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Why should you rethink your VIP strategy for your next event?

Not all visitors are created equal. It's time to rethink the VIP.

The shift is palpable; audience acquisition has moved from being a numbers game to a serious discussion around visitor quality. Marketers and event brand owners are buzzing with talk about visitor insights, targeted strategies, mapping visitor journeys and asking how they should measure and then attract the visitors who are the true ‘value creators’ on the show floor.

Recent UFI/Explori research showed a disturbing lack of trust from exhibitors in the accuracy of the visitor data supplied by organisers – a credibility gap which needs plugging urgently to maintain exhibitor confidence and continued investment in the trade show model. 

VIP programmes are also coming under increased scrutiny. We know not all visitors are created equal but the average trade show floor has seen significant VIP ‘creep’ with almost everyone qualifying for special status.

So how do you define a VIP?

Using simple, self-reported registration data is an obvious starting point. However, this data is not usually validated, leading to potential extravagant claims from visitors which only fuels exhibitors’ distrust in their exhibition experience.

With digital marketing platforms now tracking ‘buyer intent’ to make targeting even more precise and effective, is this a measurement we should be looking to adopt – and is it transferable to the face-to-face marketing world?

There are savvy organisers doing this already. Identifying the visitors who are truly ‘value creators’ requires a data-driven approach. Firmographic data, budget and authority to spend are all important in defining VIP status, but how about overlaying that with visitors who show a propensity to really engage with your show? Tracking visitor behaviour on the show floor is a golden opportunity. The true ‘value creators’ don’t just have big budgets to spend but are also curious buyers, who actively engage with exhibitors, seminar programmes, features, networking tools and social media channels.

Behavioural Insight Is Golden

Capturing the full visitor journey is now possible - from the first touchpoint via a PPC campaign to registration to attendance, through to dwell time to show floor interactions with exhibitors, seminars and even the networking bar. With event tech such as Visit Touchpoints, you can even track post-show consumption of digital content and collected around the show. This behavioural data is golden – not only creating insight into how visitors actually behaviour during their time at your event which can be used for commercial value, but also to driving audience acquisition strategies.

Suddenly a VIP is more than just a visitor who ticked a box on a registration form into a customer who behaves in a way that truly drives value to your show: having to spend, a propensity to actually attend, to engage, meet, network and create the potential to attract ‘look alike’ visitors to grow your show.

There’s plenty of evidence to suggest people who are active on social media are social in real life, too – so if you want a buzzing show floor (and who doesn’t?), maybe targeting your heavy social media users and influencers is a key part of your VIP strategy.  Now it’s possible to replace the old ‘spray and pray’ approach to visitor acquisition with a highly targeted marketing campaign which identifies VIPs using a balance scorecard with buyer intent and a propensity to engage as important as budget.

Data Drives Revenue 

Redefining the VIP will reap financial dividends, too. A bona fide, data-validated, VIP experience programme will attract A-list sponsorship. It will drive exhibitor ROI and boost retention and rebook. It will make your visitor marketing more effective and encourage referrals. It’s a business imperative, not an optional extra. 

*This article originally appeared in Exhibition News' December 2019 issue. To read the original, click here.

About the Author

As Executive Director for GES Events EMEA, Christine is a strategic thought leader who collaborates with clients, colleagues and industry partners to reinvent events and experiences for the 21st century. She is a seasoned senior executive with extensive general management and board-level experience in publishing, events and the creative industries. Christine’s roots and expertise are deep in marketing, sales, and customer experience and she is passionate about unlocking the power of live events to deliver customer value and build strategic sustainable business growth.

Profile Photo of Christine Martin