Sunday, May 18, 2008

Choosing an exhibit house

I was reminded of this process and experience recently when a business acquaintance told me he had to make some changes to his program. Whether it's cost-, geography- or personality-driven, sometimes a change has to be made.

Moving your exhibit properties is a big deal--or not Others in the industry have written exhaustively (and well) about this topic, among them Candy Adams and others on the staff of Exhibitor Magazine. This not meant to be an end-all or be-all, rather a starting place. Remember these three points when considering a new exhibit company:

1. Do you like them?
2. Are they convenient?
3. Can they do what you ask?

Do you like them? My chamber of commerce friends all live by the axiom, "people do business with people they like". It's true. If you don't want to meet the account executive or any of teh staff, why bother? That interpersonal relationship will drive just about everything else. It's like everything else in life: it's all about timing and chemistry. This also includes do you like the quality and type of their work.

Are they convenient? This doesn't necessarily mean that they have to be around the corner, but access is important. When I sold exhibits, one of the biggest obstacles to engaging a new client was where you were located in relation to where their program was managed. However, access and convenience can also mean where your properties are in relation to where you major shows are, the cost of storage and transportation in Texas versus California versus New Jersey, or the proximity of other vendors (graphics, van lines) to the main location. It also means do they have FTP sites, can you see photos of your properties or manage them from on-line, and other access measures.

Can they do what you ask? If you need a rental property at the last minute in a city you're not familiar with, can they come through? How many passes of a graphic revision does it take to get to production ready? Do they understand your properties well enough that if you call and ask about the "graphic that fits into the light box of the 20x20 we used at the NACS show" they will know which graphic you are talking about? Are they consistent about delivering what you ask regularly, on time and within your budget parameters? Do they ask and then confirm what it is you want before doing it and then sending you a bill anyway? This really goes back to point one.

If you do decide to change exhibit companies, always, always do it with professionalism and class. Don't burn the bridge because you never know when you will encounter these folks again. Be sure to settle up your bills, ask for and get what is yours and make a clean break.

Lesson learned: doing business with people you respect and like for a cost you can afford will always result in the product you need and want.


1 comment:

Mark Bendickson said...

Excellent points to consider, Paul. One thing I would add; the point you made about last minute rentals, etc. is an important one. The more services you need, the more full service a house you need. However, exhibit houses, like hotels, charge commensurate with their capabilities. Often I see potential clients give too much weight to prices (hourly rates, service mark ups, etc.) in the selection process and end up with a "Comfort Inn" when they really need the facilities and amenities of a "Marriott".