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August 8, 2006

PORTFOLIO MANAGEMENT: Use your events wisely

How many events does your company hold, from taking a stand at an exhibition to taking clients to the races, and how coordinated are they? If you hold more than one, then you need to think in terms of an events portfolio. By doing this you can make sure that you are getting the most from each one, that there is no duplication of effort, in terms of two events serving similar purposes, and that there is an overall coordinated aim to your event planning – invaluable when justifying your spend to the board.

Any company participating in or holding only a single event each year is kind of missing the point and not using the marketing potential of events to the full. A well-structured events strategy can help guide potential customers through the buying process. Starting, say, at an exhibition, initial leads can be generated. Perhaps a seminar or workshop event with some hospitality element could then be used to inform and educate those that have shown an interest, and of course introduce your company and your products and/or services in more detail. Then for those potential customers showing real interest, a more personal event could be arranged to assess their individual needs and bring them to the brink of purchase.

The problem is how to decide what events to attend or hold. Often the problem lies in companies attending too many exhibitions and not using enough smaller, more targeted events to follow up lead generation.

“Just because you have exhibited at an event in the past – or your competitors are at a show – does not mean that the event should be in your portfolio,” says Kim Myhre, vice president & general manager, EMEA, at brand experience agency The George P Johnson Company (GPJ), and an expert in portfolio planning.

Myhre cites three criteria that are key to deciding whether to exhibit: audience, appropriateness and timing.

“Before you commit to an event, check out its visitor profile,” he advises. “Check whether the attendance figures are audited and also ask for actual attendee lists from previous events – not just those who have pre-registered.

“Once you have the visitor profile information, cross-reference it,” he continues. “Do the attendees have the right job titles and operate in the market sectors your company needs to reach? Are their companies the right size? If an event delivers lots of decision-makers from smaller businesses, will your sales personnel, product offering and company be geared up to support and make the most of their enquiry?

“If it’s a new event, ask to see the marketing programme. Take a close look at their audience acquisition plans – and the profile of those they say they will be targeting. Does all this stack up and match your own needs?”

It’s also important to make sure the show complements your other events. “The right mix will ensure you minimise confusion in your marketplace, reach all of your key audiences in the best way, convert a maximum number into customers and get the best return on your event spend,” says Myhre.

Timing is also crucial. “Exhibitions fit in very well with the early stages of the marketing cycle – building awareness, developing new contacts, up-selling and cross selling,” Myhre explains, “but are not necessarily appropriate for companies that are focused on expanding key accounts, retaining current customers or communicating complex messages, so you should also look to other event types, such as conferences or a seminar series, that can more successfully help you to achieve these aims."

So don’t do trade shows for the sake of it. And don’t let your event strategy stop at your exhibition stand either. Redirect some of your trade show budget into more appropriate, targeted events that can help turn your leads into customers.

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