Last 18 months has been a tough journey for industries. Many are forced to innovate products, supply chain, explore new methods of marketing to sail through this on-going difficult period of pandemic. Industries depending on face-to-face interaction like hotels, events, restaurants are the ones who were severely impacted by the pandemic. Many have to close shops while other found ways of survival by adopting new products. Event industry is one of the worst hit industry in the pandemic but then it shown great resilience to not only survive but to thrive in coming years.
This pandemic will surely lead to change in mindset, thought process of new product development in the event industry. Event industry will go through a significant change which has not be seen in last few decades. One thing that has clearly established in the pandemic is that humans need face-to-face interaction. Digital may have reduced cost of business but alone digital will not going to be sustainable. It’s evident from the fact that wherever there is re-opening, people throwing themselves in large numbers to be present in person to see, feel & interact with others face-to-face. So, the question on future of events business must be put to rest & we need to look beyond pandemic to understand more about future products.
The biggest positive that came out of pandemic for event companies is the emergence of digital products & acceptance of the same by clients. But one question that remains in the mind is- what will be the future of digital products after pandemic? Are they going to grow or remain stable or will vanish from the product catalogue? Is there growth will mean loss of revenue for physical events? The event industry will have to find answers to so many such questions in this pandemic as the one who takes the lead in finding the right answers will be the one who will lead the revenue charts.
I firmly believe that these digital products are going to stay & will help growing the physical events. Positioning of the digital product will decide how the future looks for the event companies. The strategy of digital product development & positioning in the current product portfolio holds the key. I believe that companies should adopt the three-bucket strategy for the digital product.
- Replacement Bucket- Companies developed few products to replace the physical event to survive the pandemic knowing that once normal times will arrive, they may have to discontinue this product. I called them replacement products because it offers almost similar thing to the customer but through a different medium and clients have accepted it may be because of pandemic. They are replacement products because both existing & this product will not go hand in hand post pandemic & if as a company you insist on doing so, it may kill one of your products. Most likely its going to be the original product which must bid for the farewell. As we say for the stock markets, exiting at the right time is very important. Similarly, once situation normalizes, its advisable to discontinue replacement products. One example that fits in the replacement bucket of products is Virtual Events/Awards/Networking.
- Complement Bucket- I told you earlier that in new normal, physical event & digital products will go hand in hand. The answer of the future success of digital products for event companies stay in complement bucket. One of the struggles for the event companies is to stay connected with the clients throughout the year but the pandemic opened the magic box from which so may products are flying out that can not only help them to stay connected with the clients but also generate incremental revenue. The products which can support the main physical event are the ones to be put in this bucket. These products will help in client engagement, up-selling, cross selling & importantly to be on top of the mind of the customer (You may call it Customer Loyalty). Digital products like Webinar, Seminars, Customized events, Online advertisement on websites can be part of this bucket.
- Independent Bucket- A completely new product can be a real engine for growth & perhaps that’s the reason, its most difficult to develop. I will put products which can run independent of the core or existing product in the independent bucket. These products can also support the main product but can drive revenue without them as well. One product that fits in this bucket is Online Marketplace. The greatest strength of the Event companies is the verified data & the loyal customers. Event companies can easily create Amazons in different industry verticals which not only give them significant revenue but also help them stay connected with the community throughout the year without impacting the physical events.
As the development & positioning of the product is integral to the success but it also needs sales support. Products must get aligned with right sales structure. From so many years, sales team are selling events so selling digital products doesn’t come naturally to them. As we say adaptability is must for agile growth, hence there is need to adapt to the changing times & it’s time to rapidly upskill the sales team. Its time to move on from transactional selling to relationship selling. We need to understand the newer product needs support initially to register its presence in the minds of the customer, hence bundling new products with existing one can be a way forward. With skills, thought process also needs to move on in the right direction and companies should also invest on trainings that enables sales manager to think like relationship managers & mastered the art package selling.
For years, event companies have waited for products that can help them growing the business exponentially & maybe they finally found answers in digital products. Choose the right bucket for product positioning & an agile sales structure will do the rest of the work. Bucket strategy along with the right sales structure is a way forward for exponential growth for event companies.