Build It And They Will Come
Build It And They Will Come
In a famous line from the classic 1989 film, “Field of Dreams”, a corn farmer in Iowa, Ray Kinsella (played by Kevin Costner) hears a mysterious voice one night urging him to build a baseball diamond in his cornfields, saying "If you build it, he will come”.
As the world starts to consider emerging from lockdown, I believe the organizers of the world’s tradeshows and exhibitions should take heed of this message. Regardless of your industry, I think most of us are longing to return to the long, carpeted exhibition halls of conference venues worldwide. A recent EMEA survey by event industry leaders, pcma, indicates there is a real appetite to return to face-to-face events from Autumn 2021. How this will be music to the ears of airline and hotel executives! And Honeywell is assisting this return to normal through our clean air travel technologies such as the UV Cabin Treatment System, Smarter Airports and Passenger and Crew Safety Packs
The human factor is still a factor
Even before COVID-19, technology had started to transform the way businesses communicated with their customers. Tech enabled sales reps can now rely on a variety of tools and technologies to conduct their work—email, social media, video chat and more. As a result, the traditional in-person sales meeting had already become less common than it once was.
But – and this is a big but – at the end of the day it’s still the face-to-face meeting where the deal gets done. Research published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology found that face-to-face requests were 34 times more successful than those communicated via email. Within Honeywell, I know that over the last few years, a significant number of new leads were generated, or existing opportunities advanced through personal interactions at tradeshows in the EMEAI region.
The appreciation of being together has increased because of lockdown
Rather than consigning the business trip or tradeshow to the scrap heap, I would argue that the silver-lining of Covid-19 (if it can be called that) is the timely reminder that even as the B2B sales process becomes increasingly digital, face-to-face meetings deliver benefits that no technology can replicate. In fact, in a recent survey 85% of people believe face-to-face meetings contribute to stronger, more meaningful business relationships. The value of being together, of being able to shake hands, of sharing a beer, has gone up because of the isolation of lockdown. As we emerge from this enforced hibernation, there will be a far greater appreciation of the simple pleasures and benefits of meeting colleagues, partners and customers. These benefits include relationship building, employee development and their mental health - something we’ll look at in more detail in a subsequent blog.
Business travel is good for business
And these meetings are important for the bottom-line as well. A B2B purchase decision isn’t just about the products – buyers want to buy from businesses they know and trust. It’s not impossible to build strong connections through virtual communication, but face-to-face meetings are inherently more personal. These personal interactions are key to allowing customers and prospective new customers to form a strong connection with your team, your product and your brand. Another survey estimated that for every dollar invested in business travel, the company saw returns of U.S. $12.50!
One of my favourite Honeywell events is the bi-annual Pre-Catalan Brunch at the Paris Air Show. Unfortunately, this event won’t be taking place as planned this year, as the organisers have already cancelled the show. However, Honeywell, and our legacy companies, have participated at the Paris Air Show for over 40 years, with the Pre-Catalan customer event an integral part of our participation. I am convinced that this event has helped Honeywell build stronger relationships with customers, partners, suppliers and lawmakers, accelerating many millions of dollars of sales opportunities.
An evolution in tradeshows
Of course, we can’t expect things to go back exactly to how they were pre-COVID-19. Businesses will be far more judicious in their travel & expenses budgeting and expect even more demonstrable Return on Investment. Expectations of meetings and tradeshow will also be different. In reality, the basic format of large tradeshows hadn’t changed for decades. Yes, the booths might have grown bigger, the skirts longer and the displays more immersive. However, the days of 50+ employees travelling to a 5-day tradeshow were already numbered. Now I envisage smaller, shorter and more dynamic trade events – where highly-trained and motivated elite teams of sales and marketing teams are deployed with highly defined goals and objectives.
I also think there will be more focus on bespoke customer events. These focussed sale accelerator events might be simple customer appreciation days, or product roadmap roadshows.
The tradeshow landscape has changed, both because of the pandemic and technology. However, for businesses and individuals the advantages of face-to-face meetings with customers, partners and peers should never be taken for granted again. So, I urge you to build your event plan – and the customers will come.