Exhibition News March 2019 - Page 65

Company Culture Get them back Simon Naudi, CEO of Answers Training, on winning back disillusioned exhibitors in three key phases W “It’s important that you listen and collect all feedback without being defensive” e have all faced the situation where we have lost a big sexy name off the floorplan, a bellwether account who you know will impact upon the decisions of others to exhibit. We have also witnessed what can happen to an event when a big name pulls out, especially when that event has seen the big brands competing for more and more space. A second pulling out and a third can have a domino effect and result in the collapse of a show. Clearly no show is (or should be) entirely dependent upon one brand, but we need to rethink how we can attract them back. It helps, I think, if you treat them like a new prospect rather than a lapsed exhibitor. I say this because psychologically, you want to re-sell them into your event, rather than be seen to be patching up or compensating them for any bad experience. While addressing an issue or fixing a bad experience can, and does, work, often the resultant negotiations are weighted too much in favour of the client and the relationship is only temporarily restored. It almost becomes a conditional solution rather than the basis for a long-term on-going relationship. The first phase is to establish the ‘event hurt’ – what went wrong or what affected their decision to cease exhibiting. It’s important that you listen and collect all their feedback without being defensive or even trying to justify why it may have occurred. The purpose of Phase One is to establish why they made the decision to quit and understand their rationale. Phase Two then is to establish their ‘business hurt’ – namely what they are trying to achieve in their business, both with their brand aspirations and their future plans. You need to fully understand their business, their objectives, challenges and future desires for their brand and at this stage make no further recommendations about how your solution may fit. The rationale behind Phase Two is to let the client feel that you are purely there for a fact find, simply to understand their business almost in an impartial, advisory capacity with no vested interest in selling them at that meeting. This helps the client feel less guarded and often they will open up more and furnish you with the necessary insight to work up a proposal. You now should have a good picture of what went wrong and what the client ideally would like to see happen. The nice thing about this approach is that it allows you pressure-free thinking time and affords you the opportunity to be more creative with your solutions. This is also a good time for a team brainstorm and to establish what you would or would not consider offering as an incentive or inducement to have that brand back in your event. It also allows you to assess the potential impact this could have both on other exhibitors as well as on your show overall. Say a concession will cost you £10,000 initially, you may calculate that it will secure well in excess of that figure in additional bookings. Phase Three, then, is where you can display your understanding of their business, as well as their expectations, and hopefully deliver a ‘rescue’ package that will address the hurt or hurts that have been established in Phases One and Two. If your package is attractive enough, do remember that it will not be price sensitive – they will find or raise the budget in order to have a bespoke solution to their special circumstances. March — 65