Laura Hartmann, CPCE, PBC, is co-founder of H&F Redefined, an Orlando-based network that supports individuals on their furlough/lay-off & new business journeys from all over the globe. Prior to her own layoff due to COVID-19, she worked in various positions within the industry across brands such as Marriott, Starwood, Hilton, and Waldorf Astoria as Assistant Director of Events.
An Industry Redefined: Utilize Your Allies
There’s a certain energy on a trade show floor that is wildly thrilling.
To call it sensory overload would be an understatement. There are the perfectly positioned booths, of various scales and designs, the bright overpowering lights, the smell of the fresh carpet, the sounds of bustling vendors frantically talking to as many people as they can, the amplification of the demos happening all over with people on microphones and, of course, the squishes and squeaks of the tchotchkes collected at every turn. Then there is that underlying feeling of pressure in the air that you can sense from each exhibitor, all trying to maximize every moment of their time at the show because it’s an opportunity for enormous business impact.
For many businesses, participating in certain shows is the lifeblood of their growth potential. A trade show floor is where transactions take place, partnerships are secured, products get released and customers experience the future of an industry or a market for the very first time. So when the world shut down in 2020 for Covid-19, it was truly crippling for businesses small and large that relied on this platform to thrive.
How do you sell a product, if no one can actually experience the product?
As trade shows bounce back, who is going to lead these initiatives now that so many positions have been eliminated or placed on hold?
These are just a few of the very tough questions that experiential marketing professionals Kim Masters, Leslie Negron and Shannon Hayden had to ask themselves when they were furloughed from their marketing agency in 2020 due to the pandemic. Not only were each of them personally affected like millions of others in hospitality, but they realized quickly that their clients were suffering after losing so many resources to meet their business objectives. Sound familiar? It’s a parallel story so many of us have lived.
With over 50 years of combined marketing experience, Kim, Leslie and Shannan couldn’t sit still, so they united to focus on not just getting back to work but also developing a niche consulting business focused on helping others get back on their feet with a new perspective—and as their allies. Despite living remote from one another, representing Las Vegas, Utah and Atlanta, this team decided to use that to their advantage considering their ability to expand their reach.
Their business, KLS Marketing Allies, LLC, is dedicated to the trade show and event sector, however, the approach and mentality to turn their very specific skills into a niche consulting business seems to be the hottest trend of the pivot culture this year.
As trade shows make their comeback, it’s fair to say that now more than ever there are voids in certain processes that once were occupied by individuals on a company payroll to lead and own. A business owner attending a trade show themselves or who plans to send a team no doubt needs an ally to be set up for success. This is where a consulting team can become really valuable.
Here are five pro-tips the KLS trio offers up as approachable advice for getting back on track.
1. Always be proactive, not reactive. Our industry is stressful enough, so find a way to stay ahead of it.
2. Lean on your network of experts. Circles are better than rows.
3. Embrace the uncomfortable. Embrace change. We have all had to learn this over the last year. Don’t fight it.
4. Understand the “why.” Know how to communicate it to all levels of your team members, both internal and external. Understand the reasoning behind what events and trade shows you are involved in.
5. RFPs should make sense. When sending out an RFP for a new partner, ask why you are adding certain companies to the list. Have good qualifying questions. “Because they stopped by my booth” is not a good reason.
We’re all doing more than we used to and taking on responsibilities we might not have been tasked with a year ago, so the entire scope of the way the hospitality world operates has shifted. It’s now cool to collaborate and support competitors because when they thrive, we will too. It’s important though, to take this time to evaluate our individual and company-wide strengths and weaknesses. Everyone’s a little leaner now, so surely there is a space for niche services and outsourced project management.
We need networks, we need community, we need collaboration and now more than ever, we need allies.