Over the years I‘ve had the opportunity to work with many event companies and that vantage point has allowed me to see what drives decision-makers, and what leads to success or failure.
There are four types of companies:
- Sales Driven – Motivated by revenues, the sales staff are the stars in these companies. The products may not always be the best, but sales can sell the hell out of them, putting a price tag on every inch of the trade show floor or any digital property. Customer service may come in second or it’s managed by sales to ensure that it’s done right, since the rest of the company is ‘beholden’ to the sales team. Frequently, CARING PROGRAMS are a must and the sales staff is often on planes going to meetings where they can talk to customers face-to-face. The amount of revenue generated often helps subsidize other ventures like riskier launches.
- Product Driven – They don’t always make money, but the product is first-rate. They lack the application of success or profitability metrics other than those focused on how to make the product more spectacular. Marketing is what makes or breaks this kind of company because if no one knows about the product, the company will go out of business. Customers are usually quite satisfied with the product, but money and opportunities are left on the table. Event owners are seen to be part of the market and not ‘carpetbaggers’.
- Marketing Driven – Can find every customer in every crack. The product is not always up to snuff and therefore they may run a series of “one and done” events. Every new marketing technique is explored and tried, but if the sales staff isn’t aggressive with their follow-up on leads, the company can fall flat on its face. Usually win lots of event marketing awards.
- Operations Driven – Everything is done well in terms of the execution of marketing, sales, and service. In terms of the product, there’s not much focus on innovation. The concentration is upon cash cow events, with little to no business development. Business expansion comes via the acquisition of existing events rather than organic growth. Everything executes on time and is carefully crafted and presented. Event owners are frequently prominent members of the market (though not always.) The environment can be quite an assembly line – dominated by production charts and similar tools.
In truth, there’s a fifth kind of event company, a superset of the above four that draws on their best attributes. I would consider it as “profit-driven.” The top qualities on these companies are:
- Part of the market-they can ‘talk the talk’
- Dedicated to building first-class events which are profitable
- Have a killer sales team which focuses on nurturing customers for the long term
- Have a first-rate marketing team which can pivot when milestones are missed
- Execute well
- Have a business development team which can launch new events quickly
- Have an eye on the bottom line, but are willing to take some risk
- Make decisions based upon positive cash flow
- Do their analysis on current and launch events
- Have succession planning for the CEO to new hires
- Can stand in the customer’s shoes
Definitely a ‘wish list’ above, but how do you measure up?
Which kind of event company are you?