Have you ever been tempted to buy the latest “As Seen on TV” item? Most likely you didn’t buy it because you’ve either been burned before, or you realize that if something seems too good to be true, then it probably is. That’s what many event-focused organizations find with standard customer relationship management (CRM) platforms. They hear that CRM will help them increase sales, but once they get into the process, they learn that standard CRM just doesn’t work for events, because it’s not what we call “event aware.”
An event is not a product.
Most businesses market and sell physical products or linear services, and standard CRM is built to help those types of organizations manage transactional relationships through a traditional sales cycle. In the events industry, there are multiple components of your “product” – the event – and often multiple events. There’s the booth, the location of the booth on a floor plan, assignment of customer information to that booth, registration, customer preferences, year-over-year history, multiple contacts for the customer – for instance the booth contact, or the billing contact, and so on, and so on.
Standard CRM packages have an events field – one field that’s generally designed to record notes from a phone call or meeting – literally a 15-minute phone call is recorded as an event. Some CRM providers will say you can use the opportunities field for your events, but that doesn’t allow you to capture all of the information listed above. Capturing all of that other information, making the software event aware requires costly, and time-consuming customization. And that customization generally isn’t even done by the software provider, it’s done by a third party vendor. That means the support team at the standard CRM provider will no longer be familiar with your software, because they won’t know all the ins and outs of your customization package.
Making connections vs. making the right connections.
Standard CRM platforms are also stand-alone CRM platforms, so they’re not automatically connected to your event management, floor plan, and financial platforms. To make those connections, you’ll need application programming interfaces (APIs). Those require additional development time and costs. And, every time one of your software platforms has an update, those APIs will have to be updated as well.
The other option is to avoid the APIs and go with good old-fashioned man-power. Meaning any relevant data you want from your CRM will need to be re-keyed into your event management and financials programs. If you choose this route, make sure you also have systems in place to verify that information is being re-keyed correctly and updated in a timely manner.
Rather than piecing together several separate systems to manage your events, you can choose a CRM that’s purpose-built for exhibitions and events to include all of the things standard programs offer, plus a seamless connection to exhibitor information, floor plans, service orders, event transactions and more. It makes the process of selling a booth that much easier because your client information and your floor plan are working off a single database. Capturing last minute requests on the show floor is more efficient as well, because a service order can be instantly updated and the information is automatically added to the invoice. Plus, when your customer calls for a renewal, you can look at their order and tell them exactly what they requested, including those last minute changes, to properly plan resources for future events.