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365 Community and live events is like ‘Netflix and cinema’

Building in-person events alongside a 365 Community is like providing “cinema and Netflix” for your audiences, according to an industry leader.

Simon Albert, managing director at Messe Frankfurt UK, believes organisers need to stop thinking of themselves as just tradeshow planners, but as “enablers of communities doing business together all year round”.

He told ExpoPlatform the data now available to organisers is the “nectar” which can provide insights about customers to improve offerings.

This information-fuelled live format has come to be known as Smart Events – in-person shows which use digital tools to improve value for all participants.

Think 365 Community, think Netflix

Simon previously held senior executive positions in Disney and Samsung Mobile. It means he looks at the role of an organiser slightly differently from the traditional approach.

This can be “very sales-led” and often pushes products into markets “that aren’t required or don’t work”.

He said: “Tradeshows should be unmissable events for members of communities, but they are only part of the solution they require.

“Tradeshows are a fantastic networking opportunity and enable attendees to physically touch and see products and solutions – that’s very, very important. But they can’t deliver everything to a community because attendees need information and to interact all year round – at times that suit them.

“Putting on a virtual event for only a few days doesn’t work –the compromise of accessing products, information or networking online needs to be offset by it being available 24/7.

“I see a clear comparison to cinema and Netflix. The experience of a cinema is amazing, but they want to be able to watch movies all year round.

“We want to be able to watch a film whenever we want on Netflix and for that we are prepared to forego the cinema experience. Consumers don’t want to only have window of three days to watch a series on Netflix – in the same way as a virtual event.”

One of Messe Frankfurt’s major shows is Automechanika Birmingham, which brings together representatives from the entire value chain of the UK automotive industry

Its next outing will not be until June 2023, having been unable to be held since 2019 due to lockdown restrictions and its cycle with its sister event in Frankfurt.

The organiser has managed to keep its audience engaged despite this through the launch of its own community platform – auto:resource.

Simon said: “We were already thinking very clearly once the 2019 event was finished about how we could provide more than just an event platform for our community.

“We looked at our assets and we had great knowledge of the automotive industry, we had the ears of the industry because we’d organised a credible event which had been very successful over many years and a brand that people recognise and trust.

“Then of course we had the data of the whole community – all of the supplier data and all of the visitor data. So we had all those core assets.”

Work out what your tradeshow community needs

Messe Frankfurt worked out that this audience was not really interested in just a networking platform. Their research  highlighted the community wanted  a “permanent portal of information”.

Simon said: “Garages have a massive hunger for information and training, but the event is only every two years.

“There are also a lot of people who can’t attend the event or don’t want to attend the event. So we were clear there was an opportunity there for them to obtain the information elsewhere.

“On the other side of the coin, you have the manufacturers of all the products who actually want to get closer to educate those garages. So we had a real hunger to interact on both sides.”

The site now has around 10,000 unique visitors every month, with content being key to keeping engagement levels high.

This is what keeps social media channels active, it’s what makes email newsletters get opened and what starts to pull in new audiences through search engines.

However, it’s getting increasingly hard to compete with the sea of online content – every day there are 720,000 hours of YouTube videos uploaded, 7.5 million blog posts published and 835 million Tweets tweeted.

There are dedicated news organisations for all sectors which means publishing press releases is not enough to cut through the noise. Success is determined by whether content is useful and different enough to add real value to your community.

Simon said: “We have to work very closely with the manufacturers, the people paying to make sure they’re making the most of their subscription by updating content all the time.

“That’s really, really important – because that’s what gets the engagement.”

He added: “The key thing is to really understand the community, understand the ecosystem of the community – who are the different individuals and companies in the ecosystem of buying and selling?

“Is there a networking element? What do they want from each other? Do they want to network or is your resource actually about information?

“A lot of people have just jumped straight to proving a networking platform without fully understanding what their community wants and needs. Once you’ve understood that, then you can deliver what they really need.

“We need to think of ourselves not as event organisers – we are enablers of communities doing business together.”

365 marketplace

Connecting buyers and sellers year-round online is important – they can’t afford to wait for a one-off event.

Recent McKinsey & Co research shows that omnichannel B2B sales are now felt to be equally or more effective by 94% of B2B decisionmakers, up from 65% in 2020.

Moreover, another study has found 83% have become comfortable with transacting entirely online. Having an ecommerce option in your portfolio is now an essential building block to create an omnichannel experience.

It means allowing a combination of in-person, remote and digital transactions – the world of retail has talked about this for some time.

Combining your physical tradeshow with an ecommerce platform means a B2B tradeshow planner can also offer this kind of experience.

Simon said: “Organisers can become marketplaces to enable people to buy and sell. Messe Frankfurt has its own consumer goods marketplace  – Nextrade.market

“These are the things now that people might be starting to think about. I can see this as being a change in the future.”

Data is nectar for event planners

This mix of online and onsite can help to improve your in-person offerings due to the much greater amount of information available – it’s the “nectar” which allows you to understand your audience.

ExpoPlatform research suggests there is around 20 times more data now available in our industry since 2020.

Using this information correctly allows eventprofs to move from thinking of themselves as planners, but more as “enablers of communities doing business together”.

Simon said: “The data that we have – which all organisers have – is our nectar. You can provide insights to customers. You can go and use that to do market research and then provide data analytics to your customers.

“There’s a myriad of things we can do, because we have the data. You just need to understand what people need and want – the data and the knowledge of the communities is your asset.”

Simon believes that diversifying your offerings is one way of futureproofing your business, given the last few years and ongoing uncertainty ahead.

We hope you enjoyed reading this article and found it useful. At ExpoPlatform, we want to help you build better events and communities. Please get in touch and ask for a demo here. Thank you.