Make no mistake: when a new exhibit is in the works or, when you decide to trust your exhibit program to an exhibit agency that inspires your confidence, absolutely nothing is quite as important as the account management processes. Your account management team is the lifeline between you and a successful show. Without a comprehensive, well-articulated account management process flow, your job becomes a move from one crisis to another. With this flow, you can move from focusing on tactical issues to putting your energy into strategy execution.
Before committing to an exhibit partner, insist on meeting the person who will lead the account management team and account management processes. Do you feel you can trust this person with your program, your budget, and, yes, your career? Do you like this person? You are going to be spending a lot of time with them, and if the account manager assigned to you makes you feel uncomfortable, you won’t work well together. Make your concerns known. It’s okay to ask for a different person to be assigned to your account: remember, you are the client.
With the right team in place, here are a few reasons that explain why account management processes are so important:
- Look to your account management team for the latest developments. Maybe you are new to trade shows; maybe you are a veteran. In either case, your account manager can give you intelligence on what is going on with the show you have selected, (Did another company purchase the show? Has the show found a new general contractor? Have there been changes to drayage policies?). Have new shows launched in your field, shows you should keep on your radar?
- Your account management team will respect your budget. They will keep you on track—and let you know when you might be exceeding your established limits. When that happens, ask them for suggestions to “value engineer” your project—which means find another way to accomplish what you set out to do but at a lower cost.
- Your account manager will be mindful of early bird deadlines so that orders for your services are sent early to take advantage of discounts.
- Working with the show association or management company, your account team can help you select the best location that fits both your goals and your budget. If you chose a space, say, a year ago that wasn’t exactly what you wanted, your account team can help you monitor changes to the show floor in the event that an exhibitor pulls out of the show or if a better space becomes available.
- As important—or maybe more important—than your actual space on the floor is the layout and orientation of your exhibit. What is the optimum positioning of your demo areas? How can properties be best configured to get attendees to enter the interior of the exhibit as opposed to staying along the perimeter? Where are the doors in the hall? Which ones will be open during the show? Which air walls will be in place? How will the attendees enter the hall when the show opens? What is the access path to the hall from the educational sessions? You will want answers to all of these questions to make an intelligent decision about booth layout and orientation.
- A good account management team will help you select the best third-party vendors. Let’s take a step back and consider a common scenario. One of the product managers wants some sort of artificial intelligence (AI) experience in the exhibit. The request is vague—who is going to produce this experience? What will it look like? Realize that your account management team is continually reviewing new technologies and vendors because, believe it or not, this type of request is not unusual. You would probably be astonished to learn that vendors are constantly reaching out to account managers to show them what new products are on offer. The best part of using a third party is most of these companies have a core competency that precisely matches your situation.
- The scenario repeats itself with lighting designers, data collection agencies, labor companies, furniture suppliers—just about every in-booth option that comes to mind. Do you need brand ambassadors, caterers, WiFi providers? Your account management team can guide you to ensure the success of account management processes. Their experience in working with a variety of different suppliers works in your favor, and by trusting them, you have freed yourself from complicated searches.
These are just some of the advantages of working with good account management. The secret to great account management is transparency—on both sides. How can you personally facilitate optimal interaction?
- Indicate your preferred communication style and platform: email? Text? Video conference? Make your preference known.
- Ask what the hourly charge is account management; you should be aware of this number so that you manage your budget responsibly.
- From the outset of your relationship with your account management team, create a calendar that includes upcoming shows as well as the schedule for specific show tasks.
- Suggest a regular meeting schedule. Unless you have an emergency, use this meeting for all your updates and questions. (See #3 above.)
- When you have a question about, say, electrical layout, rely on your account manager to give you access to the person who is providing the schematic. The same is true for anyone working on your project. If you want to have a conversation with the designer, ask your account manager to have the designer join your next scheduled call.
- Ask for online access to your graphics files. This will be helpful not only to you but to your product teams. They can review what is available and determine whether the graphics need an updated or replaced.
- If you are storing your properties in one of the exhibit agency’s warehouses, you should know not only the cost per cubic foot for storage but also what kind of inspection for account management processes are standard. Is the exhibit inspected when it returns to the warehouse? Before it goes to the show? If any refurbishment is needed, be sure that adequate time is allotted, so you aren’t hit with rush charges.
- Like most people in your position, you are probably responsible for collecting data that demonstrates the return on investment (ROI) for a given show. Part of this data is knowing who visited the exhibit. Another part is determining follow-up; who gets the leads and how soon and by what method? Perhaps there is also a request from product groups for competitive intelligence or change in perception after the experience in the exhibit. These are all pieces you need to tell your account managers when you are deciding on a third-party data capture company. Do you want a tablet-based experience, a phone app, an interactive graphic? As the demand for data grows, so does the sophistication of your options. Your account manager will help you determine which company provides what you need.
- Often your account manager will be on site during set-up and for the opening of the show. If you want more support than that, make your preferences known.
- Ask for a postmortem after the show: what went right? What could have been better? What changes should we make for next time?
If you have successfully collaborated with your account management team, “next time” and the time after that will be even better!
Are you in the process of planning your next exhibit program? Our free guide will help you ask all the right questions.