Claudia Harris (pictured), sponsorship sales lead at George P Johnson, on keeping the sales story simple.
In the digital age, exhibitions are still as popular today as ever. They remain an integral part of the overall vision at large events, and are often best enhanced through a sales person working within an agency, on behalf of the client.
As marketing budgets are being scrutinised and leads diligently counted, we are still seeing a rise in exhibition revenue. However, with budgets tightening and transparency of lead generation, there needs to be even more thought about the exhibition area of an event.
There is a requirement to work towards synergy with both the client and partner stories, to enhance and bring value to the attendee experience. This can be done to great effect when the sales function sits within the agency, as it does at George P. Johnson (GPJ).
As sales lead for clients’ exhibitions, my job is talking most of the time – and keeping it simple. What I find fascinating is the hunger that still exists in companies to exhibit if the benefits are clear – speaking, networking, brand building.
The strength of the exhibition in large events often gets overlooked, however showcasing a successful expo not only benefits the exhibitors, but it can also reflect the strength of the client’s brand and the loyalty that it inspires.
One example of this strength and loyalty is Cisco Live. GPJ has delivered this event in its entirety for the last 15 years, to great success. At Cisco Live, it’s crucial to ensure the exhibition feels part of the delegate and partner journey and not just a simple revenue stream – it is where customers have the conversations that will lead to exploration and innovation in the long term.
Telling a joint story
Cisco Live attracts an incredible IT audience that is key to the partner offering. It’s a widely recognised fact that an event is only as good as its audience. We therefore need to ask simple questions to the audience – who are they, why are there here and what do they want/need to know.
Once that is discovered and by continually working with the client, further learning about their partners gives us the roadmap to tell the partner and client story as one, in a clear way. It is our job to communicate this to the partners, not only in the sales process but on the expo floor too.
At Cisco Live, GPJ blends Cisco’s own exhibition of their products (known as the Cisco Campus) with those of the partners, which allows us to showcase the whole Cisco network. It is not a ‘them and us’ situation, but a synergy of their networks and partners, which complement their core products and services and this has a dual impact for both client and partner.
Clarity of conversation
Having the sales role ‘in-agency’ can also give clarity of conversation. We sell the value of the experience: to the partner first, then from the attendee journey and importantly, for the client.
We can sell the benefits of the event experience and not get caught up in the wider conversations which may slow down the process if kept in-house. For instance, the sales conversations may be less ‘technical’ and can focus on simple benefits – the networking, the experience, the results. We can also bring the synergy of the client’s needs and goals with the strategy direction from the agency.
As an agency, we are totally integrated on a project, we have the ability of sharing knowledge between creative, production and logistics teams leading to an absolute understanding of the sales function and the needs of the partners and exhibitors. Collaboration across every part of the project, sharing these goals and objectives lead to huge benefits in the overall execution, giving clarity to the entire event messaging and activation.
Taking these ideas and successes, we are extending the practise with multiple clients and collectively looking at how to be effective with an exhibition experience for the attendee and the client, using our experience and capabilities to re-enforce a strong message.
One may think that exhibitions are simply the area where people talk and showcase and that ‘they run themselves’, but with careful guidance and sales and knowledge, they can become more attractive, powerful and even in this digital age, more important than ever before.