It struck me recently that there is in fact, real value in hosting parties during what is typically viewed as a more serious interaction with prospects.
Typically trade shows follow the same MO. Day one - vendors wake up at the crack of dawn, put on their suits and speed walk to the registration stand to pick up their badges, praying the lines won't be too long. They mournfully pass up a stop at Starbucks since inevitably the line will be outrageously long. With badge in hand they attach the lanyard and encircle their necks with the hideously sponsor branded ribbon. Like a heard of cattle, the black suits and dresses funnel through the doors to the Exhibit hall. Once on the show floor, they scan the area, see what's in the booth and who the neighboring exhibitors are. Anticipation mounts as the exhibitors wait for the breaks between the educational sessions and a mass of attendees flood the exhibit hall. Some come looking for your booth intentionally, others come upon it as they look for something new to explore. Regardless, the exchange is the same....."so have you heard of product xyz?, no, well it's a blah blah blah xyz, it can do this for you and that for you.....now tell me about your business....blah blah blah" Badges are scanned and literature exchanges hands, smiles and nods and the prospect is on their way to the next booth. It's a basic touch point. An important but very basic touch point.
At the latest show, something different happened. Around noon, the hotel banquet department rolled in a table, covered in the clients brand and overflowing with ice cold beers. In a large glass bowl were koozies also branded with the clients latest tagline. The attendees approached the booth, slowed down at the bar and asked for a drink. The bartender had been given instructions to ask if they knew of the product and those who hadn't heard of it or knew little about it, where content to grab a beer and chat with a rep. Those who were already customers or already engaged in negotiations with the company were also happy to sip and chat. The energy was completely different then earlier in the day. The energy was vibrant and fun and people wanted to be there. Relationships were being built or enhanced. It gave the company an air of wanting to truly engage with the attendees. It wasn't just about scanning badges and writing up contracts (although that is the ultimate goal!). It's about building relationships by telling your story. And your story is more than the widget you sell. It's about the kind of relationship you want with your clients and how you want them to view you. Are you the vendor that scans badges and hands out literature or are you the vendor that wants to engage, that wants to have a meaningful business conversation and build a relationship. Which do you think will lead to a contract?
But it isn't just about giving away free beer to exhausted conference goers, it's about working with the right team to put your best foot forward and make sure your plan is on goal and message. That your brand is woven appropriately throughout your engagement with each attendee. Be sure to work with experienced meeting planners and marketing strategists for top notch execution! We're here for you!