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Dr. Peter Fader on How the Customer Centric Model Applies to Exhibitions: Part Three

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The final installment of CEIR’s interview with Dr. Peter Fader focuses on the potential for a customer centric model in B2B exhibitions and creating the right corporate culture for its success.

By Mary Tucker, CEIR Sr. Communications & Content Manager

Originally published on

In parts one and two of this series, Predict keynote speaker Dr. Peter Fader defined customer centricity and what it means for B2B exhibitions, as well as explained how B2B exhibition organizers can apply the customer centricity model to enhance the return on investment of their events. Here, Peter discusses how the customer centricity model can benefit B2B exhibitions and creating a company culture that supports it.

One phrase you repeat is “data, analytics and technology” as it relates to creating a customer centric strategy. How can the exhibition industry make the most of these elements to take their attendee acquisition efforts further? What is the potential for the customer centric model in this industry?

Peter: First of all, what CEIR has been doing is tremendous. I look at the data you are collecting and the seriousness that you’re bringing to it by doing formal studies. Also, talking to someone like me, outside of your industry; that’s a real credit to how serious you are about driving acquisition.

Right now, given the circumstances, a lot of the focus is largely on quantity. Which makes sense, the approach of getting more traffic going through exhibitions. However, let’s try to re-establish a new normal. I’m hoping what will happen is that in driving quantity, we will also be mindful of quality. In doing so, we are going to have to start investing in – here we go – data, analytics and technology to get people to self-identify and to rely on the technologies available.

It is kind of a new normal, so people will need to get past some of the old hesitations that they might have. As we start getting more people coming through exhibitions and have the ability to collect more data, show organizers will have a better understanding of who their attendees are. At some point, when we do establish the new normal, we will hopefully see foot traffic that rivals what it was five years ago. But even if it’s not, and regardless of what the new normal looks like, we need to start shifting our focus from quantity to quality.

And we need to start really understanding how attendees differ from each other: their propensity to come back, their propensity to engage and their propensity to spend. We then need to find smart ways to share that information with the exhibitors so that you know that they can understand the return-on-investment (ROI) that they’re getting.

Shows are planned well in advance, so it has to be sustainable. Let’s invest in the technologies and the insights as we reach a new equilibrium. We are only going to be smarter than we ever were before because many industries are completely saturated. This customer centricity approach opens doors to innovation and many industries are applying it. For example, I recently had lunch with a customer in the telco [telecommunications] sector. There are no new customers to be acquired, right? It’s just a matter of watching customers shuffle around from one carrier to another and then trying to sell them bigger bundles of more stuff.

Again, the exhibition industry is in an unusual position where you really can look at the balance between Who should we hold onto? and What can we do to increase revenue from them? But in using acquisition as a strategic weapon as well, you have to really look into not just how many attendees you’re bringing in, but the quality of them. And then let that drive a lot of the retention and development tactics down the road.

It’s not easy and it’s not cheap, but it is an opportunity to potentially achieve a type of growth that is not only greater than what you were seeing pre-pandemic, but smarter and more accountable. The goal is to be able to put dollars and cents up against it more effectively than ever before.

I think the good news is that people believe that they have to gather insane amounts of data. However, as mentioned in part one of this series, it really comes down to two to three data points. So, it’s not as daunting a task. Well, I suppose it can be for some, but the more daunting part of it is establishing a new kind of culture.

Which brings us to our final question. You are currently working on a new book that explores creating the right corporate culture for customer centricity to truly succeed. What does that entail and how does it play into the overall strategic plan?

Peter: A culture that’s inherently data-driven brings the people doing the data analytics front and center, and lets everyone know that they’re not here just to be party poopers. In fact, they’re actually here to help if they can. If they can demonstrate the financial value that different kinds of tactics are bringing, it’s going to give the rest of the team more resources, credibility and leeway to try other creative things.

Establishing a culture that really embraces all the data, analytics and technology can be really hard. It’s a different kind of conversation and a different kind of organizational structure. I have seen that with many companies that embrace the analytics, there are those who love what I’m proposing! They are living and breathing RFM (recency, frequency and monetary value) but it’s very difficult for them to get everyone else in the organization to understand and appreciate it.

This challenge can be harder than dealing with the data and/or building the models. And that is why I’m writing book number four, which will detail creating a customer centric corporate culture. Because it’s a very unconventional kind of culture and, currently for most organizations, we build the culture around the products and services that we deliver.

Exhibitions are no different, but now we want to build a culture around the customers we are serving – attendees, exhibitors and show partners. That requires very different kinds of organizational charts, conversations, incentives and mindsets. It is still early for this industry but the fact that you are bringing in someone like me and willing to learn from other industries is great.

In fact, the beauty of the exhibition industry is that it serves those industries through its events, so you are actually a much better fit for materializing results. You are immersed with these industries and not on an island like so many others are. Embrace that opportunity and learn from these folks as you engage with them.

Save the date for Predict, CEIR’s Annual Exhibition Industry Outlook Conference on 12-13 September 2024 and explore CEIR’s complete library of research here.

The views and opinions expressed by blog authors are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the International Association of Exhibitions and Events®. Any content provided by our bloggers or authors are of their opinion. All content provided on this blog is for informational purposes only. IAEE makes no representations as to the accuracy or completeness of any information on this site or found by following any link on this site. IAEE will not be liable for any errors or omissions in this information nor for the availability of this information.

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