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Why relationships matter

by Nicola Macdonald

Alice Walker, exhibitor sales supervisor at Freeman and member of the EN 30 Under Thirty 2018, on the importance of developing strong relationships.

In the world of events, the competition has never been higher than it is today. But what makes one company stand out from the crowd and increase its sales? And what makes an exhibitor return to a particular show?

In my view, driving results in sales all comes back to developing strong relationships. The power of good communication can be seen just about everywhere now. Whether it’s a toothpaste ad or a drink’s brand activation, consumers aren’t looking for companies that offer a basic product—they want personalisation. With up to 72 percent of UK customers saying they only want to use brands that ‘care about them’, it’s clear the focus on relationships is set to continue. If we want to stay in the game, we must adapt and change along with this mindset. 

For the exhibitions industry, maintaining relationships is even more important as technology becomes more widely used. Without great personalised service, exhibitors could just revert to a computer system to get the job done, meaning exhibition companies will lose out on revenue. As service providers, it’s our duty to build and develop those relationships, to make sure that we are offering more than just the basics. Every stand we design and every interaction we have must be tailored perfectly to the individual client if we want to see the continued success of exhibitions and a real return on investment.

I’ve been working for Freeman for three years now, and have invested a huge amount of time developing relationships with clients. As a result, I have built trust with our customers, something that keeps them coming back again and again. Our year-on-year figures show a consistent increase in customer retention, demonstrating that investing in personalisation really does drive results. By ensuring that every element of our clients’ experience is customised to suit their needs, they’re more likely to have a good experience exhibiting at an event and return to our company for future support. Once that trust is broken, it’s almost impossible to get it back, so it’s crucial that we work on those relationships constantly in order to keep evolving and providing the very best service in sales.

Most companies will have brand guidelines, which we can use to help tailor a stand to their needs. It’s also important that you’re able to work around any challenges and be accommodating of different needs. For example, a technology client once asked us to produce a stand design around LED screens they had already decided to integrate, which meant a different approach to design. Good communication meant we were able to deliver this and make it work for the client, supporting them every step of the way. Clients often have budget constraints too, so planners need to be as creative as possible when it comes to finding solutions that meet their needs within restrictions. It’s another reason why good relationships are so key, as it encourages dialogue and communication about how to make the exhibition as productive as possible. Brands invest heavily in exhibiting, and sales teams need to deliver the right product in order to get the business coming back.

At Freeman, we value the importance of an integrated service. No part of the system is standalone, instead we work together to deliver an integrated service that focuses completely on the client from start to finish. We offer everything from a concierge service to an in-house exhibitor team, with dedicated project managers for larger stands. Having a customer-centric product really helps to drive sales in this market, and it’s something all companies should be committed to delivering if they want to see results.

Feedback is another key part of improving the exhibitions business, especially since work in such a fast-changing sector. The more information we gather after events, the better we are able to tailor our services and ensure repeat business and happy clients. From new technology to exciting trends, good communication and feedback help companies to understand what they’re doing right, how they can further improve their services, and how to prevent any mistakes from happening again. It also helps clients to understand that you are doing everything you can to support them and that you are open to change.

Ultimately, I believe that customer-centricity and trust is directly linked to the success of a sales team and its ROI. By truly getting under the skin of your clients’ needs, you can offer a service that’s so personalised and unique to them that they’ll be choosing you every time.

This column was originally published in the November edition of Exhibition News. 

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