Friday, May 4, 2012

Are you listening? Really… ARE YOU LISTENING?

With all of the discussion over the past few months (years) regarding the economic struggles of the Tradeshow, Meetings, and Events industry, there has been solution after solution pitched to show management lineups worldwide on how to weather the storm, keep the attendance average up, and possibly hit the home run on the next event. Most of these prescriptions have been standard – streamline business units; reduce costs through budget cuts; re-evaluate products and services offered; re-identify with the markets served; downsize programs; collocate events or share resources; yada, yada, yada.

My response; If you are effectively managing your business, you should basically be doing this already; constantly evaluating your business units and managing costs to ensure efficient operations; monitoring the performance of products and services in the market and shifts in market demands; consistently redefining all strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats; managing sales efforts to ensure peak performance; ensuring strong performers are in the right seat on the bus throughout the organization, etc…

Though “Business Management” includes reacting to unforeseen obstacles taking place within the markets served, "Management Excellence" is being prepared for challenges BEFORE they arrive. Preparation = effective response and quick recovery. The key to effective preparation: INFORMATION and COMMUNICATION!

Information and Communication! Has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it!

We could go on and on regarding the tools available to businesses regarding information and communication; from business intelligence services to CRM and marketing platforms, the market is inundated with options. I just recently consulted with a supplier to Hewlett-Packard (Network Training Services) regarding the design and enterprise implementation of a new CRM system. Funny; so many options offer so few differentiators and approach the concepts of communication and information from the same perspective: how information and communication can assist in identifying new customers, communicating the company message to these customers and the markets served, and manage expectations in the process.

This approach needs to be taken a step further. Why not look at communication, not for what we want to say, but to hear what your customers have to say, not just to you, but to their clients and the industry they serve? Why not look for information, not just about your customer, but the information your customers want to learn regarding THEIR customers? This information “service” is easier to provide than you think, and the advantage you can obtain for the business by providing and monitoring such service is invaluable.

WhosOn by Parker Software ( is an all-in-one solution for Live Web Statistics, Live Visitor Chat, Proactive Visitor Engaging, Prospect Detection, Web Analytics, Click-to-Call Back, Click Fraud Detection & More. Though the program provides management with market intelligence regarding website marketing programs and assists with sales efforts and data mining, the primary advantage of the software program is the real-time communication portal through the web; customer “live chat”, and the real-time site analytics we are able to capture while leads and opportunities are crawling on our site. We are able to listen to our clients tell us what is of interest to them by monitoring their traffic habits on our website and listening to their real-time comments through our chat program. Though we can communicate to them, it is their communication to us through this tool that is of most value.

One of the special features our registration vendor, EShow (, brings to our events is the addition of a networking service to the registration system which allows exhibitors and attendees to chat prior to the event; Exhibitor and Attendee, Attendee and Attendee, Exhibitor and Exhibitor. We are working to take this a step further, deploying WebEx conference services to our event, allowing all exhibitors and attendees to hold free, online conference calls and pre-event meetings through our website. These programs will allow us to witness the conversations of the market we serve and ensure we are continuing to offer products relevant to their respective needs and interests while eliminating those that are not beneficial to their business. In addition, and of more value to our clients, this program will serve as a tool for all attendees to discuss the event and plan their attendance; set up meetings; identify specific products on the show floor they wish to review; invite specific buyers to visit their booth on the show floor; identify key speakers / presenters and topics they wish to experience; comment on who they would like to see at the event, and more. This information will allow us to continue tweaking the event according to what our clients and their industry peers are saying through this service. We are able to capture this data, analyze the sales and communication habits of our clients, understand their true interests, and refine our products and services to better match their needs.

In a day and age where business must think outside of the box to gain a strategic, competitive advantage, we must be creative and resourceful with the customer in mind; not just focused on how we can serve, but listening to how our customers want to be served. As the market rebounds and power shifts, the customer will tell you where your business needs to be. The question is… are you listening?