/offline promotional materials are worthless nearly half of the time, making it a poor investment for their marketing budgets.

Swag bags full of paper collateral are both wasteful in terms of resources spent and as it pertains to the environment. I am not going to belabor this point: Kill the paper marketing options in your prospectus. Commit instead to a high quality alternative that provides education, doesn’t look like an egregious marketing ploy (such as a beautiful branded report about the industry - not your conference) and is infused with content so good* people wait with baited breath for the annual release that only conference attendees can access.

Give your exhibitors the opportunity to sponsor a chapter and encourage them to use their knowledge to actually contribute to the copy. Jay Baer, president of Convince & Convert calls this “Cooperative Content.” The best people to talk about your industry are your attendees and your exhibitors – people whose job it is to understand their independent sub-markets within the events and meetings industry inside and out. Leverage that for quality content that you can deliver in a mobile-friendly way.

Rethink Ad Placement with Branded Content Tools

A study by the Content Marketing Institute found that the biggest increase in B2C tactic usage has been for companies to create, introduce and deliver branded content tools in lieu of ad spend on traditional content (up from 37% to 47%). Joe Pulizzi defines a branded content tool as “an online application that comes from a brand that solves a very simple problem or is incredibly helpful.” This tool is often free and provides a platform for exhibitor brand awareness through subtle marketing, while assisting your event attendee in solving an established problem.

Instead of offering your exhibitors logo placement via banners, blogs or popup ads, why not partner with one of them on a branded tool that adds value for your conference attendee at the same time? If it’s a quality solution that your attendees need - beware creating a solution to issues you perceive they have - you’ll have given both your conference and that brand partner longtail ROI opportunities by providing an app that will live on long past when the doors close at your event.

One industry leader who has done this well is The Convention Industry Council. The CIC developed a free event and meeting calculator called the Pocket Planner, which uses CIC standards to recommend food, beverage, service and safety quantities for events based on attendance. By providing a free solution to a real pain point, the CIC’s logo is now in the hands of 4,000 planners – expanding their brand recognition while providing a complimentary service**.

*Warning: ensure you’re providing educational resources that aren’t drowning in overt advertisements – people can smell bad content a mile away.

**Full disclosure, they partnered with Social Tables, my employer, on this app.

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