A common rhetorical question heard among sales and marketing colleagues these days is, “Why do companies cut sales and marketing budgets during an economic downturn, when they need to sell more?” The truth is, it may be essential and in some cases, pushing for more new business could contribute to the problem.
"New revenue" from new customers often comes at a high cost. For many companies, existing customers are the greatest source of actual profit because they are the easiest to maintain and to sell. So, when things are tight, smart companies hold even more tightly to their existing business. CFO’s in survival mode know that expensive sales and marketing campaigns to attract business that might not be profitable for a while, may not be practical. Keeping existing business is essential.
Also, net new business volume requires investments in resources and people to produce and deliver products and service to new customers. Servicing new customers can be expensive, because they don’t yet know how to use the products and they are not part of the ordering and service systems. Increasing the size of the workforce may not be an option, and a survival strategy may be to handle the existing business volume with fewer people until the crisis passes.
How Events Can Provide Solutions –
Events provide a way to reach large numbers of people at once, at a relatively low cost. Remember, the purpose of an event is to motivate people to act in a way that benefits the host. Here are a few ideas to consider:
- You should strongly consider aiming events at existing customers to protect and grow their business. User and customer conferences actually result in near term sales and reduce service costs for companies that know how to plan and run them correctly. (See the Case study "What is Your Conference Worth to Your Company - http://constellationcc.com/case_studies.htm).
- Executive level customer conferences can create a platform where the top executives from your best accounts come together with your executives to collaborate on mutually beneficial solutions for dealing with an economic downturn. Executive to executive interaction is the most effective way to cementing business relationships.
- Few companies want to totally stop their pursuit of new business and new market share. When economics dictate a reduction in sales force or sales expense, your events can provide a cost alternative for reaching large numbers of potential buyers.
- Public events may suffer from lower attendance during an economic downturn. In some cases, the absences may be among lower level, less important participants who are not required to be there. As a result the remaining audience may be richer in targets and less expensive to reach.
- Private events, those you host yourself, can be staged in locations close to targeted accounts, and may be perceived as an opportunity for companies to find solutions for dealing with their own problems.
How you approach these events should be different compared to how your company normally conducts business at trade shows:
- It is essential to identify, by company and title, if not name, everyone at an upcoming event who can improve your results.
- Next, contact and arrange pre-scheduled, face- to- face meetings with these targeted individuals to discuss mutually beneficial approaches to dealing with a slow economy.
- Attract and "detail" targeted individuals who visit your stand. If you are able to accomplish the equivalent of an important sales call with targeted individuals in your booth, you will reduce your cost of sale.
- You must have a specific outcome (step in the sales funnel) in mind for these targets, and you must get them to commit to participate.
- Broaden your idea of a "target" to include suppliers and alliances. Interactions with these targets reduce the cost of materials or logistics contribute directly to the survival of the business.
That approach fills the sales funnel with prospects committed to a step in the sales process, ones that may not be coming from a reduced sales force and may help to lower the cost of doing business.
Saving the Company Money –
Finally, events can save your company money when it is most needed. The face- to- face meetings I referenced reduce the cost of field sales because the prospects and customers have paid their own way to meet with you.
Providing access to your executives for customers and prospects is a sure fire way to protect business and cement deals for new business. The savings from putting fifty to one- hundred or more customers and prospects in front of your executives, in just a few days, could reach hundreds of thousands of dollars in savings per event.
What to Do Right Now –
Talk to your sales executives about how carefully chosen events could help your company deal with the instability and change associated with the current economic climate.
Your importance to the company is about to rise rapidly.