Another way to add value

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Regardless of the industry’s predilection for attendance figures and square metres, most exhibitors’ experiences of an exhibition are defined by a handful of potentially lucrative encounters.  Today, concierge systems are increasingly commonplace on the show floor, and as with all tools they vary in purpose and application. Some are effectively software apps that aid networking at the event, while others play the role of a premium services for loyal customers looking to extract more value from the events they attend. In either case they are dynamic in the sense that once details are recorded, they are used to put buyers or exhibitors in touch with the right people. Reed Exhibitions corporate marketing director Alison Berends said the organiser’s aim is to provide the right level of support according to the customer’s needs for each event. The company has developed bespoke software for several functions including matching hosted buyers with exhibiting companies, managing meetings, online appointment setting and messaging systems, and tools for producing schedules including travel arrangements. “For customers who like to pre-plan their visit themselves we provide the online tools for messaging and setting up meetings with their peers, ensuring the process is as effective and easy as possible,” she explained. “Customers do have different requirements and we try to offer flexible options to suit their needs. There is not one option that fits all; new launches and mature events require different services and the size of the buying community may lend itself to a different approach. Cultural difference and requirements in different geographies also have to be taken into consideration.” As Berends points out, working an exhibition is a busy exercise for participants and tools that support pre-planning and connecting buyers and sellers can help ensure the time spent is as effective as possible. UBM group director Jonny Sullens claimed the focus on hosted buyer programmes has increased, helping the organiser to ensure its key clients are meeting their key clients. “To derive full return on the investment on a hosted buyer programme, it is key to try and manage the experience and resulting interactions as closely as possible with the likes of personalised itineraries and supplier/buyer information,” he said. However, as Sullens points out, the tool is not applicable to all B2B events. “It is not applicable for every B2B event but is becoming more relevant as the pressure on buyer’s time increases and our customers use more measurable marketing tactics such as email, affiliate, search and so on. From a personal perspective it is crucial for International Confex and we will be extending the programme again for 2013.” But does a concierge system actually improve ROI, or simply improve relationship with exhibitors? Sullens said it does both. “On [Leisure Industry Week] we identified upcoming build leisure centre projects and invited the contractors/operators to the show – we tailored a series of introduction meetings to our key exhibitors and then followed up post event to see where the business had been placed,” he said. “That insight was invaluable and naturally improved our exhibitor relations.” Informa’s Clive Morton said it would be hard to argue against such a meetings system, although he thinks it can be a bit tricky to integrate into existing events. “It almost requires a different business model,” he said. “Our sellers are increasingly looking for structured solutions to get connected in an efficient and planned manner, especially those buyers who have become jaded with shows in their market and no longer use them.” Informa doesn’t currently do this on any of its shows, but is looking to add some form of matchmaking element in the near future. The organiser is also planning a system for its 2013 Live Production Network show, where people can book their own flights and hotel rooms through our Star Alliance system. Once they have arrived at the show, they then use the networking tool, fed by the same database, to make sure they’re get the most out of each encounter. “The ultimate would be for an exhibitor to then use our technology, an RFID platform for example, with their iPad and see that the man approaching you has a budget of £5 million to spend – and I don’t think that’s that far away,” Morton claimed. There is no one-size-fits-all approach and it’s important to understand not only what you are trying to achieve, but also how your type of event will benefit from that software. But these premium services strengthen corporate brands by placing core values such as customer service, innovation and expertise back at the centre of the exhibition. This was first pubished in the July edition of EN. Any comments? Email exhibitionnews@mashmedia.net
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