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December 9, 2007

TRADE SHOW SUCCESS: It?s all down to research and strategy

Sales achieved through exhibitions and live events leapt from 30% to 49% (a 63% increase) between 2006 and 2007 for one of the UK’s leading supplier of conference bags Nexus Collections. The results show what exhibitors can achieve when they take a strategic approach to their event presence.
Nexus carries out its own in-house research, which clearly details the source of all its new business. This year’s figures show a dramatic rise for exhibitions, particularly events industry show International Confex, which has replaced internet advertising as Nexus’s more successful form of marketing.
The key factors
This success was down to a number of initiatives implemented by Nexus with the aim of making its event presence more effective. “The last year has been great for Nexus, with the company seeing a substantial increase in turnover,” says Nexus Collections’ managing director, Nick Jones. “Knowing the source of our success is vital as it helps us plan for the future. Therefore, on the basis of last year’s figures, we decided to invest more in Confex ’07, including a new stand, doubling our floor space, and greater promotion. It has certainly paid off.
“In terms of generating new business, it looks like the internet and other shows have faired badly compared to International Confex, but in percentage terms their actual revenues have remained the same. Global meetings and incentive travel shows EIBTM and IMEX, in particular, remain important shows for us to reach the European market.”

Size matters
Jones had long wondered whether a larger stand would actually attract more and bigger customers, but had been restricted by budget in the past. “In previous years, a large stand was not affordable, so this was the first year we could afford the gamble,” he explains. “We increased our stand’s floor space at Confex this year from 10 to 18 square metres. The stand was 9x2 metres, featuring a substantial frontage, which was part of the reason we had increased traffic. It proved so successful we’ll be keeping the same floor space for 2008.”

Another key factor for Nexus was that it had bought a new stand. “We had previously used pop up frames with shelving units and graphics,” says Jones. “They do the job, but in my opinion look very worn very quickly and, therefore, lose their appeal. We invested in a much more expensive stand made by Protean. It looks much more high tech and professional. We received many positive comments about it at Confex, from both exhibitors and visitors. We previously spent about £10,000 to £12,000 on the stand, whereas the Protean stand cost around double. But I think this stand will last much longer and was money well invested.”

PR and CSR
Jones also feels using public relations for the first time at Confex 07 helped boost the effectiveness of exhibiting there. This included coverage in a variety of show previews and the official exhibition guide. Then there was the decision to launch a range of environmentally friendly bags, which although accounting for a small percentage of bags sold throughout the year, looks set to rise considerably next year.

“During spring 2007, it became obvious that many organisations had developed corporate social responsibility (CSR) principles, and that some staff were trained to know the products to look for,” explains Jones. “This prompted me to develop the new range of green bags under the guidance of GMIC [Green Meetings Industry Council] – it has now accounted for about 5% of our annual sales for 2007. Since then the interest in these products has continued to grow. At EIBTM,  held recently in Barcelona, I would say about 15% of sales related to our new green products.”

Jones is convinced that this trend is set to continue as organisations become more educated about CSR, as will his company’s success at trade shows if he continues to approach them in such a strategic way.
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