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expo sales associations

The ‘New Normal’: 3 Tips for Resuming In-Person Events in a Post-COVID19 World

By Association Non-Dues Revenue, Expo Sales, Sponsorship Sales No Comments

It’s no secret that the novel Coronavirus has changed the face of the event marketing industry both in 2020 and, potentially, for years to come.

But as with many other facets of our daily life, the industry’s future success hinges on how well it adapts to the “new normal” created by the pandemic. The appetite still exists for in-person events; a recent study by TradeShowLogic found that just 14% of respondents do not see themselves attending and/or exhibiting at one or more in-person trade shows or conferences over the next year.

So with that in mind, how can your association best plan for its remaining 2020 (and upcoming 2021) in-person conferences so they both create revenue and protect the health and safety of all those involved? Below are some suggestions we’re using with our clients to help them prepare for their upcoming in-person events.

 

Bigger is Better

Given the CDC’s recommendation for six-foot spacing, one of the easiest ways to adapt is by increasing the amount of open space throughout your conference. In exhibit halls, this can be as simple as widening the aisles between booths, as well as setting up a one-way traffic flow to keep people as distanced as possible. Some clients are even limiting the number of people allowed in each room by reducing the number of entrances/exits and using tally counters.

Should you find yourself needing to redesign your exhibit hall’s floorplan to accommodate for better social distancing measures, there are several tools you can use (including this one from Allseated) that account for local and state guidelines.

 

Additional Sponsorship Opportunities

While the removal of exhibit booths to comply with social distancing measures may impact your overall profit margins, opportunities exist for you to make up a sizeable amount of that revenue through one-off sponsorship opportunities related to the pandemic.

Why not let sponsors pay for cloth facemasks that can be distributed at the start of the conference to all attendees? You can have either a single sponsor foot the bill for the masks, or have multiple vendors chip in, with the size of their logos on the mask determined by that company’s contribution amount. Sponsors can also pay for travel-sized bottles of hand sanitizer or facial tissues to be distributed on-site, as well as stand-alone hand sanitizer and water stations.

You can also have sponsors pay for the additional signage needed to enforce the additional safety measures, provided their logo appears prominently on the signs.

 

Increased Digital Presence

These days, most major conferences use an online platform like eShow or Cvent to help manage the logistics of their event. Many of these programs already offer solutions that can help minimize the need for contact at conferences and trade shows, including but not limited to:

  • QR codes on conference badges: By printing a QR code that links to the attendee’s profile from your event’s main database on every conference badge, exhibitors and attendees alike can easily trade information with one another without making contact with one another. As an added bonus, exhibitors can use the QR codes to enter attendees into raffles or send follow-up emails with brochures and other information about their products and services – making the event paperless and environmentally friendly.
  • RFID tag in conference badges: If you’re worried about crowd control at your event, consider adding a RFID tag to your conference badges. While costly, the tags will allow you to track your attendees – making it easier to focus on crowd control efforts.
  • Virtual Swag Bags: Rather than distribute collateral on-site, why not send all of your attendees a “virtual swag bag” filled with sponsor-provided content. This can be a video demonstration of their product or service, PDF brochures about their company, or even coupons for future purchases. Plus, by having sponsors pay for the content inside the bag, the cost to you is minimal.

 

What is your association doing to adapt to the changes created by the coronavirus pandemic? Have any of the above solutions worked for you? Do you have any suggestions you’d like to add? Please leave your thoughts in the comments section below.  

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The Prospect “Sprint” Roundup: Seeking a “Yes” or “No” – NOW!

By Expo Sales, Sponsorship Sales No Comments

We’ve all been at a stage in our sales cycle where we “cherish” names on a list.

Let’s say that our sales cycle is for an annual event that is coming up in 60-90 days. For months we have had steady closes, and we are closing in on our goal of a sell-out. Meanwhile, we’ve engaged with hundreds of targets and leads, and have cultivated an ever-growing prospect list, of perhaps dozens. Often, we have developed personal relationships with many prospects after multiple conversations and exchanges. We have our prospects listed and graded with an assessment of their likelihood to close. The list has grown, and we truly, sincerely believe – because these people have personally given us their positive indications. We trust them that they will come through. Yet they have not – yet!

It’s Time: De-personalize, Stop Cherishing, and Stop Trusting      

The best mindset at this late cycle stage is to go into full-on robot mode (de-personalize your thinking about these fast “friends”) and treat any and all Prospects the same! It is time to expect that each and every one can give you their answer now.  Whether they’ve been graded as “Verbal” or at 75%, 50%, 25%, or 10% – it is time to seek out a specific answer – now.

Sprint Week: Risk Getting a No

  1. Canvas each name on your list that is still alive. It is time to be even more direct than ever.
  2. Relationship time is over.
  3. Set your goal for Monday and Tuesday for contacting all accounts personally via email.
  4. Call Days: Call after the email has been sent, make sure to call each one, by Thursday.
  5. Leave voicemails with the same elements that are in your email.
  6. For Live conversations, stick to the direct – are you signing up today or tomorrow?

Get the No’s Now and Determine your “True Action” List

  1. Build in a Yes or No question. (Will your team be signing up this week?)
  2. Put each prospect “on notice”.
  3. Give them a deadline for action, actually several.

For an event that is less than three months out, relish getting a No! It pares down your list, and enables you to narrow your focus and activity to only deal with the Prospects who verify pending action. You are assessing reality and feasibility – theirs and yours…are they truly “actionable”?

There are multiple real-world urgent reasons why it behooves and benefits them to give you a Yes or No now. Come up with your own list…here are some samples:

  • Space is selling out; now is the last chance to guarantee a spot (or a best spot).
  • Logistics: Deadlines for their teams’ travel plans for ___(City). (This is an acid-test for their reality.)
  • Deadline to be included in the Show Directory (or Show App). Give a date.
  • Deadline for badge registration (perhaps rate increases). Give a date.
  • The Hotel room block selling out. Give a date.

A note about “Maybes” or “We don’t know”

Unless they tell you it is under review and they will have an answer by  ____(near-term date) – which you should ascertain – maybes and “I don’t know” are “hollow” at this stage and indicate that the person is not the decision maker. In that case you should kick your last chance inquiry to a higher-up or to additional contacts if you have them. Yes – risk losing your “friend” – it may actually get you a Yes or No.

Or simply move on.

By the end of your “Sprint Week” you will have a much smaller prospect list. You will have knocked off the No’s (for this year) and trimmed the dead weight. However, you will also have re-heated or driven quite a few would-be names on your list to take earlier action. You’ll be in a much better position, not only because of the resulting sales that are coming in. You will gain full control of your time and a razor-sharp focus for the final key stretch run, enabling you to optimize your late stage sales cycle.

Washington, D.C. Vintage Postcard

PAI Case Study: To Optimize Exhibitor Retention – Build a Program Early, Give Cards and Candy!

By Expo Sales, Sponsorship Sales No Comments

One of the keys for hosting a successful, growing annual conference is to keep your sponsors and exhibitors coming back year after year. After all, the cost for converting a new sponsor or exhibitor can be as high as five times that of retaining a current one.

That’s why at The Profitable Association (PAI), we’ve incorporated a comprehensive “Pre-Show Selection” initiative into events that we sell, including building a Priority-Points system for incumbents that includes an automated Space Draw program. And, we have “trained” our marketplace of customers that the process will begin early – with announcements and initial actions for Next Year beginning two months before This Year’s event.

By doing so, our best-supporting companies can be ensured they have the best opportunity to get the best space and the lowest rate. It is a win for the exhibitor/sponsors, and also a win for the association client who gains a much earlier picture of their following year’s financials. And, as the association’s Sales Partner, it enables us to maximize retention at their events, year after year.

Our “Pre-Show Selection” process works something like this:

  • We’ll start marketing the sales of sponsorships and exhibit booths for next year’s conference prior to the start of this year’s conference – all at discounted rates.
  • We build the next year’s show website, online floor plan, forms, rates, packages, priority order program, and automated Space Draw program – complete with assigned appointment algorithms and automated weekly and daily reminders.
  • We execute the Space Draw phase first.
  • We reached out personally to VIP exhibitors and sponsors to ensure they did not blink and miss the opportunity.
  • We sent out e-blasts featuring the special rates available to current exhibitors and sponsors who signed up before the start of the 2019 show.
  • Next, we continue the pre-show marketing and sales outreach – right up until the day before the show.

We recently used this process to great success on behalf of Design-Build Institute of America (DBIA), where we were able to exceed $1 million in sales from sponsorships and exhibit sales for their 2019 event in Las Vegas. Serving as DBIA’s partner, as their staff focused on the final preparations for the 2019 conference, we were hard at work getting them a head start for their 2020 event in the Nation’s Capital.

The real fun got underway once we landed in Vegas. We set up a full-fledged sales operation on-site at this year’s conference, with a Sales Office where we hosted one-on-one meetings with vendors, distributing promotional materials, and more.

  • As exhibitors set up their booths, we greeted them with promotional materials for the 2020 show as well as special candy treats with an invitation to visit us.
  • Later, we left them personalized appointment cards reminding them of their onsite “Space Selection” time – cards that were printed on the back of a vintage Washington, D.C. postcard.
  • We double and tripled back throughout the show and engaged directly to ensure they were fully aware of their on-site discount and that the 2020 floor plan was filling up.
  • We also sent out daily e-reminders, reminding them of the special on-site discounts available in the Sales Office.

All of this hard work paid off. Company signups increased by 119% over the year before, while early exhibit and sponsorship revenue was up as well. And, most importantly, we were able to add a personal touch combined with an automated program, resulting in great sponsor and exhibitor retention, and a fast start for our association client’s 2020 event revenue.

association sales philosophy

The 40/40/20 Sales Philosophy

By Association Non-Dues Revenue, Expo Sales, Sponsorship Sales No Comments

Where do you start with any new sales project? Let’s say that the project is selling exhibit space and sponsorships that will drive revenue to support a conference. Do you have your own basic formula or sales philosophy?

If you are in a business-to-business sales role then start by asking yourself – what is your philosophy? I like to sum up mine as the “40/40/20 Approach

The “40/40/20 Approach” to Sales and Marketing Campaigns

I like to start with this basic philosophy, thinking in terms of three very “general variables” and keeping in mind which ones you can control and which ones you cannot.

  • The List
  • The Offer
  • The Look
association sales

The “List” = 40% emphasis

Start with a variable that you can control, and can grow and improve over time. If you are building a sales program for an event, make it a priority to establish, then to methodically grow and build a prospect database. Don’t rely on disparate, random, old, or disconnected lists. Perform extensive analysis of the greater market universe, and “gold-mine” contacts that you can code by source, industry niche or category, and eventually, by contact history, prospect “grade” and call notes. Acquire contacts by attending industry events and tradeshows, researching print and online directories, and culling from publications that contain advertising. Build on whatever legacy and internal lists are available. Refine and cleanse as you go.

A long-term concerted focus on developing and growing a database of prospects is an asset that will insulate you against the normal market and economic fluctuations that otherwise may impact an event. Rather than start over each year, build your list, know your prospects, and let the numbers work in your favor.

The “Offer” = 40% emphasis

You can control this variable best of all. It is an essential intangible package, and requires focus and strategic thinking. Simply put, this is your event’s selling value proposition and all of its specifics, varied or tailored for the purpose of getting your target prospects to take action as soon as possible. It needs to be thought out and formalized, and adaptable for print and electronic media, for in-person situations and phone calls.

Take the strategic and “long view” with an empathetic mindset. It may be incorporated into how you think of and structure your rates, packages, and timing, your floor plan design and may include a rewards program.  Tailor the offer and the key parts of the value proposition and call to action to match the target list. You will have great results if you match a customized niche offer with a corresponding niche target market segment that is coded and pulled from your list.

The “Look” = 20% emphasis

If it’s not part of the value proposition, (if you can see it or touch it), then it falls into the “Look” general category. The Look is the element with the most hard costs, so it is critical that it is weighted correctly.  Many associations place too much emphasis on the branding (the font and color palette, the esoteric theme, the weight or gloss of the brochure, and the overall design of the website, etc) and NOT enough on the value proposition to buyers (the offer). The prettiest or most creatively designed brochure will only move the needle by a few points if it is mailed to a good List. But if it reaches too few (or the wrong) targets, or if it does not contain a compelling offer plus a call and mechanism for action, it could be a wasted investment.

I’m not saying that “The Look” is not important at all. Budget allowing, a mailed hardcopy prospectus can still be the single most effective element of an integrated, multi-pronged marketing campaign. Keep it lightweight, fewer in pages, and mail to more of the best targets.  Budgeting to hit a larger quantity of quality targets with the right offer will yield a far greater return in leads (and sales) than creating an expensive work of art.

The benefit of having a philosophy is that it provides your team and clients with consistency in your approach and expectations, which engenders trust, leading to higher levels of commitment and performance.

I’d love to hear what you think about the “40/40/20” Philosophy, and to learn about your own Sales Philosophy.