The other week I attended an exhibition at the ExCel centre in London, I was interested in how this would play out. When I started in sales some 25 years ago, I could see the need for exhibitions. After all, this was pre-internet, where else was a person to get information on a company?
Pre-internet prospective customers would call suppliers up and request a brochure, where as an exhibition meant you had all the players in the same place. I recall in my first sales job, watching people walk around the exhibition picking up a brochure and putting it into a bag, then moving to the next stand. Picking up their brochure, etc, etc. They would then go back to their offices and draw up a short list. But the world has changed.
Of course, you don’t need to go to an exhibition anymore, you can sit at home and search the internet. I would admit that websites are pretty much brochures.
The difference being that now the internet provides you the ability, as a buyer to ask questions you can go onto social and ask “what accounting systems do you use and why?” or “I’m going to a board meeting to present a supplier evaluation, anybody got any business case templates?”. You are not restricted to supplier information telling you how great they are. You can actually find content, and advice that is helpful.
On the basis that your buyers will be sitting at home searching, do you really need to be at the exhibition?
We use a product called Passle, it’s a blogging tool. What the product does, isn’t the subject of this blog, but how they came about developing it is.
Do you remember, the Credit Card fad where you could have photos of your children or your favourite football team offered you a credit card with a photo of your favourite player?
The people that developed that was the start up before they did Passle.
To market this credit card product, they would all get on a flight to Singapore, with all the costs of expenses. Stand at an exhibition for a couple of days and hope that somebody would walk by and say, “what I need is a photo of my customers family on their credit card”.
They then realised that actually, they only need to influence 2 people in a Bank and those people are probably not at the exhibition. They also need to influence 10 other people as part of the buying process and they are certainly not at the exhibition. Gartner, (what was CEB) say that there are now 10 people involved in a B2B business decision.
The actual people you need to influence are not at the exhibition.
What about the business case?
Say you spend £20,000 ($26,000) on a stand, I know you can spend hundreds and thousands on stands. Add to that the expenses. But let’s say the cost is £30,000 ($39,000).
You could contact all the decision markers in your target market and build relationships with them and you can do this, 12 months a year and 24 hours a day. For free.
OK, you probably need the professional edition of LinkedIn and there is the cost of your time. But that is a damn site cheaper than a stand at an exhibition.
You can build relationships with people at anytime of the day as social selling does not restrict you to prime selling time (PST). Cold calling has a finite time of the day when you can prospect, if you can get through to the people. Where as social selling is available 24 hours a day and there are no gatekeepers.
Once you have connected with the people and built a relationship, you can nurture them people. All for free and all on the same platform.
In conclusion, there is no business case why you should attend an exhibition, you need to move that spend to digital. If you get organised (think of the organisational effort that goes into exhibiting) why not transfer that effort into getting organised online?
The objection we always hear is, we need to exhibit because our competitors are there. Why not got to where your competitors are not. Go to where your clients are, on social.
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