Corcoran Expositions, Inc.
In 1990, after 11 years as Convention Director for the National Restaurant Association, Tom Corcoran launched Corcoran Expositions, Inc.—a trade show outsourcing firm laser-focused on one core mission: Growing events. Fast forward to today, the experienced Corcoran team has produced more than 700 conventions in more than 100 cities. As Tom’s known to say, “Not too shabby.”
The best sign of a strong and thriving partnership is longevity. For 18 years and counting, Experient clients have been rewarded with a wealth of exhibit and sponsorship sales achievements thanks to our partnership with Corcoran.
Trade shows, like most other industries, are being disrupted by changes that tee up both challenges and growth opportunities. To help you get a better handle on today’s trade show sales environment and how Corcoran might help improve outcomes for your event, we posed a few questions to Tom.
Experient: How does today’s version of Corcoran Expositions compare to the 1990 model?
Corcoran: We recently celebrated our 25th anniversary and we’ve come a long wayfrom one person working out of a spare bedroom to 34 expo professionals, managing $35 million in exhibit space for 7,000+ exhibiting companies.
The biggest change, obviously, has been around technology and how we communicate with clients, exhibitors, sponsors and other stakeholders. As technology advanced, it set the stage for faster and more dynamic updates. We created a digital dashboard, the “CorcBoard,” where clients can login anytime, anywhere and review booth sales and sponsorship sales for the prior day, week, month or year. The CorcBoard is a 360-degree view of everything we’re doing, right at the client’s fingertips 24/7.
Technology also impacted exhibit sales conversations in a big way. We can review digital floor plans with potential exhibitors, showing booth space availability in real-time. How you organize and develop a floor plan can influence and increase booth sales. There’s nothing like seeing booth scarcity to increase decision urgency.
Corcoran is a business built on people and relationships. That’s the cornerstone of our industry and it’s been embedded in our company culture since day one. Our expo team is committed to nurturing and growing relationships with clients, exhibitors and prospects, always going the extra mile to ensure the highest levels of satisfaction.
Our first client, the National Beer Wholesalers Association, is still with us today and our average client tenure is more than ten years. That says a lot about the value we place in personal connections and customer service.
Experient: How will Experient clients benefit from this partnership?
Corcoran: We’ve had a great 18-year partnership with Experient; our company cultures and philosophies are very similar. There are three key areas where Corcoran can help Experient clients improve performance:
1. Exhibit Sales
2. Exhibit Management
3. Sponsorship Sales
At many associations, multi-tasking is the norm. Staff might be involved in event operations, logistics, marketing, education and so on. All too often, booth sales are placed on the back burner due to lack of time or resources. [pullquote align=”left” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]Corcoran is a business built on people and relationships. That’s the cornerstone of our industry and it’s been embedded in our company culture since day one.[/pullquote]The glory days of picking up the phone and taking a booth order are gone and they’re never coming back. To succeed in today’s environment and generate the results needed for long-term sustainability, an association needs staff attuned to sales; people who enjoy what they do and are constantly honing their skills.
At Corcoran, our focus is sales. We know it takes hours of prospecting for potential exhibitors and even more time managing the needs of the current exhibitor base. It’s hard work but it’s what we do everyday for our clients.
Our clients also appreciate how seamlessly we integrate with their internal teams. We’re a turnkey solution and pride ourselves in being a self-sufficient extension of an association’s conference team. On top of that, we know clients appreciate having a consistent sales and management team. They’re not fond of constant staff changes that require bringing people up to speed on their event value proposition, goals, differentiators, etc. at the start of every sales cycle.
Keeping teams consistent for our clients is one key point of difference that sets us apart from other firms. Having the same team year to year creates better understanding of a show and sales conversations advance faster and better, which ultimately drives revenues higher.
Experient: Exhibit sales often serve as an early indicator of success or trouble. Tell us more about how this plays out for your clients.
Corcoran: Renewals are an important pulse point for trade show success. Typically, 70% renewals early on is a good benchmark, but this can vary from show to show. Large island exhibitors, especially for medical shows, are another critical pulse point for indicating success. If these top investors are considering downsizing their booth space, we’ll alert the client immediately and map out a game plan to help reverse that decision.
For example, let’s say there’s a pharmaceutical company that’s waiting for a new drug to be approved. They might be reluctant to commit to a larger exhibit space early on. Being proactive, we’ll engage in one-on-one conversations with all executives who might influence that decision, well before the renewal cycle starts. If there’s a chance to change mindsets before budgets have been allocated, we’re on it, helping exhibitors understand how this show can boost business performance.
Experient: Would you agree that the competition for exhibit dollars is increasing?
Corcoran: Absolutely. We’re all competing for the same marketing dollars and it goes beyond trade show dollars. [pullquote align=”right” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]Renewals are an important pulse point for trade show success. Typically, 70% renewals early on is a good benchmark, but this can vary from show to show.[/pullquote]
Marketers are investing in new and different non-event mediums. Let’s not kid ourselves; exhibiting at an industry trade show can be expensive. Now more than ever before, we need to acknowledge the cost of doing business and manage it carefully. More importantly, we need to help marketers justify trade show expenditures with proof of performance. Tech advances are helping us do a better job of reporting ROI.
It’s also important to protect ‘non-compete’ hours on the show floor. If there are 20 hours of exhibit time and every time slot is competing with education sessions, that’s a problem. We’ll often advise clients on agendas, with recommendations to bring more education onto the show floor.
Experient: How does the Corcoran team support sponsorship sales?
Corcoran: More often than not, we’re signed on to help with both exhibit and sponsorship sales. It makes sense, as it often involves many of the same people.
When we’re tackling both areas, the sponsorship sales approach is more consultative, as we’re helping each company determine the right investment mix to get maximum brand exposure. There’s been growing interest lately in experiential sponsorships. Sponsors want to be more involved in attendee experiences, especially those designed for an exclusive audience at the C- and VP-level. It might be sponsorship for a Board of Directors reception or dinner. Sometimes it’s a special event happening offsite, like a concert or party. These experiential sponsorships allow sponsors to focus on establishing rapport with their target audience, understanding buyer needs and growing relationships.
Experient: How will trade shows change over the next five years?
Corcoran: One thing that will never change is the human component. In fact, as web and digital grows, face-to-face exchanges become even more valuable. Revenue growth will always be at the forefront, for exhibitors, sponsors and the event organizer. Floor plan design will continue to evolve and include more special event areas to keep the attendees engaged and moving around the show floor. What’s critical for all of us is connecting trade show experiences with new business opportunities. We’re making progress as an industry on that count, but we need to continue striving for stronger metrics.
Are you interested in learning more about how Corcoran can help your organization improve exhibit and/or sponsorship sales performance? Tell us more about your situation.