How to Gather Rockstar Vendors for Your Next Event

By Sandra Christian on November 4, 2019

If you are hosting a convention, trade show or sales event you know that filling the room with participants is only half of the battle – your first priority and focus is ensuring your event is maxed out with vendors and presenters. Today, we'll give you tips for success when it comes to vendor recruitment and event planning as a whole.

“If you build it, they will come” - Kevin Costner, 1989 Field of Dreams.

Vendor Recruitment Game Plan

To keep the good times rolling we want to set you up for success to ensure your event is SOLD out! Whether this is your first event or your 100th, consistency, communication and transparency are your keys to success.

Kick-Off Your Planning with a Plan

Set up a team kick-off meeting. You’ll want to cover the following when it comes to event planning:

  • Basics – date, time, location, occupancy goals (vendor and attendees)
  • Purpose of the event – theme, focus, and/or purpose
  • Vendors – How many vendors minimum and maximum
  • Target audience – Who is the event for? What types of people do you want in attendance?
  • Brainstorm – Make a list of anything that will help to make the event a success
  • Timeline – Who is doing what, when, and where. Keep the lines of communication open and transparent within your team.

Vendor Communication

Once that planning meeting is over, you should have a good understanding of the vendors you are hoping will participate, those that you need to attend and finally those that MUST be there. Now, it’s time to recruit those vendors! Make sure you treat all your vendors of interest the same – consistency is key. If you have a tiered pricing model, your communication may be slightly different, but your overall message shouldn’t change.

You might want to create a marketing sales plan to recruit your vendors. The more vendors you have, the greater the appeal for attendees to come.

Vendor recruitment plan can include:

  • Vendor Welcome/Invitation Information Package:
    1. Welcome/invitation letter to the event.
    2. Mission/purpose of the event. Include hashtags that will be used to promote the event.
    3. Background/history of the event.
      • If this is a recurring event include attendance numbers and demographic information.
      • Previous reviews.
      • Attendee reviews
    4. Overview of the benefits of attending – vendor networking, sales, customer education, etc. If you have stats from previous vendor attendees on their success at your event – reference those.
    5. Pricing list – Tiered pricing, early bird pricing, and next year's commitment pricing – as applicable. Take all the guesswork out by including as much detail as possible.
    6. Map of the event (reference the pricing) – If possible, you’ll want to highlight restrooms, power sources, entrance/exits, high traffic areas (desirable areas), and other points of interest. Include where the event team will be stationed.
    7. Marketing plan for the event – Overview on how you/event coordinator will be promoting the event. This should include reference to the frequency of social media, newspaper or radio spots, signage, and partnerships. If you are bold, you might want to share the estimated advertising spend to promote the event. A vendor wants to ensure there will be enough traffic at the event to make it worth their time.
    8. Sponsorship opportunities – if applicable. Include information on how your vendors can get more visibility through event advertising. This may include social media, signage, external advertising and event signage.
    9. Contact information for organizers (email and phone numbers) – List all team members and their roles. Include response time – be transparent.

Tip: Be creative with your sales package. Ensure the package aligns with your event brand. You want your vendors to get excited about the event, so make the package special. If the budget is available – get creative with the packaging by customizing the envelope or box the information will arrive in - #BeBoldStandOut

  • Advertising Plan. Create a plan and budget for how you are going to recruit vendors. Include a social media plan, as well as a direct mail campaign. If possible, customize your direct mail to your potential vendors. Tip: Include a hand-written note inviting them to sign up – a personal touch goes a long way.
  • Make a list of all vendors that you want to contact directly – don’t ‘assume’ they will contact you to sign up. Make sure all of the potential vendors receive the welcome/invitation package. Tip: Create a tracking document to help ensure that no potential vendor is forgotten.
  • Communication Follow-Up – Create a communication plan sequence for following up with vendors who haven’t signed up – as of yet. In addition, create a communication plan for those vendors that commit to your event. We suggest sending out weekly communications providing updates on the event, vendor networking opportunities, and other important information related to the event. 

On-Site Support – Before, During and After the Event

Your vendor recruitment plan worked and you confirmed a vendor – congrats! Now what?

Don’t let the time leading up to the event go to waste. This is a great time to increase vendor networking. And yes, we have some suggestions for this too!

Pre-Event – Execute Your Rock Star Vendor Communication Plan

  • Welcome Aboard! Once a vendor has committed and payment is received, send them communication that officially welcomes them to the event and your community. Highlight the benefits of having them join, including any upcoming networking opportunities. Let them know that leading up to the event you may be sending emails updates and/or inviting them to join a Facebook group (if applicable).
  • Monthly or Weekly Email Communication –Make sure you have a weekly or monthly communication that goes out to your committed vendors. As more vendors sign up – add them to your mailing list. In each email provide updates on:
    • Marketing/advertising activity
    • Ticket sales
    • Information about the event location (parking reminders, food trucks, upgrade options, etc.)
    • Welcomes for new vendors or sponsorships
    • Highlights of some of your vendors
    • Shared articles or tips to help your vendors be successful at your events.
    • Future event promotions!
  • Set up an Event Facebook Group (Closed Group – Invitation Only) – Setting up a Facebook Group is a great way for your vendors to network before the event, as well as for you and your team to get need-to-know information updates out quickly. Encourage your vendors to introduce themselves in the group as well as what they are bringing to the event. Your Facebook group communication should pick up closer to the event and keep going throughout the event as well.

Final Tips

  • Before the doors open – walk around and check-in on all of your vendors. Make sure they have everything that they need as well as your contact information. Remind them to sign up for your Facebook group if you have created one.
  • Look for opportunities to promote networking among your vendors. The more your vendors get out of the event the more likely they will be committing to next year’s event, which means less vendor recruitment for you.
  • Host a vendor appreciation room – create a quiet (or party) room for your Vendors. The room could include water, snacks and phone chargers. Be creative with the space.
  • HAVE FUN – You put in a lot of work to make your event a success – step back and take it all in. Have fun at your event – your vendors want to see you happy and in control. Be authentic.
  • After the event – SEND OUT THANK YOU emails or letters. Highlight the wins of the events and the good times had. Include pictures if you can – images sell the story! Include in your email a P.S. heads up about next year’s event and the benefits of putting down a deposit.
    • Tip: Send your vendors a survey for feedback/review on their experience at the event. Ask for suggestions for improvements – there is always room to up your rock-star status.

Have fun and good luck at your next event!

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