Trade fairs and expos are a crucial factor in helping new businesses acquire the leads, networks, information and polish they need to succeed in the business world.
This is according to Carol Weaving, Reed Exhibitions Managing Director and chairperson of the Association of African Exhibition Organisers (AAXO), who notes that the exhibition sector generates around ZAR75 billion to the economy in direct, indirect and induced revenue.
“The reason exhibitions are such big business is that they are a win-win for visitors, exhibitors and sponsors,” Weaving says.
“AXXO research has found that 95% of trade show exhibitors say they would participate in these shows again; 50% of trade show exhibitors manage to secure sales leads at shows and that 66% of trade show exhibitors manage to secure deals shortly after the shows as a result of their participation.”
Weaving says that while these figures are impressive, they do not tell the whole story.
“Many of the benefits of B2B exhibitions and trade fairs are harder to measure but potentially more important than pure sales leads,” she says.
“Reed Exhibitions annual #BuyaBusiness Expo and Small Business Expo, for example, bring together entrepreneurs, franchises, small business owners, enterprise executives and investors for three days of engagement and knowledge sharing. Not only do these events generate millions of rands in deals for exhibitors; they also build the networks that are crucial for sustainable small businesses in South Africa. You cannot measure the long-term value of the contacts and ‘business polish’ acquired by entrepreneurs at events such as these.”
Weaving says exhibition organisers in South Africa and abroad have realised the long-term returns possible through exhibition networking, and are stepping up their efforts to add value to exhibitions. “We see more and more formalised ‘speed networking’, meeting scheduling and business engagement opportunities being built into trade show agendas now,” she says. “This ensures that both trade show visitors and exhibitors get long-term positive impacts from their participation. For new businesses, the polish gained through having to present multiple ‘elevator pitches’ to potential clients and investors during these shows proves invaluable.”
Previous exhibitors at Reed Exhibitions annual small business expos have noted that participation in events such as these also give small businesses an opportunity to conduct quality market research.
Madoda Khuzwayo, a serial entrepreneur who has participated in several of Reed Exhibitions business expos, said trade shows give small businesses a prime opportunity to engage with their market and carry out research in person.
“When you’re operating in isolation as a start-up, you don’t know what you don’t know. When you’re starting a new business, your normal sales cycle doesn’t always give you the opportunity to get feedback. Generally, SMEs can’t afford to do market research, but there’s no better place to do it than an expo, where you can engage face to face with thousands of potential customers.”
Vovo Johnson, VoMayise Holdings Managing Director, has also benefited from exhibiting at Reed small business expos: “Expos give you access to a broad cross-section of markets, and they are actually better than advertising, because you have three days of meeting people to explain in depth what services you can offer. And participating in an expo can actually be quite cost effective,” he said.
Another advantage of a business-focused event is that it presents practically unlimited opportunities for information-sharing, says Weaving.
“We have found there is significant demand for practical advice and insights that help would-be entrepreneurs and small businesses to run their businesses effectively. Trade shows bring together stakeholders from across a niche spectrum and present an ideal platform for workshops, demonstrations and seminars that help participants grow their businesses. #BuyaBusiness Expo and Small Business Expo have steadily increased the number of talks and workshops and B2B service offerings they present, as the demand for these just keeps growing,” she says.
Small Business Expo and #BuyaBusiness 2017 will be staged from 31 August to 2 September 2017. It presents over 250 businesses across a variety of sectors.