dmg events president Matt Denton tells Emily Wallin how geo-cloning – even though he calls it a rude word – is key to their healthy growth strategy.
Whilst disclosing some of their most successful strategies, dmg events president Matt Denton is keen to start by saying that “clone” is a banned word.
“I don’t allow anyone to call it geo-cloning,” he explains. “It’s semantics, but we refer to it as geo-adapting. It might sound pretentious, but the reason is; if you clone your show it doesn’t work. When you move geography, so many dynamics change, you have to look at it as a new event. If you think you can just pick up what you’ve got and replicate it, it doesn’t work. You have to adapt it at all sorts of levels.
“It’s a rude word cloning for us.”
Adaptation is the crux of geographic expansion for dmg events.
“If you think of a show like an old-fashioned market, markets in different countries work in different ways and attract different people,” says Denton.
“We’ve had a lot of success with our construction shows. But in Dubai the buyers, visitors, vendors don’t actually use the tools, it’s more about a corporate business. Whereas if you look at our construction show in the States, larger contractors do use the tools they are buying and appreciate it in a different way.”
Denton says a starting point is always a strong successful core team, then working towards building local teams close to the shows.
“It’s always the end goal,” he says. “Of course you have to start from afar but the aim is to build your presence in that country.
“Invariably your skills and knowledge are within the team in the mothership. You sell from there and can network from there globally, but it’s quite important to have boots on the ground in that country as well.”
Denton advises starting with local sales teams who will be able to “work the market and know the industry better”. Then marketing needs a local base.
“If you ask a Dubai marketer to name five cities in Egypt. Most people can’t. You need people who know the local market, know about the best places to advertise, the media, the roadside, that you can’t get from thousands of miles away,” he says.
Ultimately successful geo-clones need local operations departments, he adds. “The good teams have built those relationships up over years. If you can get that level familiarity in the country you’ll benefit.”
There are big advantages over fresh launches, which comes down to knowing your sector.
“Obviously you’ve got IP, familiarity in the brand, invariably anyone looking at taking show abroad, will probably be looking at an internationally weighted show,” Denton explains.
“For instance, our interior design show Index in Dubai, that has grown up with 60-70% international exhibitor base. With those sorts of relationships it’s pretty safe to know 60-70% are looking to export from their home market, so can you take them with you to new market? I think that’s what often sets aside the big players, Informa, us, Reed [now RX]. So, when we do launch in local markets we are taking international exhibitor base and media coverage with us. It broadens the proposition for the show.”
There are some downsides to the principle though.
Denton says the cost of mobilising the dmg machine into new territories can be expensive.
“Our competitors, the local incumbents, can be a third of the price, so we have to be sure we’re delivering better content, international groups. It’s a better quality show, but sometimes they don’t want a better quality show, they just want to do business. You have to get that balance right.”
But there are some great examples of very successful clones.
“Looking historically, obviously some our construction shows the Big 5 that we have in South Africa, Egypt, Saudi, we’ve had them in India and Indonesia before. Looking at the market as a whole you have to look to some of the WTM shows. Reed has done a fantastic job over the years of cloning those,” Denton says accidentally using his own swearword.
“DSEI over the years has been great. There’s lots of examples and I’m sure they would agree you have to tailor them to whatever market.
“There’s no real recipe for success unfortunately.
“We do a lot of naval gazing – when you’ve got a big regional show why do you need to do local shows? When you’re capturing an entire continent, are you just cannibalising yourself trying to do something local? The answer is no, but you have to make sure regional event offers broader view and tailor that. The important thing is to make sure you are differentiating.
“From a dmg side because we only do B2B shows in quite primary industries, like the energy world and construction, I think that works for us. It’s where you’ve got big industry and lots of government association, industries that are multinational so you can mobilise them.”
Giving a glimpse into dmg’s strategy for the future, Denton says: “What’s interesting for us, the longer bet is some of the African shows, Kenya, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Ghana. Those shows are small scale at moment, but you know those markets are going to ignite, so it’s good to be in there.
“If look you look at Africa as whole, South Africa is the obvious hub of where our shows were and we have a couple of offices there and some shows we acquired four or five years ago, but looking to the north Egypt is exciting at moment, Kenya, Nigeria and sub-Sahara, there’s nothing established yet of any real scale, so if we can get in there early with brands or geo-adapts that people know, then you’re best placed for when those markets start to evolve.”