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From tabloids to trade shows

by Joe Gallop

ASP MD Jon Benjamin tells EN how he went from sitting in meetings with Rebekah Brooks and the Murdochs to leading the event website specialists. The company plays a vital role in bringing events to life before a single visitor has stepped on the show floor.

It is safe to say ASP managing director Jon Benjamin has had a career path like no one else in the industry. 

Having spent over 10 years at News UK (formerly News International) – running the sales teams for The Sun, News of the World, The Times and The Sunday Times – Benjamin now leads the team behind some of the very best websites in the events industry. 

After one year stints at LinkedIn as account director and Future plc as sales director, Benjamin became commercial director at ASP in 2014 before taking on his current role in 2020. He and his team help event organisers grow their shows with an event-focused CMS, which is at the heartof ASP’s success. 

“Showfloors are the industry’s shopfloor, eventwebsites are the industry’s shop window,” he says.  

Benjamin recalls his years at the tabloids, saying it was intense but he learned a lot in an environment where sackings on the spot were common.

“They were certainly very interesting times and there are many great stories to tell.

“Whilst it wasn’t always the nicest environment to work in I did learn to work at a fast pace, as a team and to never rest on your laurels.”

Benjamin says he was offered two jobs after working at LinkedIn; one from ASP and another from a £10bn business owned by publicists: “I thought ‘do I go back into big corporates or do I go for  a company with exponential growth potential?’ 

“It was Arran [Coole, ASP CEO] who sold me the dream. I thought I could take all the good bits I’d learned from the previous environments and bring to a smaller place, and that was what appealed to me.”

While Benjamin is a rare commodity in the world of events for being an MD with vast experience outside the sector, he did have a taste for the industry before moving to ASP. 

He had worked at several events in his roles at News UK and had exhibited while at LinkedIn, meaning he knew the “buzz and excitement” around it. But he adds that he had to adapt to the slower pace of his new job after working in newspapers, and that he never imagined working in the industry in this capacity: “All I heard about the industry was it’s really hard to sell. There’s a little bit of me that’s mister competitive and thought ‘well I can do it’.”

Importance of websites

Benjamin is not shy in stressing the importance of ASP in the events industry: “It’s a fact that everybody who attends your show will visit your website, and everybody who chooses not to attend your show will visit the website.

“The logic behind that is you get lots of traffic to the website, only a certain proportion of those will turn up to the show, because what you did on the event website brought the event to life away from the show floor. 

“It’s the only way to properly bring your event to life outside of when it’s actually happening. But equally a lot of people come to a website and chose not to attend the event. What we focus on are those people that aren’t attending the event, and trying to get them to.” 

Benjamin says accepting that an event website is very different to other websites is crucial, as well as understanding that you have only a few seconds to make an impact. With a software built entirely from scratch for the events industry, Benjamin says ASP serves as an extension to a marketing team, relieving much of the stress that comes with organising an event. 

ASP has a team of 20 and Benjamin says it is currently recruiting for three positions: “Most of them come from an events background. One of the big changes we’ve made lately was around making sure we get events people in so they can empathise and understand what the pain points are of an event marketing team.”

How it works

One of ASP’s main features is Composer, a quick-to-market platform that Benjamin says could one day see custom builds of websites become extinct. Its other platform Gateway allows visitors and exhibitors to personalise the way they interact with a show throughout the year.

After being appointed MD, Benjamin says he noticed the company was not measuring itself enough. “What doesn’t get measured doesn’t get done,” he says. “My principles were key metrics – uptime, response time to clients, it could be turnaround times or it might be how quickly we can launch a website.”

In April this year the company recorded a record Net Promoter Score (NPS) of +62.

The customer satisfaction survey saw it enjoy an 85-point NPS increase in three years, but Benjamin says there is still room to improve: “The challenge now is to continue to deliver excellent service and revenue generating event websites that give exhibition organisers a year-round shop window.”

ASP’s target market has kept it going strong since its inception 25 years ago and Benjamin says its niche will not change any time soon. 

“All we do is build websites for events, and we have never deviated away from that,” he says. “Our ambition is always to be the best in the world at what we do. We don’t do anything that we can’t be the best in the world at. That’s been our mantra since before I started.

“We could have gone into apps or a million other things but building websites for events is what we do. I don’t aspire to change that, I just aspire to make us better at it.”

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