Q: When is a floor plan not a floor plan? A: When it is a sales tool.
Using your floor plan to help with the sales process is one of the simplest and most underutilised tools in the sales person’s armoury. Clients often take comfort in scanning for leading names and those of their competitors as well as location and size of these respective stands. Some are also pedants in terms of where they wish to be located (near to or away from their direct competitors, by the toilets or next to the press office or seminar area). We also know that buyers are visual in terms of buying habits and so we should capitalise on this more. There is also some interesting work being done with floor plans. Think of a low cost or budget airline as a parallel. Think about how they sell their seats. Typically if one books months in advance they offer some lower priced seats than if booked last minute and additionally they offer reduced cost seats for certain routes and at certain times. If you wish to fly back home on a Friday evening that seat will typically cost you more than if you were willing to travel on the Saturday evening for example. With exhibitors we ALMOST have it right. Many organisers will offer an early bird scheme but then doubly reward them by also giving them a free choice of stands. Could we learn something from the airlines and organise ourselves so that prime location stands are more expensive? Often so called prime locations are reserved or pencilled in for the big sexy name exhibitor who will draw in a crowd or either visitors or fellow exhibitors or both. One organiser at the cutting edge of floor plan strategies negotiated a deal with such a key exhibitor and establishing that visitors would come no matter where the big name was located, proposed a less ‘prime’ location, reduced the rate which pleased the exhibitor and still left the prime locations free for the ‘wanna-be’ big names to pay a premium for. They used these tactics successfully and greatly improved the profitability of their event. The difficulty is that different people have different perceptions about what constitutes a prime location. Some would rather have an island site at the front of the hall whereas others might opt for one that is open on two sides next to the main feature area. Perhaps the solution lies in how we treat the ‘open on one side towards the back’ stands?
Clearly the hardest floor plan to fill is that of a launch event, or when you are at the start of your show cycle. The first bit of advice would be to populate the floor plan with as many ‘knows’ as possible. This might be trade partners, sponsors, associations and possibly the location marked out of any foreign ‘pavilions’. The location of any feature areas, seminar areas, demo areas and press office could all be highlighted. If you then cast your minds back to the different buyer types you will also be able to prioritise where your first bookings are likely to come from. You may be aware that we have identified three main buyer types – Profit buyers, Pride or Prestige buyers and finally Fear buyers. Briefly profit buyers are after ROI (Return on Investment), metric assessment (cost per thousand) and demographic spend. Their decision to participate in an event is based upon numbers, it is fairly un-emotional and would have no qualms about being first (especially if there was an early bird incentive!) on the floor plan. The second category who will populate your floor plan will be the Prestige or Pride buyers. They will be swayed by location, other competitors or big names and the relative size of stands already taken up. Their decisions are typically more emotive and certainly affected by whether the Jones’ have already booked. Next will come the Fear buyers. They are so scared of risk that rather than take a risky decision they would rather not make one at all. They will be the next category to sign up as they will be swayed by a fuller floor plan. It’s not so much a case of ‘keeping up with the Jones’’ as much as ‘If it’s good enough for Jones then it’s safe enough for us’. Beware though that the story is not over – there is a final category that will try to slide onto your floor plan at the last minute. The Profit buyers will rear their heads again. They will have been waiting in the hope that you would rather sell them a stand at a knock down price at the last minute rather than suffer an empty space at your event. They can be a blessing or a curse depending upon how well you sell using your floor plan.