Category Archives: Observations & Answers

Are Trade Shows and Exhibitions still worthwhile?

 

Trade shows and exhibitions were once key calendar events, providing business owners with valuable opportunities to interact directly with new and existing clientele. There seems, however, to be a growing belief that the rise of digital technology is responsible for a decline in the exhibition industry, with business owners favouring digital platforms over exhibitions.

According to the Centre for Exhibition Industry Research (which holds the world’s largest collection of primary, exhibition-related research studies), this assumption couldn’t be far from the truth, however. Their research has revealed that the exhibition industry is set to grow by an estimated 2.7 percent during 2017 and 3 per cent in 2018. With these figures in mind it’s safe to suggest that trade shows and exhibitions are most definitely still worth attending, but how exactly are these events holding their own against the invasion of digital technology?

Well, as they always have done, trade events and exhibitions provide business owners with the opportunity to boost visibility and gain extra credibility within the industry. For small or large businesses alike, these events provide powerful platforms for business owners and staff to reach out to interested parties and help them to create a more established and reliable brand.

The people who attend trade shows tend to be particularly motivated and enthusiastic. They are there because they want to be there. They want to discover new products and services, and want to network directly with partners and prospects. Sure, in today’s digital world we can interact with them on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and other social media platforms, but there’s just something satisfying about a good old-fashioned handshake when making a new connection.

Trade shows also enable businesses to get the lowdown on what their competitors are up to. Posing as a customer to find out prices and information is a great way to see how competitive your business deals and offers are. You can also observe booths that are attracting lots of interest and try to identify and learn from the way they have set their booths up and the tactics they are using.

Exhibitions and trade shows aren’t cheap and it’s the cost that puts a lot of businesses off attending, but with many suppliers/ customers under one roof at an event, you can often achieve in a day what would usually take a week if you were driving round the country, so it’s important to weigh everything up when deciding if trade shows and exhibitions are worthwhile for you.

The most successful exhibitors are those that recognise the value of exhibiting and attend with a clear list of goals in mind. With exhibitions, you really do get out what you put in, so whether you want to show-case new products, network, confirm sales or complete another type of business activity, the preparation is vital.

When you’re onsite, use your sales acumen to qualify and disqualify the attendees as they come through in order to get the most value from the day. Strategic placing of your booth near to ‘blue chip’ companies can also enhance your brand, develop trust with clients and boost your reputation so be sure to ask the organiser beforehand for a list of confirmed exhibitors (many events’ organisers display this information online). You can then check out the competition and your floor neighbours before the event.

Final thought

Has digital technology won the battle over trade shows and exhibitions? It doesn’t appear so. Trade shows and exhibitions continue to have an important role to play in marketing and lead generation. These real-life events enable people to put a face to a brand and providing you do your research well and choose the right event for your company they can transform your business into a highly effective enterprise.

How do Millennials influence B2B Buying?

B2B marketing has changed dramatically during the last few years. Where selling to millennials was once more common (in the context of business to consumer [B2C] marketing), the younger generation has flipped this area of marketing on its head and become extremely influential in business to business (B2B) purchasing. So, what exactly does this all mean and, more to the point, how should marketers respond?

Millennials and the Digital Revolution

Well, in short, this means that we are witnessing a generational shift in B2B buying that has taken place as a direct result of exposure to digital technology. Millennials (born between 1980 and 1993) have had a lifelong exposure to digital technology that has opened the gateway for them to take on different roles within the workplace and sets them apart from their generational colleagues of Baby Boomers (born 1954 – 1964) and Gen X’s (born 1965 – 1979) who haven’t had the same exposure.

IBM: To Buy or Not to Buy?

A number of recent studies, including IBM’s To Buy or Not to Buy, provide us with an in-depth insight into the preferences and practices of millennials. IBM’s survey was based on 704 individuals (Millennials, Gen X and Baby Boom) from businesses large and small and revealed significant differences between the generations’ buying techniques. The study revealed (as an example) that millennial and Gen X buyers are more likely to make decisions in isolation compared to Baby Boomers. It also showed that millennials want to interact with vendor representatives when researching products and services, far more so that Gen X or Baby Boom buyers.

Sacunas: The Next Generation of B2B Buyers: How the Millennial Business Buyer is Changing B2B Sales & Marketing

Other studies have revealed how millennials tend to favour digital technology and social media platforms such as Facebook and Youtube to research products and services before making purchasing decisions.

The study carried out by marketing agency, Sacunas, looked at the buying habits of over 2,000 millennials across the United States. It found that millennials value authenticity and want direct interaction and communication with brand representatives.

According to the Sacunas study, millennials are far more likely to use digital channels like search engines, vendor websites and social media to make purchasing decisions.

Values and sensibilities

Research from IBM, Sacunas and other sources have also revealed that millennials prefer to do business with companies who have similar values and sensibilities. Online and offline communication is equally important and they crave a hassle-free, omni-channel client experience.

As the IBM report states, ‘B2B vendors and marketers need to demonstrate the relevancy of their brand and deliver the seamless, omni-channel client experiences that millennials, as consumers, have come to expect.’

Adapt and Grow

With easier access to information and personnel, producing content that serves millennials’ needs and interests is a must. Tools and policies should be designed for their convenience and clients must be human and approachable in order to create a client and brand experience that is based on trust and integrity.

Take advantage of the studies and reports out there to find out more about millennials, their practices and their preferences before making your marketing decisions.

The Shortlisting Process

 

In the previous article we outlined a brief summary of what shortlisting is and why it is used. Now we will look at the process itself in more depth, including information on evaluation criteria and the actual scoring system.

Evaluation Criteria

Prior to actually sifting through the sellers and compiling a shortlist- companies should publish their evaluation criteria. These are the essential components by which each seller will be judged. So for example, time at which they can start the work, essential skills, experience, cost, location and any preferred skills. These are just some common examples but each business will have their own specific set of requirements.

When applying, any sellers that don’t meet a company’s essential requirements will be automatically rejected. Those that do meet these requirements will become eligible for the shortlist and that’s when more thorough evaluation will take place, such as scoring.

Scoring

When it comes to comparing proposals, buyers will often be faced with a variety of vendors who are all offering similar things. Therefore the ability to pinpoint which proposals are the most suitable is paramount and this can be achieved using a scoring system.

Obviously, binary answers such as whether a supplier can begin work before a certain date can only be scored in two different ways, 1 and 0 for yes and no respectively. However, when assessing more subjective requirements, such as essential skills, experience and preferred skills, a more comprehensive points system may be required.

For example, when asking sellers to provide proof of experience- the buyer can then judge how far that proof met the requirement- 0/not at all, 1/partially met, 2/met and 3/exceeded expectations. This type of scoring system is a useful technique but it has to be applied in the same way to all sellers that are being assessed, in order to guarantee fairness.

Only applicants who meet all of the requirements will be eligible for the shortlist. However, if that number is particularly high then buyers can choose the highest scoring proposals to take forward. It’s at this stage where factors such as preferred requirements can make such a big difference.

Standing Out

Many businesses will complete background research in to prospective sellers and this can have an effect on their eventual decision. For example, many buyers will utilise sourcing platforms as a way of finding the best sellers. Furthermore, the sellers own website can provide a wealth of information, including case studies, bios and the way in which they approach business.

Reputation is another important factor and one that is often a deal breaker. The cheapest vendors may be tempting but are they reputable and how will their partnership affect the buyer? Reputation can be a difficult quality to gauge but this is where websites and social media presence play such a vital role.  The way in which sellers interact with other customers will be indicative of how they interact with a prospective buyer.

Finally, we should point out that there is an x-factor element to the shortlisting process. As already mentioned, the competition can be tough and the difference between landing on the shortlist and not can be marginal. In fact, sometimes buyers can simply go with their gut and choose a supplier who they feel they can personally work with.

What is Shortlisting?

 

The process of forming a partnership with a new supplier can be time consuming. It’s also a decision that can have lasting consequences for the company and is therefore extremely important.

The B2B buying cycle has become much more complex in recent years. Whereas in the past, it would focus mainly on cost and location, now there are so many other factors to consider. Working with a supplier is no longer a simple business transaction, it’s now a partnership and therefore involves issues such as reputation, marketing, experience and long-term outlook.

With so many suppliers on the market, the task of evaluating them all can be arduous. This is particularly problematic if the requirement for a new supplier is time sensitive. It’s for this reason that many companies now choose to use the technique of shortlisting.

What is Shortlisting?

Shortlisting is the process of sifting through a number of proposals and identifying the suppliers which are most suitable for partnership.

The buyer will use evaluation criteria as a way of scoring each proposal and the highest scorers will move on to the shortlist. The evaluation criteria used will vary from buyer to buyer but they usually include factors such as cost, proof of skills, proof of experience, when they can start work and “nice to have” or preferred skills.

It’s often the case that buyers receive a large number of proposals which meet the minimum requirements and it’s at this point that preferred skills come in to play and can tip the balance.

Once on the shortlist, vendors will move on to the next stage where they will receive a more thorough evaluation before the buyer decides on the successful proposal.

What are the Benefits?

As already mentioned, shortlisting streamlines the B2B buying cycle. Instead of investing precious time, money and manpower in to evaluating a large pool of sellers- buyers can cut out the middle man and identify a small group of the most promising proposals.

As well as saving time and resources, shortlisting also allows buyers to find the best vendors for their specific requirements. Setting an evaluation criteria means that the eventual shortlist will include sellers that offer something meaningful to that particular buyer- as opposed to a more general, one-size-fits-all approach.

It’s worth noting that shortlisting isn’t ideal for everyone. For example, a company may only receive a small number of proposals and therefore it would make more sense to take all of those sellers to the final evaluation phase.

Notification

Once the buyer has compiled a shortlist, they send out notifications to successful and unsuccessful applicants. With unsuccessful proposals will usually receive a stock email that basically tells them they didn’t meet the requirements. It’s at the discretion of the company as to whether they provide further details and feedback.

Successful applicants are sent confirmation that they are on the shortlist and information on the next phase- including assessment requirements.