Having spent time at Confex last month I couldn’t help thinking again – is there a big opportunity waiting to be grabbed by the Exhibition companies?
There was a lot of discussion of Digital Strategy and quite rightly. Customers are being driven by their corporate strategies towards a better understanding and use of social media, of data analytics tools, of better customer engagement in the virtual world. That needs to be reflected in the services delivered by any supplier planning to retain and develop its clients.
However, in stark comparison the lack of interest in the opportunities to engage customers year round through various, more agile, live formats blared out louder than the Blondie “background music” that competed with Thursday morning’s panel session.
3 points that highlight a fracture with the customer:
The customer wants the Events company to help them accelerate the business of doing business: new lead generation or progressing / developing existing customers
The customer doesn’t care about format – they care about outcomes
Events companies senior management are anchored to format based on their experience and belief in what works for the customer / brings in the right margins / reduces their operational risk
So what can exhibition and event companies can take from this?
The customer would be happy to receive offerings in the form of exhibitions, conferences, webex’s, 1-1 meetings, introductions, hospitality etc etc but very few suppliers are positioned to be able to offer the customer what they want when they want it. Even those that have multiple format offerings within their portfolio are often unable to deliver the options to the customer in one conversation due to their internal silos.
The outcome – your customers, who may like to do more business with you as a trusted supplier are forced to work with your indirect competitors ie conference / content / publishing companies as you don’t deliver what they need.
Where else in the world do you see customers willing to wait 12 months, or even 12 weeks, for a service to be delivered?
It's all about engaging differently
Yes, it is more about not doing what you have been doing for the past 10 years and yes it is about investing in developing your community.
Event organisations are far too obsessed in driving new leads, new visitors, new attendees and seem to think that the only way to go about this is blasting out more emails and in essence creating more noise. This is what used to work a while back but not anymore.
The reality is that your community or your tribe (as Seth Godin calls them) are the ones that have been supporting you for the recent years and they are the ones that fly the flag for your event and bring, recommend and get everyone else to attend. These guys are the ones that senior management have been disregarding favouring the "new leads" because that is what the sponsors want.
Investing in your community means:
- giving your marketing or product department the budget to hire a content director/editor/blogger
- trialing the technology and tools to drive inbound and content marketing
- trusting and listening to your marketing department views
- pulling not pushing
- more mobile, easier to read, to the point communications
- reaching out to all your attendees to say "thank you and this is how else we can add value" instead of "thank you and register now for next year"
- reading the evaluation forms and insight gathered at your event and doing something with it TODAY
The reality is that marketing departments know what the solution is, know what they should be doing more of, what systems and technologies are the ones they need, they are simply overworked and stuck in the wheel of sameness.
The ball sits with senior management to give the financial support to make things happen. It is not an easy road but surely it is the only road to make sure everyone in the value chain is happy.
Is your organisation driving community engagement post event? we would love to hear your thoughts on this fascinating topic.
This is a guest blog by Tim Mann in collaboration with Ricardo Molina. Tim has been operating within the Conference / Events industry for the best part of 20 years. Having started in Sales, Tim has led businesses engaged in many different delivery models – topical conferences, large scale annual conference / confexs, training, Summits, digital platforms. Tim has worked for 3 significant industry players where he has led new business launches, turnarounds and fast growth operations. He has had the opportunity to trial and learn from many different approaches within both a Sales and a business context. He has also had the opportunity to work with some outstanding people, many of whom continue to make valuable contributions to the industry.
Connect with Tim on LinkedIn or drop him an email.