One of the major allures of exhibitions and trade shows has always been the face to face interactions between vendors and consumers. The unique setting of a convention center allows for the easy exchange of products, services, and contacts from voluminous sources all under one roof. You can walk in with a brand new phone and business and leave with close to a hundred contacts or leads. It’s this precise mechanism which has made niche exhibitions a top priority for businesses large and small.
The magic of it all is this occurs usually over a very short period of time of around 1-2 days. There is absolutely no other way to replicate the true value of these events in terms of ROI (of both time and money). This is why it is vital to leverage the contacts and leads you’ve attained from the event and prolong the ‘shelf life’ of them for as long as possible.
Think of all the information you acquired from an exhibition as a flower bed. Lets say you make a big purchase on a large assortment of flowers from a garden center and plant them in your garden at home. If you let nature run its course on them, they have a decent chance of lasting a while due to the absorption of natural sunlight, shade, and rain. Eventually though, some will die out, some will become overtaken by weeds, and the few remaining ones will be in a neglected state thus no longer serve their purpose of serenity. Now, lets say the same day you take those flowers home to be planted, you are given information on the best practice for caring for each individual flower. You step outside every day to give them the necessary amount water they need. You check in on their health once a week and distribute nutrients when necessary. Essentially, you are prolonging the shelf life of these flowers and squeezing out as much value from them as possible.
Now, if my absolutely ridiculous, yet beautiful analogy hasn’t lost you yet, allow me to pull it back around. You come home with a whole host of contacts and business cards from people you’ve met at your two day convention. You have too many contacts to go through so you only follow up on a few of the robust leads you remember from the conversations you had. You try to do your due diligence with the rest, but due to the lack of a face to face connection, you aren’t able to get the same results you experienced at the convention thus many potential business leads start to whither away. This is the natural course of progression many trade show attendees endure, still to this day.
This is where digitization comes into play. Many event organizers are beginning to pivot in this direction so their customers and attendees can prolong the ‘shelf life’ of their contacts and sales leads. Imagine an online community where every attendee from the show you attended is auto enrolled in. While at the event, you have the community open on your phone and as soon as you receive a business card or make a face to face connection, you replicate that connection in the digital space. Your networking connections are organized into various groups such as friend, client, lead, ect. When you get home from the convention, you check out the event’s online community and already see numerous high level discussions taking place on the main feed about topics that were covered during the show. You see a list of the exhibitors that were there and are reminded of their booth location and what they were showcasing. You scroll up to your inbox and see a few notifications waiting for you. For instance, John from World Global Inc. is looking to continue the conversation you had with him about purchasing a specific number of units from your company. You then fumble through your plethora of business cards and by using some type of attendee search function, you extend a request to connect with each and every name on the cards. Finally, a justified reason for throwing away business cards. Once a connection is made, you have access to their business profile and bio information which you can tap into any day of the year and see a history of your dialogue with that person or company. Conversations begin and sales begin to flow into your business. Sales that otherwise may not have happened had they been left to Mother Nature.
It is clear digitization allows for you to capitalize on all the networking connections you’ve made at a show and maximize the value of each individual contact. In this hypothetical digital portal, you would have access to an assortment of strategic tools which you would then use to either prolong the life of a flower or, in this application, the life of a business relationship. It all boils down to this one simple question. An exhibition/trade show/convention is only two days out of the year, how can we as an industry leverage the other 363 days for our customers? The only logical answer: digitization.
Written by: Grayson Cordes