We can learn from our international counterparts

The month of September 2016 saw a number of exhibitions (some call them trade shows) take place, both locally and internationally, that are related to our industry. And there are many more coming up before the year ends. While the Web has been forecast to render them obsolete in future years, exhibitions remain a viable industrial marketing tool and can offer tremendous opportunities to meet strong prospects, potential partners or suppliers as well as networking with other manufacturing professionals. For an editor or a journalist they are vitally important as they are generally focused on the subject that you write about daily and an exhibition is a venue where you interact with many, both old and new acquaintances, in a relatively short space of time.

Depending whether the exhibition is local, regional, national or global I will always factor them into my calendar. Economic and time constraints don’t always make it possible to attend all of them so you have to be selective, especially with the international exhibitions.

During my career I have been fortunate to attend a number of exhibitions in Europe, the Americas and those held in Asia. I always return more motivated, more up to date on technology and trends in industry and more focused. It constantly amazes me how companies come up with innovations, some more complex than others, just when you thought the technology had been exhausted.

Many companies use the exhibition platform to launch a new product or an improvement to their existing one, show off a new technique and offer advice on how you can implement a solution into your operation to cut costs, increase productivity and improve quality, that you had never thought of before.

At the international exhibitions you will find that all the global leaders in that specific manufacturing technology are present, and you are able to discuss practical solutions to your complex operation and solve specific manufacturing problems.

Over the years I have experienced how professional and organised our international counterparts can be. As South Africans we can learn from these international exhibition organisers and exhibitors. The success of the exhibition and future survival of the organisers depends on the number of exhibitors and visitors that they are able to attract. For the exhibitors, the more visitors that attend further affords them the opportunity to engage with additional potential clients and ultimately conclude more sales, which builds their future and returns on investments.

It is therefore vital that they (organisers and exhibitors) communicate with potential visitors to create awareness of the event, even if it is one that is well known. One way of doing this is through the associated media, either via editorial content or advertising. Done well, it gives a positive return. Done poorly, it costs much more than money.

Proactive exhibition organisers and manufacturers have internal marketing departments or external public relations agencies that liaise between editors and themselves to facilitate communication and imparting their message to the manufacturing community. Sure they are in the business to make a profit but they also realise that to do this they have to spend to get a return. The exhibition organisers especially treat the media as partners because they understand and appreciate the importance of the media and what benefits they gain. A good example of this is that prior to the exhibition all your accreditation is done. At the exhibition they have dedicated press offices where you have access to all the communication tools you need, including exhibitor press release material, and you are kept informed of the all the press conferences/meetings that are scheduled during the exhibition. Even the exhibitors will have information to give you, all prepared before the exhibition, for you to take away when you visit their stand.

Additionally, prior to the exhibition and also post the exhibition, the communication sent to the publication for consideration to publish is informative and sent timeously well in advance.

This is very unlike most South African PR companies, exhibition and conference organisers who are just on the take with no real interest in the industry. Far too often in South Africa there is the perception that they are doing the media company or publication a favour by involving them, as if the publication is desperate to get their recognition. Media companies are like any other business – they have to generate sales and the resultant income to operate.