For the last one decade, I must have visited numerous exhibitions of different stature across India – Jewellery, Home Décor, Engineering, Oil and Gas, Lifestyle Spaces, Retail, Architectural and many more. Few are accommodated in more than 30,000sqm and some are as small as 2000sqm. On inspection, a generic trend has emerged – it’s the tussle to bring in the right set of unique visitors that matches the expectations of exhibitors. Though every B2B exhibition see a lot of traction in visitors footfall, every exhibitor concludes the show with one big question – is the spend on the stall design and erection, travel costs, manpower cost etc. is really worth the effort? That leaves them with only critical question – if they should participate again in the next show. A dreaded question, which every exhibition organiser has been trying to answer since ages.

After a self study, I see the following problems that most Indian exhibition organisers must solve and they are:

  1. Getting the right mix of Exhibitors
  2. Create a robust go-to-market strategy
  3. Attract quality visitors that do business with exhibitors
  4. Creating the right exhibitor and visitor experience

Though these elements are critical but unfortunately all organisers tend to overlook them. Organisers mostly take the obvious, more conventional and dated track to conduct business only to impede the growth of the exhibition. It eventually becomes apparent, post performance evaluation, in the boardroom,that these pain points are eating away the bottom-line of the company.

Every industry needs exhibition, but not all exhibitions are profitable. The size of the industry versus the number of companies willing participate, determines the business model. Moreover, how active the participating companies are to launch new products into the market defines their frequency of participation. For example, an engineering or an electrical show may not happen every year as it takes 1yr to 1.5years to develop such engineering products. On the other hand, non-technology based exhibition – such as jewellery, toys, food, plastics and many more can be done on a yearly or half yearly basis. But to make the business successful – a compelling foresight, together with acute planning will lead to higher returns.

Getting the right mix of companies

Every business model is based on a strategic thinking post analysis of a market study of visitor expectations. As the industry grows, the thin peripheral line tend to get diluted amongst the ancillary or support industries. Visitor’s expectation from the exhibition continues to soar year after year and thus, having the definite mix only lead to the stability and continuity of the exhibition. A mix could be either based on an industry’s sub sector or a complete A-Z package e.g. a Food Technology show must have automated machines, testing, large scale kitchen equipment, conveyor belts solution providers, supply chain companies etc in its core. But at the same time, the exhibition must also have ancillary or support categories such as IT, Training Institutes, Banks and any other Factory Accessory items such as welding etc. to complete the bouquet. Getting the right kind of companies under each subsector, I am sure will create a definite delight for all the visitors and exhibitors alike. Apart from this, infusing new peripheral sectors on a year on year basis will keep the ball rolling!

Create a robust go-to-market strategy

Once the companies or industry sub-categories are shortlisted, the next step is to create a robust go-to-market strategy (watch out for the 2nd article on Exhibition : Tool to drool – Go-to-Market Strategy for exhibition). The strategy must define a few critical parameters to reach out to the target companies with a complete plan of action that will convince them to participate. Probably, a detailed business generating opportunity model is one way to attract exhibitor’s attention. Based on the value that the exhibition extends, a definite pitch for a bigger space can be made to the exhibitors and seal the deal.

Unless things are done right in a right fashion at the right time, the future may not look as promising as in a ‘business plan’!

Getting the right quality of visitors – a daunting task for sure!

This is the most challenging part of the business. Once the top companies abide by what the organiser demanded during the sales pitch, their expectation from the organiser and the exhibition sky rockets. Every exhibitor irrespective of its product offering expects to get a min 10x return on the investment made. For organisers, it’s an uphill task to satisfy this criteria to even 40% of the total exhibitor count, had the entire exhibition and visitor promotion strategy is not thought through well from the beginning (Tumbling blocks – Is visitor really what to come to your exhibition: 3rd article of visitor promo).

A right set of audience pushes the exhibition to a new level, e.g. an exhibition on Oil and Gas must attract technology gurus, manufacturers of equipment, project developers, ancillaries companies, transportation companies, etc. Though the quality of visitors are of utmost importance, capturing their attention during the show plays a pivotal role on the success of the show. New techniques of engagement, communications, visual appeal and the right mix of client leads to a win-win situation for both the organiser and the visitors.

Extend a right experience to exhibitors and visitors

For any exhibition to become extraordinary, the ‘stakeholders’ i.e. the exhibitors and visitors, exhibition experience outline its success. To make the stakeholders appreciate, minute details cannot be overlooked e.g. a clean and fresh toilet and toiletries, clear aisles, a disciplined buying system at the cafeteria, superior technologies for visitor registrations, effective hall AC and many more. Though quality visitors and exhibitors together bring in the exemplary value, a superior exhibition experience can ascertain higher revenue in the future.

As the success essentially depends on how the organiser passionately deliver his/her commitments, it is evident from the very nature of this ‘service’ business – unless things are done right in a right fashion at the right time, the future may not look as promising as in a ‘business plan’!

(Prosenjit Ghosh is a Sales and Marketing Professional and having more than 20+ years of experience in Sales, Marketing, CRM, Communication design, Brand development, Profitability Management and has worked in close proximity with companies like Xerox, Microsoft, PVR Movies, Gitanjali Gems, Reliance Retail to name a few. He was a in a consulting role for 2 large exhibitions (B2B and B2C) in the past and was also a part of Team Exhibition with one of the Major Electric Company. He can be reached at prosenjit@resplendentglobal.com or 9821914961 and he would be happy to help.)

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