Building a Referral Funnel To Convert More Attendees

By Michelle Bruno

Referral marketing is another way to describe word-of-mouth marketing. In the digital age, however, referrals can come from many more places than buyers’ mouths. That’s a good thing because it expands the universe of potential referrers as well as the opportunities for garnering referrals. When a Referral-marketing strategy, like a referral funnel, is aligned with pre-show (digital) attendee promotion tactics, the door to converting more attendees through referrals is pushed wide open.


The Referral Funnel for a Trade Show

A typical referral-marketing funnel for an exhibition includes four stages:


How to Move Attendee Prospects to Conversion

Prospects at every stage of the referral funnel need a nudge to push the referral along.

Participation Stage of the Referral Funnel—Not every visitor to your website, person on your email list, or follower on your social media sites will attend your trade show. They may, nevertheless, forward information about it to a friend or colleague whom they believe might benefit. Your job is to acknowledge these types of participants—those who love your brand or your agenda, but have schedule conflicts, for instance—and make it easier for them to participate in your referral program. Here’s how:

Sharing Stage—some number of participants will share a link to your show registration website with others. They may do so from your website or an email or when they are registering for the event themselves. In fact, registration represents a powerful opportunity for planners to provide would-be attendees with tools to invite others via email or their social media networks. Recommendations from people who are already customers are more powerful and likely to convert than those coming from individuals who only noticed that the show was taking place. Consider registration tools with these capabilities:

Referral Stage—Even when friends and colleagues click through on a registration link shared with them by a friend, they don’t always register. Some simply want to consider attending. Others may need a little encouragement before they actually sign up. At this stage, there are a couple of things that organizers can do to help the transaction along, diagnose abandoned registrations, or leverage the successful referral:

Conversion Stage—the bottom of the funnel can refer to two different types of outcomes. For example, trade shows in the U.K. are often free to attend. The bigger challenge for them is to motivate registrants to actually attend. Thus, conversion means attendance. In The U.S. though, organizers offer a full conference registration that includes the exhibits or an exhibits-only registration that is either free or much lower than a full conference registration. In these cases, conversion may simply mean registration. In either case, there are a number of things that organizers should do to validate the value of the referral funnel:


Get Started With Referral Marketing

Moving people through a referral funnel requires a strategy, consistent measurement at every stage of the funnel, and tools that can track the provenance of a referral. Many organizers are coming to the realization that referral marketing is well worth the effort. Registrations that come from referrals are proven to be less expensive and attendees that come from referrals are more loyal over the long term. Start with a platform like Gleanin to learn how referral marketing can work (and pay for itself) and expand from there. 

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