“Why does Exhibitors Only promote data management services so heavily?”
The person asking that question just recently said that they didn’t really see how this tied-in with improving trade show performance.
They felt that promoting services about data belonged elsewhere.
I got the impression that by “elsewhere” they meant on an IT-focused site.
The sort of place where techies not marketing people hang out.
Politely I explained why this wasn’t a view I could agree with.
I’m going to explain to you what I told them. Doing so will take me beyond the world of exhibitions at least for part of my explanation.
Hopefully, when I’ve done that, you will understand why.
Excellent data is the foundation of great sales results
Many years ago, in my first job as a very rookie exhibition organiser, I learned about the importance of data and the magic place in which it was held.
This was the first time I heard the word database.
By the way, when I said just then I was a rookie exhibition organiser, actually I was a very, very junior salesperson in an excellent exhibition organising company.
It took me three years before I could honestly say that I really did know the fundamentals of organising an event.
More importantly, it was three years before the company I worked for would allow me to do any real organising work.
Quite right too.
But back to data.
The business I worked for back then was called Clapp & Poliak.
C&P as we called the firm, were excellent at delivering great audiences to the shows they organised.
In fact, they were so good at this that any show they launched or managed very quickly became the market-leading event.
Why was that?
The audience was and always will be the product for exhibition organisers
The audience (I was told many, many times) was the product we sold.
Not the stands. Not the signage. None of those things counted a jot if we didn’t deliver the audience.
And C&P invested huge amounts of time and money in delivering the best possible audiences to their shows.
Huge amounts of research were conducted and not just at the exhibitions.
There was plenty of fact-finding before an event, during and after it had taken place.
All of this work played a huge part in delivering great attendances.
About the “other” database
In addition to the visitor database, each salesperson also had a sales database of their own to work with.
It was this that I relied on to generate new enquiries and ultimately new sales.
The quality of the data within that list was therefore very important.
Now you have to understand that back then we were living and working in the pre-email age.
This was the age of direct mail and telesales for B2B sales generation.
Poor data in the prospect list meant high numbers of returned envelopes, plus money wasted on postage and printing costs.
Plus I wasn’t reaching prospective clients.
The list I inherited had nearly 5000 contacts within it.
By the time I had edited out the duplications, it reduced by nearly 1000 contacts.
Over many months, I filled-in hundreds of incomplete addresses.
Every time a new mailshot went out to my list the non-delivery rate dropped, the response rate rose and I made more sales.
I also started to mail and call smaller sections of the list. These were people and companies in the same field.
We called it vertical marketing. Others call it sector-focused marketing.
The important thing to note was that it was and still is, a very successful way to build sales.
Bear in mind that we had no computers so all of the sorting mentioned above was done manually.
That training and learning about data management in such a crude form has proved invaluable in every role I’ve worked in since.
Trade shows deliver accurate sales data
Trade shows offer an excellent way for any company to build a database or to improve the quality of the data that they already hold.
The thing about data is that it changes pretty much all of the time.
You can never sit back and think “ah my database is complete and totally current.”
You might achieve that for one day, maybe for a few hours but then someone leaves the firm they’ve worked at for years, or they get promoted or they start a business of their own….
Data: Dagnabbit! It’s always on the move…
As I mentioned earlier, when I first started working with data it was a long and laborious process to make changes and monitor who was within the list.
Today’s the possibilities open to even small businesses via the CRM systems that have evolved are huge. And that’s not just in relation to better-targeted email shots either.
The data within your business can help you pinpoint the ideal people to target.
You can build client profiles. You can track the depth of your contacts around important client businesses and prospective ones.
Quickly work out average sales values. The yield that you generate from particular exhibitions. You can improve email response rates…
Oh, and by doing one or more of these things, you can massively build sales.
And that’s why we promote data management as a service to the people who take part in trade shows.
Data management, by the way, is a lot more than just list building and filling in missing fields.
It’s about fine-tuning the engine of your business.
Trade shows provide excellent data but you need to use that data well if you are to make the very most of the money that your business has invested in exhibiting.