by Michael C. Lowe | November 01, 2013
There are myriad ways to add value for exhibitors, and each tactic has its pros and cons. Show organizers might start by creating an exhibitor retention strategy to determine objectives and which tactics will work best to achieve them.

"Everybody knows retention is important, but nobody really has a formal plan in place," says Kevin Miller of the marketing firm Frost Miller, and who has written about the topic on his blog, Talking Points. Below he offers tips on creating such a plan:

1. Get feedback
Listening to past exhibitors or an exhibitor advisory committee is a good place to start. Ask what their pain points are and ways they think the show experience can be improved.

2. Set objectives
Establishing goals for your exhibitor retention efforts will help determine its success or failure and help you find ways to fine-tune in the future. Goals might include a target for the number of exhibitor attendees at an exhibitor education session or reception, or receiving positive survey feedback. Another goal could be a retention rate for next year, says Miller.

3. Identify target audiences

Determining your target demographics can help create more specified campaigns for groups of exhibitors with specific pain points. "Exhibitors are a diverse group, so if you can, you really want to avoid having a one-size-fits-all retention strategy," says Miller. Audiences can be broken up into categories such as industry type or how many years they have been with the show.

4. Choose your initiatives
Based on your data, goals and target audiences, determine the tactics that will make the most sense for achieving your goals.

5. Set a timeline and budget
With your list of initiatives in place, map out a realistic budget and timeline for implementation. Some tactics might be more or less realistic depending on these factors.

6. Evaluate during and after
During the show, ask exhibitors for feedback to help determine the success of individual tactics. After the show, further evaluation might be needed to see if you successfully hit your goals.