The keys to successful promotion in Belgium*

Successful promotion

(posted on 28/10/2015)

Belgium

It’s tempting to think that because Belgium is so close to France, the two countries are comparable or even similar. But nothing could be further from the truth. Identifying opportunities and making inroads into the Belgian market require patience and perseverance. Cornering this market takes time.

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The best results come from trust, professionalism, timeliness and simplicity.

Belgium’s fabric consists of PMEs and VSEs, so decision-making centres are spread out. An untargeted, blanket approach is rarely effective. For example, people in Flanders prefer more direct discussion than those in the Walloon region. For a more accurate target, sources need to be canvassed and multiplied. Respect for the country’s intrinsic diversity is absolutely crucial, as is communicating in the language of the person you are addressing.

Constant business intelligence and direct contact

A successful promotional strategy means being constantly aware of what is happening in the market. Local events take place on a regular basis, yet practical information is communicated relatively late. Identifying and evaluating each event will make it easier to fine-tune recommendations and initiatives. Equally important is identifying the latest communication tools and the key decision-makers.

A direct meeting will always have more impact than a message via a communications medium or even a telephone call. Preference should always be given to dialogue, rather than one-way communication.

To have any chance of success, collaboration should involve a concrete, well constructed plan with clearly defined options.

Meanwhile, traditional postal campaigns are still an important promotional vehicle. They boost the message’s credibility, give substance to the sales promise, and present key information in a neat format without being intrusive.

By contrast, e-mail campaigns are not ideal promotional tools: they can be useful support and a good way to follow up, but if they are over-used they can undermine the promotional strategy and even damage a show’s reputation. Moreover, most Belgian companies only provide generic email addresses.

Ongoing communication is key

Continuity is a key success factor since many initiatives are based on the goodwill and enthusiasm of the people involved. Relationships must be nurtured, encouraged, developed and supported if they are to produce concrete results. Campaigns with no follow-up will have little effect. Prospects must also be offered a quantifiable benefit to spark their interest.

Building loyalty is just as important as developing new business.

In-show services also important

While a company’s agreement to come to a show is a sure sign of interest, it also represents a cost to the company that will be measured and compared to their return on investment.

Consequently, the ancillary services provided by our shows are absolutely crucial for allowing participants to focus 100% on their business and only retain key information, namely the number of new leads generated and contracts signed.

Expansion of the Promosalons Belgian office

Our Belgian office has been run by Gaëtan Lachapelle, director and head of sales promotion since 2000, after 2 years working in the visitor promotion department. He was joined a year ago by Guy Berkvens, who is head of the sales division, supported by a sales representative (currently being recruited). Recently joining the team as promotions officer is Emeline Segura, former head of communications in the logistics and management control division at the Belgian finance ministry, a position she held for two and a half years.

The office keeps in constant touch with trade shows, offering them assistance and PR. Its team is very mobile and regularly travels around the region to meet local companies and players and identify opportunities.
The office’s role and working methods have evolved significantly to incorporate more relationship marketing, although obviously it still carries out more traditional business-generating initiatives.

As regards sales, the sales department has started replicating shows around the world and is selling to the Belux market.

*We would like to thank Gaëtan Lachapelle, our belgian delegate, and his team, for their experience and advices