“Taking part in a trade fair will have a much more exclusive character in the near future”
Adventics CEO Gunnar Heinrich on a new start strategy for trade fair organisers and the associated success tool, “360 degree visitor management”.
What is 360 degree visitor management?
360 Degree Visitor Management, or Community Management, as it is sometimes called, offers organisers the basis for understanding their visitor target groups, interacting with them and providing them with tailor-made offers. Some still know the term exclusively as “visitor management”. But in my opinion, it does not completely cover the whole scope of the term. After all, community management for trade fairs really does mean all participants, i.e. visitors as well as exhibitors, staff, representatives of associations and the press and all other stakeholders who are involved with the event before and during a trade fair. And it also covers the entire life cycle of a trade fair event. From interest and profile management to invitations and the entire Behaviour Management with questions such as “Which stands do you prefer to visit? Which surveys are answered? How is the general interaction structured?” – Community Management optimises the value of the entire event as a 360 degree analysis method.
Why does a trade fair have to assume a more host-like role in the future?
Organisers should always be aware of their role as host, not only when considering 360-degree visitor management. Which host would not look after his guests once they have entered his home? Those who invite guests to a private barbecue usually know what their guests do for a living, what their hobbies are, what they like to eat and react to them accordingly. Both on a small and large scale, there are immense advantages in the optimal use of these guest profiles. But I always find that exhibition companies could know more about visitors. Because even if the square metres of stand space end up on the exhibitor bill, the right visitors to the stand are the actual product for which exhibitors are ultimately willing to pay. But what company could afford to know as little about its products as trade fairs know about visitors?
What are the advantages of 360 degree visitor management?
In my opinion, 360 degree visitor management has countless advantages. Because, as already mentioned, the visitors to a trade fair are not just another customer group, but also a special “product” which, in case of doubt, is the decisive factor in an exhibitor’s booking decision. After all, trade fairs compete with many other marketing opportunities for a significant role in the marketing mix and thus for their share of the budget. Moreover, every visitor and every exhibitor has different roles at a trade fair. In addition to their professional profile and the motives for their visit, they are always private individuals, members of a certain age group, influencers for their professional and private networks and much more. This holistic community management holistically depicts this immensely important multi-role theme. It enables precise communication with visitors and their individual interests. In the ideal case, I can accompany participants throughout the entire customer lifecycle and make exactly the right offers according to the situation.
What role does Corona play in implementing 360-degree visitor management? Can the current situation speed things up?
The pandemic and the dramatic effects on the events industry are leading to opposing conditions for community management projects. On the one hand, the data basis and legal requirements have never been more conducive than they are now. On the other hand, some trade fair companies are hesitating to implement them because the slump in sales has initially frozen many project budgets. However, Corona should definitely accelerate the initiative towards 360-degree visitor management. The current global situation offers good reasons for this. Trade fair companies must now by law record all profiles of all participants, whether visitors, exhibitors or, for example, suppliers. And they must manage visitors very precisely. At the moment, for example, rush hours must be avoided because of the minimum distance regulations, but visiting times and the most popular areas must be known. Corona also increases the number of hybrid or digital events. At the moment, certainly inevitably, but in the future digital components will continue to play an important role in supplementing presence exhibitions. And good, content-rich data are an absolute prerequisite for this. If I don’t have that, I don’t need to plan, hold and try to organise completely digital events.
Are there risks and disadvantages?
Basically not. All data protection aspects must of course be planned and adhered to precisely in advance. I see insufficient organisation and inadequate use of digital solutions as decisive risks. If you do not plan this properly, you will not have the data quality that is needed and unnecessarily high costs. Good advice can quickly minimise these risks and also has the advantage of being able to reliably incorporate proven experience and national and international best practice examples. The wheel does not always have to be completely reinvented.
What do those involved have to do to make 360-degree visitor management work reliably?
Only if the entire process chain constantly uses and enriches the information generated by the management process will it show its true value. This starts with the management, which must recognise the value of the information and promote it throughout the entire organisation. Because 360-degree visitor management is a topic for the various organisational units. It doesn’t just affect marketing or project management and certainly not just IT.
Why don’t more companies implement a 360-degree visitor management concept?
A good question. It has been discussed for many years and is also recognised as a need for action. Nevertheless, many trade fair companies find it difficult to implement it. There are already drivers for this topic in the individual event areas of a trade fair. However, successful implementation requires a company-wide effort to implement it consistently across different events.
Why should exhibition companies invest in a 360-degree visitor management system at this particular time?
Quite simply because it pays off in the short term. Yes, setting up a stringent 360 degree visitor management system is an investment. But the effects will already be noticed at the next events, whether virtual or live on site. Not to mention the benefits to be expected in the long term. When trade fairs can start up again, we will see fewer exhibitors and visitors on site. This need not be a disadvantage at all, if you can manage the quality with a 360 degree visitor management process and the available information. On the contrary, the individual data gathered there will be worth more. Participating in a trade fair will have a much more exclusive character in the near future.
Cost awareness is understandable right now. Nevertheless, decision-makers now have it in their hands to create a central basis for success, especially in the near future, with integrated 360-degree visitor management. And what do fishermen do when the sea is too stormy? They stay in port and mend their nets. I think it is an advantage that the organisation currently has time for such innovations, which go far beyond the introduction of a technical system. We should seize this opportunity.