INFLUENCING YOUR INTERNALS – 3 FLIPS FOR STARTING THE TRADE SHOW CONVERSATION

As summer slowly slides by and we start to approach the colourful but cooler shades of autumn, no doubt many businesses are starting to think about strategic planning for 2020. If it already sounds too soon, there are many companies who have it nailed and are onto fleshing out the finer points of tactical execution…. not that we’re trying to scare you or anything! The reality is, next year will be this year before we know it, so why not take a jump on getting your trade show plans in place for 2020 now, whilst there’s still budget there for the grabbing!

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But what if YOU know that trade shows and exhibitions are fundamental to your businesses’ success in 2020, but you’ve yet to convince your internal team to agree with you and unlock the cash, time and people you need to really make a difference to the bottom line? It’s a topic we’ve visited previously (click here for the blog) but we’re working with a number of clients at the moment in exactly this position so we thought we’d share some of our inspiration with the rest of the world.

Here are 3 ways you can flip the conversation that might have a more positive reaction from your internal doubters.

PROFIT VS COST

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One of the biggest barriers in overcoming internal obstacles is that often colleagues see exhibitions purely as a cost. They primarily think about how much the space, stand design, accommodation, giveaways, travel etc etc. is going to add up to, without first thinking about the profit opportunity. If you can do the homework to understand the size of the potential audience, likely conversion rate and therefore potential revenue (rough estimates will work for now), you have the opportunity to present the scale of the prize, as opposed to the cost of the activity. If the conversation started with ”I’m interested in doing something next year that I think could generate £100K (or the appropriate number) in sales”, the fact that is might cost £10k to achieve, becomes much less important. Starting the conversation with ”I’d like to talk about securing £10k for an exhibition” tends to get that ‘sucking air through teeth’ response.

Equally, if you do the homework and the numbers don’t stack up…. well you’ve just saved yourself an awkward conversation after spending £10k and failing to deliver a return.

PROSPECTING VS MARKETING 

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We’ve often worked with clients who state that their objectives for a trade show are to ”increase brand awareness”.  Apart from that not being measurable in itself in any way, it’s probably not going to motivate the guys who hold the purse strings. Building awareness and profile amongst customers and prospects is a perfectly reasonable macro aim for exhibiting at a show… but it’s not what pays wages, returns a shareholder dividend and ultimately drives business growth. There are few profitable companies that survive on brand awareness alone. Think about Coke or Nike for a second, they have huge brand awareness but what they do brilliantly is translate that into sales – their brand awareness drives an action that results in a sale. The objective of being at an exhibition isn’t to drive brand awareness for brand awareness sake but to demonstrate how your product or service meets the needs of an interested community…. who ultimately go on to buy from you. Admittedly that sale is unlikely to happen on the day (unless it’s a B2C show) – it’s part of the process to move prospects along the path to purchase that leads to sales and profit – the stuff that businesses thrive on. 

Why would a CEO or Head of Finance release the budget so that more random people know about your business? But flip the conversation and surely they’d be interested in having more 1:1  conversations with the specific people who are most likely to be interested in buying your product? 

EFFICIENCY VS TIME-WASTING

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Mention an exhibition to senior teams and you can sometimes hear the groan, feel their shoulders drooping and prepare yourself to hear their dislike of ‘wasting time hanging around on a deserted stand waiting to speak to time-wasters’. Time is one of the most precious commodities for senior teams so image if you could give them back 12 or more days over the course of the year to invest in strategic navel-gazing or just more time with the family? Exhibitions bring together your community, the people who are interested in your products or services, the movers and shakers who are revolutionising the industry, the stakeholders who are changing the policy debate with the government, the customers paying your salaries – all the key people your senior team are well-intentioned to meet but always run out of time for. Packing their schedule with customer top-to-tops, media interviews, power breakfasts and such like, all in the space of a few days in one location could save your senior teams numerous days on the road heading to meetings in the future. And if they’re busy, it keeps them away from the stand which can sometimes work in your favour.

Illustrating how much future time your team could save by maximising their hours at the show could change the debate completely from one which is seen as zero value to one which is massively value adding.

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Ok, before I come under attack from all the senior teams who are massively supportive of exhibitions and are screaming ”How dare you stereotype us so negatively” – I hear you and you’re our heroes! There are some brilliant senior managers out there supporting, coaching and empowering their teams to deliver equally brilliant live events. In our experience however, there are significantly more (sadly) who don’t see the value of exhibitions, think they’re a waste of time and are reluctant to even engage in a dialogue about them – and to be fair, when their past experience is of wasted time, money and effort on un-measurable campaigns, who could blame them?

The purpose of this post is simply to try and give some confidence and a bit of inspiration to those who believe trade shows could be an effective tactic for their business but are struggling to convince their internal doubters.  If you’re still not sure how to start the conversation with your team, why not give us a call and we’ll gladly help you flip your story and get your sceptics unleashing their inner exhibitionists!

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