There are multiple ways to approach the exhibit, sponsorship, and advertising sales process for exhibitions. Each one is different. Some may be better than others.

Nothing. The manual—no free Google software, lots of folders with copies of emails inside, Rolodex card (yes, they still exist)—system is the choice for many small organizations that can’t afford or don’t have the expertise to automate. It sounds crazy in the age of apps, but not every organizer chooses to automate and somehow it works for some of them. The downside is that “nothing” is a system that’s difficult to scale, uses costly manpower rather than cheap computer power, and doesn’t provide the type of insight needed to grow the event.

Organic. Sometimes, sales automation begins with a spreadsheet. Other times, it is an outgrowth of membership management. Either way, there are many event organizers that start with some type of app or software, then change, add, integrate, and improvise so it gets results. The organic process ultimately works really well for at least one person in the organization—the person who designed it—and marginally well for everyone else. Then, when the “designer” leaves, a lot of folks in management and on the sales team are left trying to figure it all out.

Off-the-shelf CRM. In the past two decades, Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software, designed to organize a company's interactions with current and future customers, has become extremely popular and very effective for sales and marketing. CRMs are a great way to streamline the sales process for events when they’re used effectively, but there’s the rub. Many organizers don’t use them effectively primarily because it’s a lot like “buying a Ferrari when all you need is a Volkswagen.” Implementation takes some work.

Custom CRM. There is a small, but growing group of organizers that have discovered a way to get more from a CRM. Customized CRM software—with relevant field tiles, streamlined processes unique to tradeshows, and standardized reports for the types of analyses that organizers routinely perform—delivers multiple benefits. Not only is it “ready to go” straight out of the box, but it’s scalable and flexible so that it works for events of all sizes, configurations, and product types.

There will always be event organizers that adopt the super-simple approach to sales and those that go totally rogue with organically grown methods. But using a CRM—especially one that is customized for trade shows—gives organizers something the other methods don’t: a repeatable, measurable, consistent, and automated process for getting more sales.


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