A strong and trusting partnership with your exhibition supplier can make a huge difference to your exhibiting experience and your ROI too.

Choosing the right partner

Many companies make claims that they cover all areas of a client’s requirements, whether it be manufacturing stands, logistics, audio visual equipment supplies, website design, printing or the myriad of elements that come together to create a successful event.
Whilst it is beneficial for some of the elements to be handled internally, it is more important that the right partners are chosen. Many exhibition suppliers will outsource to specialists in various different areas of the project. An honest approach to this (with the exhibition supplier using the correct project management tools and keeping the client fully informed) will produce the best results.
Whatever the size of the supplier, they should be more than happy to show the facilities they have and be open enough to say when they are themselves using trusted partners. Relationships with and reliances on those partners will usually have been forged through years of experience, and can therefore call upon that trust and understanding to extend a service as though it were their own.
Just as a client-supplier partnership is moulded over time through the processes and outcomes of collaborative projects, a supplier-supplier relationship is earned through consistency, reliability and quality. Without such proven dependability, the partnership fails leading to alternatives being sought. So transparency about outsourcing is a virtuous extension of the client-supplier partnership, and should be viewed as a symbol of the exhibition supplier’s own dependability.
Initiating such a partnership is complex. Without consideration, it could be driven by location or a fancy website. Good reviews and testimonials are a reassuring starting point. But looking for a supplier that trades on its service levels and is happy to talk to you, advise you, visit you and demonstrate its products in person is a strong signal of intent. The client-supplier relationship has to be a personal one.

The personal touch

Clients seeking exhibition solutions should be wary of suppliers whose staff are hesitant to come and visit their company. They may be a little cheaper, but invariably lack the attention to detail or insight that only a face-to-face visit can provide. Ultimately, ensuring an exhibition stand has the right feel and required impact stems from these initial meetings.
The personal touch is all about getting under the skin of the company, the project, their brief and what they are aiming to achieve through the event. The exhibition supplier should bring knowledge and experience of what is possible within various budgets, but until the brief is fully understood, informed suggestions about the route to a solution are limited.
The exhibition supplier’s sensitivity to the client’s aims, expectations and desired outcomes increases with each collaboration. But it’s a two-way street, because the client also gains a useful understanding about how to get the very best out of the supplier. 
Both parties can build on previous successes and quickly discount the ideas that weren’t so successful, leading to project planning and development efficiencies. Collective experience enhances the client’s grasp of viability, so when they next need to pitch an idea to their head of marketing, they’ll have some facts, figures and timescales in mind already.
So the investment in such a relationship yields ever-improving returns over time. This can be measured not only in monetary terms, but also in efficiency and the quality of the resulting exhibition stands. By extension, this can and should lead to better outcomes from those events.

The side benefits of partnership

Hopefully, the key benefits of exhibition supplier partnership are clear enough. But another aspect of engaging in such a relationship is that a trusted supplier will cherish that partnership. Their motivation for maintaining it is repeat business, the holy grail within supply chains across the globe.
The importance of repeat business cannot be understated. It requires no marketing effort or expense. It benefits from the familiarity of experience; corporate branding and the market in which the client operates is already understood, for example. It provides convenience and improved cashflow certainty from an accounting point of view. Repeat business can also reassure new or prospective clients with demonstrable levels of existing trust elsewhere. It can generate new leads through word of mouth, testimonials or even enquiries made about an exhibition stand at a show.
To protect all that, a trusted exhibition supplier will necessarily adopt a slightly more flexible approach to doing business. They will offer free advice. They will take a hit here in order to secure a gain there. They will offer competitive rates or special deals based on volume. They will make time for the relationship. They will go above and beyond expectations.
Occasionally, a client will request an exhibition solution for something minor; a charity do or a corporate fundraiser, for example. With the right partnership in place, the supplier will never oversell their services, so they may suggest using a cheap off-the-shelf solution from a competitor in such circumstances. That is a testament to the value they place in the relationship. 

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