The secret to connecting buyers at your next event

The secret to connecting buyers at your next event

Tim Groot

CEO & Co-Founder

“The majority of meetings should be discussions that lead to decisions”, says Patrick Lencioni, the author of various influential business management books. 

At Grip, we totally agree with Patrick. When it comes to meeting new people for the first time, such as a ‘buyer’ meeting a ‘supplier’, you want a decision to be made at the end of that meeting. As an event organizer, you want that billion-dollar deal to be a result of a transformational meeting that happened at your show. 

This is probably why we’re seeing a huge increase in demand from organizers that want to make meetings a core part of their event experience. They realize that by introducing a meeting program they are able to provide exhibitors, sponsors and visitors with better ROI by connecting ‘buyers’ with suppliers. A meeting where a decision was made at the end of it.

But how do you launch a successful meeting program to do this? The secret sauce is to segment your buyers. Identify who your buyers are and what event format would provide most value to them. Do they want to be ‘hosted’ where they get flights and accommodation for free? Or are they happy to forgo being hosted and simply want the most valuable meetings to be arranged in the most efficient way?

The two formats we see most often are ‘hosted’ and ‘non-hosted’. Here’s an overview:

Examples of the two event formats detailed above are seen in the travel and hospitality industry. They frequently run events where buyers and sellers are connected with each other. 

While events such as IMEX, ILTM, WTM and M&I Forums have a rich and successful history in hosting their buyers to attend events. Then events like Shoptalk, in retail, and Fast Growth Icons, an event for founders, also ‘host’ their visitors or buyers in exchange for attendance.

How do you choose which incentives to deploy at your event?

Your buyers need persuading to leave their day job, their families or their homes to attend. Do you choose private jets, hotels, limos, fine dining experiences or exclusive city tours to entertain your delegates?

The right incentive will make all the difference in ensuring good attendance at your hosted buyer event. However, the incentives that are appropriate to persuade are different depending on two key factors: time and cash.

Time is the amount of ‘time’ a buyer has to invest in the meeting program. 

Cash is the budget a buyer has available to allocate to perform their job. This is not to be confused with the amount of spending power they have in making purchasing decisions for the service they are buying.

Ultimately, you need to decide whether your buyers fall into two categories:

  1. Cash rich, time constrained
  2. Time rich, cash constrained

Buyer personas: polar opposites

To help explain the fragmentation in buyer personas, we’ve detailed two personas that you may be looking to invite to your next event.

The two personas shared below are at opposite ends of a very wide spectrum. However, every industry will have its own version of the ‘VP of a bank’ and ‘corporate event planner’.

There's nothing wrong with that, you just need to understand that when you create an event, you need to be clear on who your target market is and design the event and meeting program around their specific needs.

The VP at a bank: Cash-rich, time-constrained buyer

In this example, a VP typically works 60 - 80 hours a week and earns $300,000+ per year. In their role, the VP is required to hold meetings with other players in the finance industry which includes financial institutions, technology companies, brokers, and other time-constrained individuals.

On a daily basis, their role is managed by a PA that manages their packed diary of 15+ meetings a day and 60+ meetings a week. They’ve got a support network of employees around them to perform their job to the best of their ability.

As part of the regulations in the finance industry, the VP is not allowed to accept free hotel rooms, flights or any other form of amenities that might be seen as bribery. Not that it really matters though, due to her seniority in a significant financial institution the buyer has a corporate credit card where she can spend $20,000 a month on flights, hotels, dinners, drinks and anything else that enables them to perform their stressful but highly important job.

What entices them to attend a particular event is the ability to hold a large set of meetings that they need to have, in a time-efficient manner organised in a white-glove way. They are happy to even pay for this service as long as the meetings are of top quality and align with their key interest. It does not matter to them if the other party is paying to sit across the table from them, as long as the meetings are of the highest quality, back-to-back, in a comfortable setting whether that is in-person or online. 

The corporate event planner: Time-rich, cash-constrained buyer

In their role as a corporate event planner for a pharmaceutical company, this buyer has busy periods and quiet periods throughout the year. 

When there is an event coming up they work 100+ hours in a single week while at other times it is a more regular 35-40 hour work week. With a salary of around $60,000, they don’t always have the budget to go to the places they want to visit and couldn't afford it, even if they wanted to. 

As part of their role, they have to meet hundreds of venues to organize 500+ roundtables, client dinners, regional conferences, and internal events every year. This means there is a need to see an extremely large volume of varying venues in a short period of time.

They might not have a corporate card and have to expense every claim they make. Anti-bribery rules are limited and they are happy to be flown to destinations to experience venues and meet with a range of potential suppliers in-person. They like being made to feel special and looked after. 

What entices them to attend is the combination of flying to an incredible location, and a range of experiences, including meetings with a large number of new and existing suppliers. They don’t have their own PA and are used to being actively involved in planning their own meetings diary. They want to have an active say in their schedule and the meetings that they are having.

The evolution of the hosted buyer model

The traditional ‘hosted buyer’ model has been for the ‘time-rich, cash-constrained” segment of the market. However, with visitor quality becoming increasingly important and less emphasis being shared on quantity, there simply is not the number of people travelling to events that we are used to.

The first group of ‘‘time rich, cash-constrained” buyers will become the new frontier for meeting programs. This is what has made events such as Fintech Meetup, Money20/20, ITC Connect and Blueprint successful.

Understanding where there is an underserved segment of high-profile buyers that want a better meeting experience at the events they attend will help you to design a program that meets their needs creates value and ultimately is more successful.

Let’s discover where your buyers sit on the spectrum

If you want to understand where on the spectrum your event participants sit, come talk to us at Grip. After working with thousands of events in all major industries and connecting hundreds of thousands of buyers and sellers we have a deep understanding of the behaviour and objectives of participants in all major industries.

Want to take your hosted buyer event to the next level? See how Grip can help: