Exhibition News June 2018 - Page 47

COLUMN: MARKETING MATTERS Listen and adapt Adele Laker, head of marketing – construction portfolio at dmg, on how the company’s longest running exhibition stays fresh and relevant W hen I started working on The Big 5 Dubai in 2015 it was already 36 years old. It’s a huge event that has a citywide impact on its host emirate – we had 64,595 participants in 2017 – so it comes with a lot of history and a lot of expectation. In a place that puts great value on tradition, while also advocating the power of innovation, continuing to adapt the event to the changing business environment is important, but not something to be done lightly. Each time we adjust our approach, introduce a feature, or implement a new strategy, we want to ensure it is a change that adds something to a product that already enjoys considerable buy-in and loyalty. I’ve always been struck by how much our audience identifi es with the event. They really feel like they have a stake in the brand. Involving them at the early stages of our deliberations has proven to be a real benefi t and has opened our eyes to some great opportunities. We formalised how we listen to our audience with the introduction of a visitor advisory panel. The panel helps us fi gure out what our attendees like, and don’t like, what they’d like to see at future events. We combine this deeply qualitative feedback with data from visitor surveys conducted on site, post-show surveys conducted online and any other information we can muster, all to make sure we are putting on an exhibition that people really want to be a part of. One of the key changes our audience feedback led to was organising our fl oorplan by product categories. This was a major shift away from traditional national pavilions, but systematically categorising exhibitors by the products they offer has attracted more visitors. People who once considered the event to be purely about construction found a lot more of the products they were looking for when we led with categories instead of countries. Not only did this “As we adapt our event, we mustn’t lose sight of the core reason our visitors come along: to fi nd and research new products” make it easier for visitors to fi nd what they wanted, it made our exhibitors happier by bringing them more of the right pre-qualifi ed audience. Continually boosting the event’s footfall by fi nding and attracting new visitors – while still keeping the regulars returning – has taken investment in the content of our event. While conferences have been a regular staple for a while, in recent years we’ve worked hard to develop a compelling education programme that is genuinely useful for visitors and exhibitors. Now multiple conferences run alongside certifi ed continuing professional development (CPD) workshops, technical seminars and live demonstrations, all free for our participants to attend. They have had a considerable impact on participant numbers. In fact, when the team introduced the certifi ed CPD workshops they immediately saw 5000 more delegates register, 81 per cent of whom had never attended the event before. Expansion into other countries and regions has played a critical role too. The Big 5 brand has been subtly adapted to work in neighbouring nations such as Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, but we’ve also pushed further afi eld, launching events in Indonesia, Egypt and across Africa. Dubai has always acted as both a hub and gateway for many of the countries where we are taking our geo-adapted events. Just how important this is has been refl ected in some of the successes we’ve already seen. For example, since launching The Big 5 in Saudi Arabia we’ve experienced a signifi cant increase in visitor numbers coming to The Big 5 Dubai from that country, simply because of the increased brand recognition. I know that this invention and adaptation can never stop. I know that each year we must come up with ideas and create new features to keep our event fresh and relevant. As we look forward to our November 2018 edition we’ve put a focus on innovation across the full construction cycle, introduced a Startup Corner for tech features and will launch a pitch competition; that’s just the start. But as we adapt our event, we mustn’t lose sight of the core reason our visitors come along: to fi nd and research new products. Launching features that respond to this need and the way it continually develops helps to make our event a top priority for our visitors. Not just something worth attending, but an essential tool that contributes to their work and their profession. Every time I meet one of our visitors or exhibitors I’m reminded of how important it is to get this right. I listen. We all just have to keep listening. It’s the easiest way to