I recently came across an article about a long-time exhibitor, Mile High Comics, and their decision to drop out of the San Diego Comic-Con event, ending a 44-year run as a customer. I mention the situation, not necessarily to beat up on San Diego Comic-Con, but rather to ask a question of all my readers. Do you run from customer disasters? Or, like first responders, do you head toward the problems and at least attempt to fix a potential disaster?
In terms of the Comic-Con organizers, I found no articles that addressed the issue from their perspective, nor did I attempt to contact them to get their perspective . But the withdrawal did generate a lot of publicity(and all one-sided):
On a more personal note, I remember a situation twenty years ago involving an event in Rosemont that competed with one that I managed. Together with two of my sales team, I attended the event, seeking to talk to the 50 or so companies who were exhibiting. Unfortunately for the show organizer, there was no floor traffic during the actual conference sessions, leaving the exhibit hall empty for 90% of the time the expo was open.
And where was the event’s sales staff? They were hiding in the show office with the doors locked. At least, they were in hiding until the exhibitors ganged up on the organizers and forced them to adjust the conference/exhibit hall schedule to try to stir up some floor traffic…Chalk another one up for the “Ostrich Gang”.
The results? My team was able to generate more than $300K of sponsorship/exhibit revenue for our show, while the competitive show, with its cowering sales staff, never took place again.
No one likes having to deal with customer problems at their show. But are you the type who hides and hopes the problems go away or do you do everything possible to help resolve the issues, even if it means getting yelled at when you do? I have to admit that I probably started off as the former. But I now take the bull by the horns as much as possible, even though having to do so still makes me shudder in extreme circumstances.
When you run a massive, world-renowned event like a Comic-Con (or Macworld, as another example) you can absorb the loss of an exhibitor like Mile High Comics. One of the linked stories indicates that there was a waiting list of potential exhibitors, suggesting that space was probably filled quickly. It also sounds like Comic-Con is making a lot of money. So, who cares if someone is upset?
Someone should care. Each issue, resolved positively or otherwise, contributes to a reputation, and if these sorts of situations keep happening, who knows what the impact will be? There have been bigger shows than Comic-Con that have been cancelled, when enough sponsors abandoned a previously successful event because their concerns were not addressed.
Are you going to be next? Or will you steady your nerve, steel your resolve, and run toward the challenge when others are running away? Your event’s future may depend on what you decide…..