Our marketer's guide to collecting visitor data

Users of your website will range from the highly committed regular exhibitor through to the curious searcher who has stumbled across your event for the first time. New visitors could be potential attendees, exhibitors or speakers, journalists, or sponsors. Making it easy to find the information that interests them and providing simple steps for making contact works to your benefit significantly in how the industry perceives and engages with your event.

Ideally you want to be able to identify who these new visitors are, why they came to the website, and be ready to answer any questions they have. To achieve this it helps to provide a range of touch points from fully committed event registration through to lighter engagement options such as enquiry forms, industry newsletters, and social media channels, all of which will help you tease out this information about your audience.

1. Enquiry Forms

The highest volume of visitors to your website will be potential delegates and event attendees. While the big conversion goal is event registration, it is equally important to provide other, easy-to-use engagement opportunities while they weigh up whether or not to attend. We would recommend creating a simple enquiry form with pre-defined name, email, telephone, and message boxes, placing this form throughout the website on key information pages, not just a Contact page. If possible, tailor the form in each section to the likely nature of the enquiry. For example, place a contact form on the delegate packages pages and add a title such as “Got a question about packages or pricing? Why not drop us a line”. Showing the website visitor that you are happy and ready to receive questions of a certain nature can remove the barrier to making contact and create the lead.

Equally important are enquiry forms dedicate to your potential exhibitors. Every event suffers from exhibitor churn; for some retail events this can be as high as 80% of total exhibitors due to the fast creation and failure of small businesses. For this reason all events need a steady stream of exhibitor enquires. Exhibitor selection and curation is what makes your event special and delivers year on year success. However, while you may have a strong vetting criteria, you equally want to be bringing a steady stream of fresh and exciting industry developments to your target audience through the event.

It is better to have the problem of too many enquires than not enough and for this reason go to town on your exhibitor information and enquiry area of the website. Provide good clarity of what you are looking for but encourage exhibitors to make contact to see if they would benefit from exhibiting at your event. If your event space is small, your exhibitor list purposefully limited, or exhibitor demand is an issue, simply create an exhibitor enquiry form that teases out some of the commonly failed criteria so that these can be easily handled.

Every company starts as a small business treading new ground. If new exhibitors feel welcomed and encouraged from their first point of contact with your event then they are more likely to reflect positively on the experience of the show overall. There are many factors which will influence whether an exhibitor re-books the following year, but for fledgling businesses many decisions are made on the basis of gut feel and emotion rather than cold facts. How they have been handled by your team from initial enquiry through to break down will be key.

2. Event Newsletter

For small event teams the idea of producing a newsletter can feel like one too many mountains to climb when you are already stretched to cover the basics. However, a newsletter is a fantastic opportunity to identify levels of interest in your event before tickets go on sale. The event does not need to send many newsletters - it may only send one newsletter four weeks out from the event - but with the right content a newsletter is also a great way of nurturing warm leads into visitors or exhibitors.

Ensure your event website has a very prominent email capture form on all pages, that it is attractive, and doesn’t demand too much of the person filling it in. Try not to see this an opportunity to research the market and stick to the least number of fields possible - name, email address and exhibitor/visitor should be plenty, email address alone if you are really streamlining it. Adding multiple questions or asking for too much personal information will turn most people off, especially as they aren’t getting anything specific in return.

If it doesn’t make your form too cumbersome, segment your email database and capture exhibitors and visitors separately so that you can address them and their interests as two distinct groups. Your event newsletter can be great way to create momentum around attendance in the build up to your event through social amplification and peer to peer encouragement. Plus it’s another opportunity to show your event sponsors and partners how you put their brand directly in front of the target audience.

For more guidance on sharing your vantage point through email marketing and other channels, see our guide here.

3. Downloadable Content

We talk in our guide on sharing your unique industry vantage point about the power of showcasing reflective analysis and editorial on your event website. Another aspect of asserting your event as the hub for new developments and thinking is offering industry white papers for download, subscription only webinars, or the ability to access video of speaker sessions after the event. These play to the strengths of conferences or shows with a well-regarded speaker programme. All of these are opportunities to exchange valuable content for a small amount of data about the person accessing it.

Sit the content behind data capture forms and by all means use this as the moment to ask a few of the more probing questions you held back from your enquiry and newsletter sign up forms. Just don't let it decent into 20 questions or the person filling in the form will start to wonder whether the content is worth the intrusion.