Why & How-to sell digital products in post Covid time

Its moral boosting news for everyone that almost after a year of disruption, business is finally looks optimistic to walk on the path of recovery. In its recent report, IMF predicted 11.5% growth rate for India in 2021. While few businesses are recovering at desirable pace, some like exhibitions, Salons, Textile etc is yet to witness any significant milestone in the path of recovery.

Despite government announcing approval of organizing B2B exhibitions, it’s still waiting to see the light of the day in this pandemic.  With vaccines finally in the market, there is hope for the normal days but no one at this stage can say with assurance when normalcy will return, or for how many months/years we must live under the constant fear of Covid infections. Hopefully time will answer this question.

While Covid disrupted businesses, we must appreciate the fact that it also forced us to innovate new set of products across different business verticals. If not Covid, I doubt these products would have been ever innovated. In Ramayana, Lord Hanuman was unaware of his powers so unsure of crossing the sea until Jamvant made him realize his true potential. May be Covid did have same effect on all strategists & product manager.

B2B exhibition industry has been exceptional in innovating new products. May be because their existence has been challenged by Covid pandemic, but they return strongly. In a very short span of time, a wide range of products are innovated, some are refined to suits the changing needs of the customer. Products like Webinar, Banner ads, Virtual Exhibition & Conferences, Marketplace are accepted by the customer. Those which are offered as freebies for client engagement finally found its place in the price books.

With B2B exhibitions all set to open soon, there will be fresh set of challenges soon knocking doors of these companies. There is growing fear of digital products losing relevance in customer minds & wallets in post pandemic days.

Answers for few questions will be explored that can’t be ignored in sales planning like –

  • Will the customer spend on Physical as well as digital products?
  • Will the customer have enough marketing budget & manpower to engage in all the activities?
  • Will the customer give preference to physical exhibitions than digital products?

We need to understand that, it’s mostly SME who participates in exhibitions & their key objective is to generate maximum leads with minimum investments. Usually, they don’t have large wallet to buy all products or to be present on all platforms. So, when normal days will finally arrive, it will become difficult for the exhibitions company to sell digital products due to changing priorities of the customers.  But certainly, they want to build up on the gains they made in 2020 in creating a new line of products for revenue generation as well as engaging with clients.

So, for all strategist, the question is how to keep the digital product relevant even in good days of exhibitions business. Before formulating any strategy, we need to know that digital product brings lot of values to the table for both Exhibition Companies & Clients. It helps the Exhibition Companies to remain engaged with their customer throughout the year & on the other hand help exhibitors to remain connected with their customers and finally meeting him once at show floor for bigger business deals in an exhibition.

As I said, it’s not that Digital products are beneficial only to the exhibition organizers; it is equally beneficial for the exhibitors. I believe, they will still prefer physical exhibitions unless they truly realize the potential of Digital products. To make them realize the true potential of digital products, initially companies will need to have push strategy for digital products. In the covid pandemic, several digital products are innovated & some are improved like Webinar, Marketplace, Online Advertisement, Product Listing, B2B Match making, Online roadshows, Online certifications & most importantly Virtual Exhibitions & Conferences. At this point of time, it may be difficult to guess which product will hold good in post covid era.

Strategist & Product Managers can plan below sales strategy for pushing Digital Products

  1. Identify & create the right product mix Right product mix is the only way to generate more revenue from customer wallet but getting the mix right is always challenging. For right product mix, one must give higher weightage to the core product & lesser weightage to the ancillary products. The core product here is B2B Physical Exhibitions which should contribute 80 to 85 % of total revenue & digital products like Webinars, Matchmaking, Online advertisement, Marketplace etc should form the other 15 to 20% of revenue. If I must put my money in Digital products, I will put it in the marketplace. It’s perfectly complements B2B exhibitions & can be a big revenue generator in post covid days. How it will work- Exhibition companies must create online marketplace for lead generation which will be available throughout the year for exhibitors followed by Physical exhibition. Organizers have both exhibitor & visitor data. They can easily create marketplace platform for the clients.

They can generate revenue by charging

  • Rs X per lead from the exhibitors
  • Advertisement from same or other industries
  • Membership charges from the visitors/Exhibitors

It will not only help Exhibition companies to make more revenue but also help in creating validated database. I see marketplace as huge potential & companies have all the resources to create mini Alibaba’s of the world in diverse industry verticals.

2. Bouquet Selling- I can say with my own experience that selling a new product is difficult than selling existing product. It takes both time & effort for the customer to build a liking for the product. The best way to push ancillary product is to sell in package. The reason is simple, through bouquet I can fulfil all the needs of my customers & in return helping myself pushing these products in customer minds. For exhibition companies, it will help in reducing the administrative work involved in issuance of multiple workorders, invoices, reconciliation etc. This will lead to seamless product delivery & will bring stability of revenue numbers.

3. Pricing- Its always difficult to price a product rightly specially in the initial stages of its life cycle. Daewoo Cielo was a fantastic car & had a grand entry in Indian market but failed to sustain because its pricing was on the wrong side when it was launched. Daewoo do made attempts to correct the pricing but by then it was too late & Cielo has already lost the mind share of people. Pricing has been one of the challenges which Exhibition industry is still figuring out for Digital products. Some are offering as free while others are charging reasonably high amount. The huge variance in pricing unsettle the customers & not good for the industry. its human nature to run towards lower price product. But is customer experience a bad product initially, it’s likely that he will not be ready to buy it again ever. So, it better to keep things simple, do package selling to avoid multiple negotiations on individual products. If the weightage of ancillary products passed beyond 20%, chances of it getting rejected by the customers will go high. A customer will not mind spending 15 to 20% on ancillary products but anything beyond 20% will irk the customer & likely to be rejected by customers.

Many times, good products failed because of poor sales strategy & it must be avoided. So if you have innovated a new ancillary product then try this sales strategy till it becomes self sustainable in generating revenue.  A good product becomes a great product when it gets wedded with the right sales strategy.

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