Last week we brought you an extensive list of actions that our AV Alliance members have taken in the past couple of months to connect with old and new clients in a meaningful and profitable way. This week we present to you some of their own examples and experiences in customer relations in the year 2020.
With no in-live events, meetings, conferences, concerts, or theatre productions happening for at least another couple of months, event technology providers – and the associations that unite them – have begun to accept the non-negotiable fact that changes must be made, and what better place to start than right at home?
In the AV Alliance the pandemic has reshaped our personal values, our principles of interacting with our members and sponsors, our way of connecting and most certainly our trust in one another. What was always a great group of company leaders and long-time business partners and friends for over a decade, has now become a tight-knit community of ride-or-dies that focus on mutual focus and collaboration over competition. At the same time, on the individual members’ level it also impacted business models, company policies, the range of services offered, and the management of customer relations.
Some of the challenges AV companies are experiencing may be significantly different from country to country, and continent to continent, one of the common denominators is the struggle to keep business going when there are no “regular” in-person events to speak of, and virtual and hybrid events have temporarily taken over their place.
As “many clients still prefer canceling instead of postponing their events altogether”, the fight for new customers strongly resembles a race against time, and the “companies with a less expansive portfolio or a single line of business, and especially those that are privately owned, are in a much vulnerable position than giant corporations.” While there is no universal solution to the current situation, there are certain steps every company can take to ensure a more significant exposure to new potential customers, and a lot of these steps do not cost a dime.
Practical examples from the AV Alliance
In one of our most recent (virtual) conversations we asked some of our AV Alliance members to give examples as to how they have built and maintained client relationships in the past months , and what changes they have made to their business model and range of services to become stronger players in the market.
Marketing is king
According to Panos Podimatas, founder and CEO of P.C. Podimatas Audiovisual in Athens, Greece, increased marketing activity and CRM are the most valuable actions to take at this time, and he certainly practices what he preaches. P.C. Podimatas is a leading provider in audiovisual and event technology in Greece, and to ensure it stays that way, the company launched an intensive marketing campaign to create and nurture relationships with clientsimmediately after the crisis hit.
These first couple of months have given them a significant advantage compared to other market players, and while due to the uncertainty of the situation the income from events is significantly lower than what it used to be, they have stronger, higher value, and more personal communication with their clientele than ever before – and that says something for a Greek company! By taking time to talk to their customers for a couple of hours a day even while on holiday, Panos ensures that his company will be the first in line when events ultimately return. “The moment the client decides on a small event, we will be there”, he promises.
Oh the other side of the Atlantic, many AV Alliance members will agree with his mentality. In terms of optimizing their business operations, Steven Halling, President and CEO of AVFX in Boston, MA believes that this is the right time for companies to “pull the string from both ends into a straight line”, as he puts it, and rework their pricing and their operations. That is exactly what AVFX has been doing for the past couple of months, in addition to boosting their marketing activities and successfully gaining new clients.
Kirk Rhinehart, President and CEO of VCI Event Technology in Anaheim, CA agrees that restating and revisiting company values is something that owners cannot skip over at this time. By recognizing the potential in expanding their portfolio to accommodate virtual and hybrid event production as well as live event technology, they have “left the commodity business and became a specialty business”, as Kirk says, which will ensure not only his company’s survival but a stronger, wider clientele than it had before.
For some of our members, expanding their portfolio means they are branching into the virtual platform segment, for example P.C. Podimatas, Tapestry in Scotland, LMG in the USA, or one of our Canadian members, Les Productions Expert’Ease, that has just launched its ConnEXion.TV broadcasting platform:
(Les Productions Expert’Ease | AV Alliance)
Some of our members have also found that it has been easier to bring clients on board than it used to be before the coronavirus pandemic, and that is partly due to the event technology market being less saturated due to the economic crisis. Customers have fewer providers to choose from, but at the same time have more questions and less understanding of the technical details than they had with live events, which means they are looking for trusted partners who can deliver on every aspect of their current event needs and take the responsibility off their shoulders.
Continuous communication is crucial for Nick Smith, the President of AV Concepts in Tempe, AZ. While it would have been the easier and financially more secure choice to follow the example of many of his peers and temporarily close the business to ride out the pandemic, for Nick securing his company‘s future also means not shutting off communication and dialogue with their existing and potential clients for any period of time.
Matt Emerson, President of CEAVCO Audio Visual in Denver, CO finds that due to having their own set of problems and appreciating the expertise of an event technology provider they trust, clients spend less time “shopping” and commit to projects much faster and with more confidence. For CEAVCO one of the factors that has significantly sped up the client conversion process by almost 5 times than what it used to be prior to Covid-19 is the company management’s dedication to constantly communicating with potential and existing customers, almost on a daily basis.