No Trade show organizer can afford leaving the networking success of their event to pure chance. Generating traffic on the show floor is the key for this “matchmaking” between supply and demand in our industry, or so they believe.
The Status quo.
Over the last years, an increasing number of new formats and platforms, mostly smaller in size and with fancy names, offer alternatives to the established “BIG” ones on a global scale. Unfortunately, all of them are busy copying the same old “hosted buyer program”, with their promise of qualified & potential buyers to a great number of sellers & exhibitors.
The competition between those “matchmaker” events has become fierce, in some desperate last-minute search for potential buyers. It is high time for the organizer to start thinking about new and different ways to attract the right buyers to attend their show, instead of those from their competitors.
Adding value for the Trade show buyer and visitors by creating knowledge sharing & learning opportunities has become very fashionable lately, but does not solve the real and underlying challenge of time scarcity.
As long as any hosted buyer program is built on an apparent “sweet deal” where any qualified buyer gets their flight & hotel costs paid and in return brings their business potential to a selected number of fixed exhibitor appointments, it will not get better but worse, at every further event edition.
In reality, most hosted buyer programs turn very often into a “tour de force” for the participants, with rushing from one appointment to the next. An imposed and very tight time schedule does not leave neither room nor time for anything else, including the offered knowledge & learning sessions or some quality networking time. Enforcing those appointment commitments through exhibitor feedback and penalties might washout the few remaining “freeloaders” who made it through the qualification process by mistake, but it does not improve the status quo.
As consequence of it, a large numbers of eligible hosted buyers are now attending many trade fairs and other events as “ordinary” visitors, buying their access (flight & hotel) to remain master of their time. They are able to choose appointments according to their real needs, fitting into their chosen schedule while having the chance to interact and network during the time spent at the event.
So how does a successful “hosted buyer program” look like in the future? How to attract the right candidates for the future of matchmaking in our industry?
- It is all about understanding the fundamentals from a buyer’s perspective, their behaviour, and the great challenge that is time scarcity.
- Yes to incentivizing participation of those pre-qualified buyers by covering their travel costs, but understanding that you are actually buying their time. However, buying their time does not mean you become their master.
- Their purpose of participation is not to fill the time-slots of the exhibitors, but rather the other way around.
- The smart exhibitor will understand that any contact is an opportunity for a business relationship, and not a business lead.
- Any successful & lasting business relationship starts with the right people interacting. That means not only the demand side needs to be qualified, but also the supply side. And boring, monotonous and one-sided destination, product & services presentations are the guarantee for failure. The Internet of things makes those antiquated selling propositions not only outdated but also almost obsolete.
- We all agree there is the great need for continuous learning, exchanging knowledge and ideas. But it needs to be Center stage, and not only filling empty and unsold exhibition space.
- It is not about creating a buyer’s & seller’s market, but building a live communication platform.
At the end, whether you are seller or buyer, you never know where you next serious lead for business is going to come from. Above all, the main purpose to attend such an event is to build and maintain relationships.
We do represent the live communication industry, so we should also live it!