If you’re reading this, the “4E’s” – trade show exhibits, corporate events, branded interior environments and compelling engagements – likely play an important role in your marketing mix. And in executing your E’s, you know all too well the myriad of details that compete for your time and take your focus off your most important responsibility – preparing to meet your audience face-to-face.
That is why savvy planners partner with professionals to sweat the small details and produce greater peace-of-mind by ensuring everything happens when, where and how it is supposed to happen.
Companies in this space can vary greatly – from large conglomerates to smaller family-owned businesses and everything in-between. Some are focused on a specific function, like a traditional exhibit house that designs and builds the structure itself. Some provide end-to-end coverage of all core functions, either internally or through third parties.
How can you ensure the partner you select is well-suited to your needs?
Offerings. What functions does this partner provide? Will they be outsourcing functionality? If third parties are used, how will you ensure that everything comes off without a hitch? Who will take responsibility if something goes wrong? How will they make you shine – as a business, a brand and a professional?
Make sure you differentiate between internal services and shared labor pools when selecting a partner. A company with its own labor resources can give your job priority to ensure deadlines are met with their best talent. A shared labor pool may not offer the same assurance.
Experience. A strategically-insourced partner integrates every member of the team from the inception of your project. Imagine the possibilities when the team who will build and install your exhibit can share their insight on how to do it better, smarter and more efficiently from the get-go. Hindsight is 20/20 – but so is the power of a truly integrated internal team.
Reputation. How can your potential partner prove that they can do the job? Ask to see a portfolio of actual client projects produced. Talk to key clients so you can ascertain that the company keeps their promises. But realize that client references can be subjective.
Independent validation can also help. The Experiential Designers and Producers Association (EDPA) offers an RFP Certification that is equivalent to the “Good Housekeeping Seal,” giving confidence that your prospective partner is an elite company who should make the best use of your investment.
Obtaining EDPA certification is not easy. Only 16 companies nationwide have received this auspicious recognition since 2014, demonstrating that they have met the EDPA’s stringent standards. Certification is granted by an independent third-party audit firm who reviews the member company’s application and verifies compliance with standards and practices. More information and a list of recognized companies can be found at http://www.edpa.com/join#certification.
Value. Because of the intrinsic relationship aspect of trade show and event marketing, this is not a commodity-based industry. Pricing can vary significantly, but the comparisons are rarely apples-to-apples. Value is not defined by the low-price leaders. Some providers may quote low to bring you in the door, with invoices that do not necessarily align with those estimates.
Your partner should treat your investment as if it were their own money. The estimate for the quoted scope of work should be reasonable and they should be willing to stand by their numbers as long as both of you keep up your end of the agreement. But they should also be free to recommend plus-ups with substantiation that you can bring to your leadership team to justify added funds if merited.
Experience marketing offers a unique opportunity to get in front of your audience in a meaningful and memorable way. The partner you select will play an integral role in bringing your vision to life, while helping you make the most of your investment. Select the best, take advantage of their experience and watch your program grow!