Getting a green light from upper management
Your needs seem so simple. You just want upper management to understand and appreciate the power and importance of your tradeshow exhibition programme. You want budget approval. You want complete support and participation at all levels in the organisation. Not much to ask you might think. However, if your requests are so simple, why is one of your greatest frustrations convincing upper management of the benefit of your exhibition programme? Why do they have a hard time understanding its value as a vital component of the company’s marketing strategy? And why, as a result, are they constantly looking to cut your budget?
If this is the environment you are struggling with, let’s look at some key points that may be creating barriers:
1. What are the stop signs?
It is essential to understand the red lights that stop upper management from moving forward. These could include negative past experiences, especially if they perceive trade shows as a purely social environment and an excuse for people to “have a good time” at the company’s expense. On the other hand, they may never have had experience with trade shows and do not fully understand how they fit into the overall corporate marketing strategy.
2. What do they need/want?
To lift some of those barriers, you first have to understand what it is they want/need. Their overall company agenda is often multi-fold. Increasing sales with lower costs is usually a key component, as is keeping ahead of the competition and increasing market share. This all adds up to positive measurable results that will benefit the company and take it to a new level.
With regard to your exhibiting programme, they want to understand the process and how it relates to the corporate marketing goals. Some of them need past show statistics and attendance profiles to fully understand the process. And some of them want to be involved in the planning strategy. Your job is to fully understand their needs so that you can deliver what it is they want. This is going to help make your job much easier. When they see the big picture, understand the marketing fit, the marketplace positioning, and the return on investment, there should be little resistance.
3. What do you need to get a green light?
Getting the go ahead and the support you need comes when you DRIVE in the right direction – Direct, Revise, Involve, Verify, and Educate.
Direct your attention to their wants and needs.
Thoroughly understand the focus of your management team. Know their highest priorities, goals, or objectives. As mentioned previously, management focuses on finding solutions. They are most concerned with gaining market share, increasing revenues, controlling and decreasing expenses, finding a new edge on the competition, and generally dealing with changes in our unpredictable economy. Your job is to ensure that your exhibition plan addresses these areas. Give them what they want in a form they understand. It would also be helpful for you to know who on your management team needs to back your plans. Then communicate your message to them both verbally and in writing.
Revise your thinking.
Revise your thinking and understand their mind set. Management is interested in seeing quantifiable results. Show them specifically how tradeshows have lowered the cost of sales, increased repeat customer rates, attracted new customers, increased market share, got products to market quicker than the competition, or improved the company image.
Stress how exhibiting at tradeshows is an integral part of the marketing communications mix. Exhibiting is a component of each of the four main promotional vehicles – advertising, sales promotion, public relations and personal sales. By exhibiting, you are advertising, promoting, and selling your company image, products, and services.
Involve them in the process.
Encourage them to participate and visit the exhibition. When management experiences trade shows and becomes an integral part of the team, there is a whole new approach. Other team members quickly realise the seriousness of the company’s investment, which results in a more focused and committed team effort. Remember to give them a specific function on the show floor, for example, meeting and greeting key customers. Otherwise, they might just stand around and talk to the exhibition stand staffers.
Validate your plan of action.
Plan exactly what you want to accomplish when meeting with management. Your exhibition programme may need several different areas of support, for example: budgeting, sales staff cooperation, product displays, and PR support. Have a clearly defined plan for each area.
Be prepared to negotiate. When asking management for support in various areas, have facts based on past experience. Know exactly what you want, and be prepared to negotiate. Have some items you are prepared to concede in order to achieve a win/win situation.
Another consideration is to know and understand the personality style of your top management.
There are four major personality styles – driver, expressive, amiable, and analytic. Realise that each style requires different handling.
Drivers are bottom-line focused, wanting you to get straight to the point. They need to know facts and are fast decision makers. They can be stubborn, impatient, and demanding. They seek power, control, and authority. Their major focus is on bottom-line results.
Analytics need to know every possible piece of information. They are good at planning, organising, and problem solving. They are very thorough, serious, skeptical, and often extremely slow decision makers. Their major focus is on solutions to goals and objectives.
Expressive’s are oriented to the big picture (not details) and are risk-takers. They are personable, stimulating, enthusiastic, very emotional, and persuasive. They seek recognition and visibility. Their major focus is on creative ideas that sound and feel good.
Amiables are warm, friendly, dependable, dedicated, and cooperative. They are good listeners, relationship-oriented, and extremely sensitive. They are interested in low risk and guarantees and avoid making decisions. Their major focus is on guaranteed proven results.
4. Educate wherever possible.
Management is committed to making things happen in the organisation. They often do not appreciate the value of exhibiting and how it can help the bottom line. Adjust your focus and illustrate past performance success stories, share industry research and statistics on how profitable shows are for the company. Exhibition research is available from the Association of Exhibition Organisers, Website: www.aeo.org.uk. Your major role is to educate wherever possible!
The roadmap to successfully getting what you want from upper management starts with being able to give them what they what. Do that and you will be on the fast track to more satisfactory relationships and an exciting and profitable exhibiting programme.