We industry folk know that recent good news indicates that face-to-face meetings are picking up and things look a lot better than they did a year or two ago. So now that show organizers and meeting planners are booking conventions and trade shows, how can you be sure you’re one of the venue finalists? One way is to assure your customers that you can make and keep exhibitors happy.
When we talk to venues about implementing online ordering and hear objections (yes, it happens occasionally), it’s usually one of three points: 1) we outsource most of what we offer so we don’t need a storefront on our web site; 2) online ordering is not as personal as talking to the exhibitor and determining what their needs are; or 3) the general service contractor has it so we don’t need it. All three are reasonable points, but I’d like to counter each one.
Objection 1: We Outsource What We Offer
Outsourcing is certainly a valid business model, but the show organizer and/or exhibitor really doesn’t have an interest in being inconvenienced by having to go to several different supplier web sites to order what they need merely because you aren’t the primary source of those goods and services. And there’s no reason why you and the supplier(s) can’t work together to maintain or fund the storefront so that you both benefit from it (read increase revenues). If you have a commission/split arrangement in place with your exhibitor services suppliers, it makes good business sense for both of you to open online doors from the venue’s web site.
Objection 2: Online Ordering Isn’t Personal
The unfortunate news is that online ordering will continue to become one of the criteria used to determine whether a venue is “exhibitor-friendly”. As e-commerce becomes more popular, it will become an expectation that you offer online ordering for exhibitors. There are certainly plenty of opportunities to up-sell exhibitors even if the first point of contact wasn’t a phone call. Picture a couple of possible scenarios:
a) An exhibitor goes to your online storefront to buy the needed items for their booth. You have images, descriptions, and links on your storefront to other items that complement their items. Boom(er). They add more to their cart. You’ve just up-sold them without a conversation.
b) The exhibitor goes to your online storefront and places their order. What I mentioned in (a) above didn’t have an effect for some reason so they just checked out without buying anything they didn’t originally plan to. You now have their full order details and can either call or e-mail them based on any order criteria. You can still up-sell them with a follow-up phone call or e-mail to offer enhancements to what they originally bought.
Objection 3: The General Service Contractor Has It Covered
If you’re relying on the sale of the goods and services you offer through the general service contractor, you’re missing an opportunity. Depending on your sales through a general service contractor’s system is a win-lose situation. Win for the GSC, Lose for you. First, the exhibitor’s initial order submission is the tip of the iceberg. Being able to easily manage the rest of the order’s life cycle (like up-selling – see Objection 2 point above) and fulfilling the order is the rest. And finally, unless the same GSC is involved in all your shows, you don’t benefit from the next show that doesn’t exist in the system where you just put all your products.
What’s most interesting to me of all is that any objection to online ordering, including the three I mention above, is that they are done without calculating the value of offering it. In all cases, these objections are made without knowing our price. You can’t always put a specific dollar value on exhibitor convenience and conceptual up-selling, but I can tell you that if you lose just one piece of business to the venue in the next city because of it, it’s worth the extremely reasonable monthly price of offering it. You look like you’re prepared for and leading the next upturn of the meetings and conventions business; not chasing it.