On a very fundamental level, planners are shoppers. And according to Ken Burke, “It’s all about relevance to shoppers.” Here's the thing though—planners don't want to be "sold to." They want to collaborate with their supplier partners and they want to be educated.
Can we just stop selling the product and sell to the program? Sell to the objectives of the event and you might find yourself with a lot more sales!
For many planners it's not necessarily the location or the brand-new audiovisual equipmentdesign being launched in Q2 or about the energy efficiencies of the motor coaches—at least not in the beginning. So try to quit swiping through the pictures on your iPad when you first meet planners at tradeshows and hosted buyer programs.
Engage planners on the human level. Engage the event as a unique piece of business.
Now, some will disagree and say, "...but the locations, the condition of the equipment do matter to the planner." And you are right, to a point. It is part of the all-encompassing determination of the final decision. Nevertheless, isn't it more important that you understand who you are selling to before you start selling?
The iPad is mentioned because I see this so many times over and over again at tradeshows—pictures of swimming pools, fitness centers, king rooms, lounges, porte cochère's, corner king suites, etc. Don't get me wrong, the pictures look nice; however what it doesn’t do is engage me. It is very two-dimensional and is essentially identical to information on your website.
At this point in our current society we have the ability to fine-tune how we interact with friends, families, work colleagues, and with each other. Information is readily at our fingertips and we can quickly gain information for ourselves on each other prior to even meeting in person. How many of you have done an internet search, or LinkedIn profile review, on an individual you are going to be working or meeting with?
Because this information is so accessible, planners are becoming more specific on what they need and what they want and more educated on what companies can provide (or presuming what can be provided). In turn they are expecting you, the supplier, to fine-tune how you interact with them. Be educated on your business, be educated on their business, and understand that one size does not fit all. Suppliers with their glossy images and renovated buildings are missing a great opportunity at these tradeshows to really get beyond the tradeshow.
The tradeshow is just the first part of the relationship—there are further steps.
In a five-part blog post, I am going to utilize this platform as a way to provide some education on what I think suppliers should consider in order to be more significant to planners, to potentially grow your business, as well as better meeting your clients needs.
What used to happen has to change. The standard tradeshow format has morphed and changed due to a need, in some cases it has been replaced by the hosted buyer program which can be more effective but at the same time has become more diluted with the quantity of them available, as well as the various different qualification requirements for each one. The way suppliers sell needs to change to to reduce the dilution and ensure stand out suppliers.
So how do you stand out? How do you ensure your information is well received? How do you guarantee you can connect with the right people to ensure success? How do you move "Beyond the Tradeshow" ... here's a hint, it's not about the selling—it's about being relevant.
(Next month: Beyond the Tradeshow Part 2 - Getting In-tune With Your Communication).
Posted by Larissa J. Schultz, CMP, MHA
Larissa is a writer, author, and professional speaker in the hospitality industry. She is also an adjunct professor at Glendale Community College teaching in Hospitality and Tourism.