It’s the end of the world apparently. Mayan prophesies include a reversal of polarity, solar storms and possibly some of those horsemen. All we need is a rash of plagues – not locusts or fire storms, but customers delaying a decision until the very last minute. Oh, wait – it has already started!
So with this pressure what can we do to get earlier commitment? First I think we need to understand why they are delaying and then implement measures to incentivise their action. Historically a delay was seen as part of the sales process. A sale is only made when the buyer’s desire to spend outweighed their inclination to retain their budget. First point: are we giving our exhibitors enough ‘desire’? Just because we have ‘another channel’ to market doesn’t mean it is enough. We know events work, we may even know ‘our’ events work – does the prospect? Furthermore, thanks to the longest running recession in history, buyers have had several rounds of budget cuts and freezes and forced to find savings. This means that they are on high alert, anticipating (and expecting) the next round of, “Oh my God we need to cut back on spending!” again. Consequently they are reluctant to commit even when they do have that ‘desire’ earlier mentioned.
In some cases it is also compounded by the advertising habit that reinforces late decisions. If you wait until copy deadline you probably get a better deal because the publication in question would rather run a low yield advert rather than paginate using a filler ad. Next tip: stress the benefits of acting now rather than caution against the consequences of delaying. In a battle between the carrot and the stick, the carrot (for early commitment) works better than the ‘stick’ of delay. Look at your pricing models – is there an incentive or are there benefits of getting their name on your floor plan today rather than in a month or three? Are you maximising on your stock of carrots?
Remember the lemming effect. You know the effect that key names and brands have upon the buying behaviours of their competitors. Creatively rethink what you can do to attract a few ‘sexy’ names early on in your sales cycle. Set up a steering committee, have foundation partner status, offer incentives – do something special for the key accounts. Move heaven and earth to accommodate the bellwethers and prepare for the onslaught of also-rans. Do not underestimate the confidence and reassurance that it provides for small to medium sized buyers who can see a strong exhibitor list when being asked to commit early.
Finally remind them that visitors are still spending – whether they sign up or not, there will be visitors to your event and they will be spending their budget with someone. The quicker they get their names on that floor plan, the more publicity and marketing they will enjoy. They will have the luxury of time to attract and invite the visitors they wish to do business with. A good stand, in a decent location with properly focussed and trained staff will pay for their investment several times over. You know this – just make sure they do, before the 21st of December 2012. . . .