Deciding the most effective way to get your voice heard is one of the many marketing challenges businesses face today. While social media has opened up numerous communication channels, the ease of communication makes it possible to overlook more traditional channels and opportunities to communicate face to face.
Meeting customers and potential customers has always been important to us – possibly because our platform serves a specialist purpose and is best explained and demonstrated in person.
However, as much we would like to visit every company across the globe it is not practical which is why we continue to exhibit at trade shows and take part in smaller specialist seminars. Depending who you talk to, exhibitions have either had their day or are still an effective way to meet large numbers of potential customers. For us it is firmly the latter and trade shows and seminars provide an effective way to demonstrate our platform.
However, despite exhibitions being effective for us it is fair to say that compared with a few years ago visitors are under more pressure to justify spending two or three days in an exhibition hall. Individuals are busier than ever and technology today means that half an hour of internet research can often provide much of the information that previously was only available at trade shows.
Trade shows today need to be more than a collection of stands with a range of corporate literature.
It means that trade shows today need to provide visitors with information that cannot be collected online and they need to be much more than a collection of stands with a range of corporate literature. This is why when we first started sponsoring Multimodal, the UK’s premier transport and logistics show, five years ago we wanted to use our stand to host a series of industry briefings that would be a draw in their own right. Over the years this format has proved extremely successful with an impressive range of speakers from industry and academia which in turn has generated high numbers of visitors to our stand.
The format is attractive to our customers as well since they are able to meet with other companies and those who we have asked to give presentations are able to use the presentations to highlight the innovative work their companies have been undertaking. Despite the event’s success we are always wary of taking up too much of our customers’ time but the feedback we receive is that generally they would like to spend more time at the exhibition but it just impractical to be away from the office for a large chunk of the week.
When we started putting together the speaker programme for Multimodal 2012 this feedback was ringing in our ears and we wanted a way to encourage more of our customers to visit the show without taking over their diaries for the week. It was then we had the idea that if people can’t spare time away from the offices, why don’t we put their offices on the exhibition floor? Initially, it sounded intriguing but the more we thought about the concept, the more the idea made sense. Providing our customers with a fully functioning private office – desk, telephone, broadband, meeting area – would allow them to base themselves at the exhibition for the week, fix meetings with their suppliers and carry on with their day job.
The ‘Shippers Village’ provides an office away from the office - meet suppliers and carry on with the day job.
Working with the event organisers this idea developed into ‘Shippers Village’ and the opportunity to take an office for the duration of the exhibition was opened up to all companies and not just our customers.
It proved such a success that the concept is being repeated at Multimodal 2013 and companies including Coca-Cola, Ericsson, Cabot, Kellogg's, Mars, Tesco, and Jaguar Land Rover have already signed up.
In the transport sector, shippers like this are a big attraction so we have ended up in the situation where the conference organisers are happy, suppliers who can request meetings with big name companies are happy and the shippers who can attend the trade show, meet existing and potential suppliers and do a week’s work in their private office are happy. And because a number of these shippers are our customers, when they are happy we are happy.
Creative solutions to make customers' lives easier
Although the Shippers Village concept grew from an almost throw away idea, it’s important to realise that we were trying to solve a problem for our customers which was in effect how can they be in two places at once? While we haven’t quite managed the impossible we have at least made it practical for our customers to attend a three day trade show. We pride ourselves on our creativity when comes to developing sourcing solutions and this creativity flows through the entire company and shows how an open mind combined with the drive to deliver can provide a solution that is far more effective than was initially imagined.
In all types of communication, the channel and messenger is as important as the message itself. Social media is incredibly useful for mass communication and will be relevant in some instances for some audiences but face-to-face meetings and human interaction often repay the additional time and effort required in fixing the meetings which is why we generally prefer to meet rather than tweet out customers.
Multimodal 2013 takes place 23-25 April 2013 in the NEC, Birmingham, U.K. For more information visit the website www.multimodal.org.uk and to book a place in the Shippers Village email Robert Jervis on firstname.lastname@example.org