Mykyta Fastovets, CTO at Expoplatform, asks: is technology bringing hosted buyer programmes within the reach of smaller organisers?
A successful hosted buyer programme for an international exhibition is no small undertaking for an organiser. It’s the result of a year-round effort by teams often based not only in the host country, but in offices at any one of the event’s primary or evolving source markets.
It must be flexible, as these programmes are targeted at VIPs on whose presence the attendance of some exhibitors will be based. A cookie-cutter approach will not work, knowledge of each buyer is the only way to make sure they are given attention specific to their needs.
And these needs can vary greatly. Hosted buyers often have their own VIP lounges with complimentary lunch and refreshments, and transfers between the venue and their hotels. They may be provided with their own networking events. They often have their own education programmes, defined by whether they are an association, agency or corporate. For organisers with several geo-clones of a single event, each with its own hosted buyer programme, each programme must also be specific to regional or international, inbound or outbound business. It is a rewarding practice and as is clear here; highly labour-intensive. Too much of an undertaking for all but the largest international organisers.
Or is it?
The application of technology can make this process much easier to manage. For example, the act of finding the right hosted buyer can be simplified by creating a system alongside the personal invitation route, in which prospective hosted buyers can apply online through an event’s website for automated pre-qualification based on a set of rules.
The core value of the hosted buyer programme comes down to more predictability and to the de-risking of the event experience for exhibitors. This is often done by requiring hosted buyers to arrange and/or attend a certain number of meetings during the event. Whether the meetings are pre-arranged by the organiser or arranged directly by the buyers and exhibitors, it is the organiser’s responsibility to ensure that as many relevant meetings as possible take place. This is one of the key areas where a technology solution can help by suggesting the most relevant connections based on the profiles of buyers and exhibitors. This not only drastically decreases the required effort for the organiser, but also often provides better matches.
Technology avoids the pitfalls that accompany the creation of a hosted buyer programme. In many instances, an organiser will require the services of a third-party agency to bring in the right buyers. In some cases, these will work with a local partner with knowledge of the industry. Technology can alleviate such concerns through transparency and avoid such abuse of the system. It enables an organiser to define which buyers are truly valuable to their exhibitors, through the creation of profiles and by measuring behaviour.
During the event, this technology can also be applied to influence and track buyer habits, such as scheduling the buyer’s attendance at pre-approved meetings and understanding how useful the meeting was. The administrative burdens of managing buyers, required documents, issuing refunds etc. is also very time-intensive, and can also be streamlined to reduce the administrative burden – and therefore the cost of running hosted buyer events.
Last but not least, the journey of the buyers and exhibitors must be seamless, from registration and approval, to document management, to meetings and matchmaking, to organiser’s post-event reporting. Perhaps the idea of a hosted buyer programme for your event is not so unfeasible as it seems.