Exhibitors: Sharpen Your Tools and Outsmart Coronavirus
In light of Coronavirus being a concern for the events industry, I got to thinking about the repercussions of a cancelled trade show. Services such as travel, hotels, restaurants, convention centers and more all take a loss. But personally my heart goes out to exhibitors. Sometimes a cancelled event can bankrupt a startup or crush a company. Many companies rely on events to generate enough leads to hit their sales goals for the year, which makes it all the more important to make informed decisions and plan strategically so every event counts and goals are met.
I have two pieces of advice: First, be informed. Second, be prepared.
BE INFORMED: Know the facts about Coronavirus.
Don’t cancel your booth yet! Know the facts and weigh the pros, cons, and risks first.
- For those who get it, the Coronavirus is not a death sentence. 95% of people who have been diagnosed with Coronavirus recover the same way they would from a common flu.
Is it something to keep an eye on? Yes!
Should it stop you from doing business? No!
What are the chances of coming into contact with Coronavirus VS the flu? To give you some perspective, here are some stats to compare Coronavirus vs Influenza. https://content.invisioncic.com/j283755/monthly_2020_03/Coronavirus-vs-Influenza_Infographic.jpg.9713d59dc270c874eccad920f1297652.jpg
- As with the flu or any other cold, be smart, practice good hygiene and if you feel sick please stay home until you are better. However here is a great resource to better understand the symptoms and how it spreads. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/about/index.html
- As of today, there are 164 known cases in the United States. To help you keep an eye on statistics, visit The American Center of Disease Control website. They publish updates Monday through Friday at this link: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/cases-in-us.html
- If you are looking for more resources to stay informed on the latest event industry news, check out this helpful resource by TradeShow News Network (TSNN): https://www.tsnn.com/news/industry-resources-staying-informed-coronavirus-outbreak
- The trade show industry has launched a campaign called “The Show is OPEN for Business” at SupportingEvents.org. Check it out as event organizers across the USA gather together to discuss how to keep events safe and to keep business the trade show industry thriving! Visit: https://www.supportingevents.org/
BE PREPARED: Sharpen your tools and work strategically to get the most out of every event.
When was the last time you revamped your exhibit processes & strategy?
Now is the perfect time to sharpen your tools! When is the last time you took a class, read a book, attended a seminar, explored new technology or hired a consultant to revamp your sales and marketing processes for face-to-face events? I suggest you dig in because, with or without the Coronavirus, ways of doing business are changing quickly and require a change of strategy.
Here are a few tips to help get you the most out of the events you will be exhibiting at this year:
- DATA ANALYSIS: Take a deep dive into your data and do a complete S.W.O.T. analysis on each event. Look at demographics, your lead capture results and sales won/lost results from the past to get a true understanding of your ROI. One big trend is to look at your largest events then work with organizers to slice into their attendee behaviour analytics to look for hidden opportunities to get in front of them.
Take Away: Dig deep into the data to look for buried treasure!
- MARKETING: Sponsorships are nice, but let’s be real. They are rarely personal. They are good for making your brand visible to be seen as a leader in your industry, which is great – don’t get me wrong, but it is time to dare to be different and approach marketing with a personal twist. Exhibitors don’t realize the unique position they are in to negotiate before signing a contract.
Did you know you can request valuable attendee behavior data from show organizers? May I suggest comparing your data with theirs to look for untapped verticals to reach your target audience that may be ignored? This is a perfect way to create/invent a new marketing opportunity that the show organizer never thought of! If you pitch it to them with you being the exclusive sponsor of your idea and lock down a price, you can get an edge on your competition. When is the last time you suggested a new sponsorship for your perfect buyer that makes them feel proud to be recognized?
Take Away: Research new ways to connect with your target buyers and pitch your ideas to show organizers. You will be surprised how receptive they are.
- EXHIBITOR TRAINING: When was the last time you required your team to attend exhibitor training? 3 years? 5 years? More? Well, let me let you in on a little secret: The best companies do it every year and make it mandatory before any team member is ever permitted to work an event or attend one. Why? Because each team member is representing your company, and each team member needs to know what is expected of them.
From working a booth to attending an evening reception, each team member must be ready to speak to a prospect, collect them into your lead capture system, and follow up without dropping the ball… even off the show floor! Failure to properly care for a prospect can kill any chances of doing business with them in the future and cause harm to your valuable reputation in the industry. If your training is good, you won’t let anyone work an event that does not have the right attitude, work ethic, or training that meets your expectations.
Take Away: Before you trust employees with your most valuable asset, make sure they are enabled to meet your goals & expectations!
- LEAD CAPTURE REVAMP: This is where a CTSM or exhibit manager can shine and bring together their event operations, marketing and sales team into one unified ecosystem! Just in the past 3 years we have seen a huge shift in how companies are using event technology to showcase their company, attract new buyers, capture leads and close deals that resulted from trade shows. The challenge is, most exhibitors are stuck in their ways and rarely explore new lead capture technologies. Those that do are enjoying a huge advantage over their competitors! If budget is a concern I can tell you that it’s not about how much you spend, but more about where you spend it that matters. Why would a company spend $100,000 on a booth, and nothing on technology to manage the lead capture process? Isn’t the whole point of exhibiting to capture leads and close business? The big shift you will see is that exhibitors no longer want to rent scanners and pay user licenses. They want API access to bring their own technology to capture leads with a more strategic approach that takes the lead seamlessly from the event into the next step of their sales processes.
Take Away: New technologies are emerging to attract, capture and close leads. Take time to explore and budget to try something new.
- CLOSING SALES STRATEGY: In the end, growing your industry connections and closing business is what makes all of the work above worthwhile. Every VP of Sales and CEO is laser focused on measuring ROI to justify their huge investment in exhibiting and sponsoring events. Every decision related to event planning should revolve around building connections and closing sales. Today’s exhibitors are taking this literally by enabling attendees to engage with their brand and purchase directly in the booth, such as winning a free product or service trial or purchasing something at a special show price. Onsite sales and sign ups give immediate ROI value while post show sales may take awhile to measure and report on.
Take Away: Steps 1-5 = Max ROI. If any one of these areas are weak, your investment is at risk.
EVENT and MARKETING MANAGERS:
Everyone on your team is looking to you right now for reassurance that it is safe to exhibit (Facts) and that you can overcome any drop in attendance or an event being cancelled (Strategy). If you can be the voice of logic and reason, you can not only survive… you can thrive! I guarantee if you educate your team and streamline your processes, your team and your company will thank you for it!