Once a trade show grows to a certain size, it simply becomes too difficult to manage exhibit sales, marketing, and customer support communications without some level of automation. Customer relationship management (CRM) software has become the go-to solution for tracking conversations and engagement with prospects and customers—especially when the numbers are big. But, show size is only one reason an organizer might look to a CRM for help. Here are some others:

Inefficient sales process. You know the drill. You enter exhibitor contact information on one spreadsheet and calculate priority points on another. The “database” is a collection of file folders and sticky notes. Your team sends emails, but they never know if anyone reads them. And, every step of the way, you’re entering the same information over and over into multiple databases. It’s a painful and disjointed process.

Poor customer relationships. You have a tremendous opportunity to understand your customers, but you’re unable to take advantage of it. Rich data about your exhibitors and sponsors is buried deep within the databases and file folders of your sales and marketing departments. Sales are slipping away and the inability to cultivate deep, lasting associations with your most valuable clients spells long-term disaster for your show.

Underperforming sales staff. You’ve tried a lot of different tactics to educate, motivate, and activate your event sales force, but staffers still aren’t making their numbers. One reason for the uninspiring performance could be a lack of information on new prospects and existing customers. It’s empowering to give your team members instant access to fresh leads so they can act quickly. Plus, providing them with a tool to develop contact histories can inform their conversations with potential customers.

Complex priority points system.  Priority points—the frequent flier miles of the trade show industry—are a blessing and a curse. They help you foster loyalty among your exhibitors, but they can also become a challenge to calculate. Maybe one point per booth or one point per 100 square feet is easy enough to determine, but what happens when companies within the same show acquire each other or spin off into smaller entities? Determining where those companies stand can be time-consuming.

Unrealized sales opportunities.  You have multiple products to sell—exhibit space, sponsorships, and advertising—but you have no way to cross sell or upsell to customers. Sometimes organizers appoint a single point of contact to sell all of the available products, but many times, one group sells space and another group sells promotion and advertising. Because there is no visibility into the total purchases a company makes, your team is unable to bundle offerings or provide incentives.

Too many customer touches. In many organizations, the right hand of marketing doesn’t know what the left hand of sales is doing. Emails meant to convert prospects are being sent repeatedly to exhibitors and sponsors that have already signed up. Even when organizers do ask clients how often and in what manner they prefer to be contacted, they have no way of making sure that those preferences are being addressed and customers become annoyed.

Any one of the above pain points would be reason enough to warrant a CRM system. When multiple issues arise, a CRM solution could be the answer to revamping a broken system that is central to the success of every trade show.


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