- Amy Buckingham, Commercial Manager, Fresh Montgomery
- Frazer Chesterman, Director, FM Future
- Jan Gjære, Project Manager, Norway Trade Fairs
- Britt Gorniok, International Project Manager, Innovation Norway
- Nicola Macdonald, Editor, Exhibition News
- Feraye Ozfescioglu, CEO of Aid&Trade London
- Greg Sewell, Group Commercial Director, Clarion Events
- Juliet Trew, Business Development Director – Events, Aviation Week Network, an Informa business
- Anastasia Yates, Marketing Manager, Fresh Montgomery
Geo-cloning has rapidly become the go-to growth strategy for exhibition organisers looking to expand internationally. With less of the risk of a brand-new launch and an existing brand reputation to use as a launch pad and a statement of intent, geo-clones have proven to be a valuable tactic.
At the latest EN Roundtable, held at co-working space TOG at The Shard in London, event professionals gathered to discuss the challenges, risks and benefits of the geo-cloning process. To kick off the discussion, EN editor Nicola Macdonald reflects on a presentation by Easyfairs CEO Eric Everard at the UFI European Conference, where he posited that geo-cloning was one of the most effective growth strategies for organisers, providing that due diligence has been carried out in advance.
Greg Sewell, Clarion Events’ group commercial director, adds: “We do a lot of our geo-cloning once we have some form of governmental backing. In terms of our oil and gas markets and also our defence markets. We’ll have done a lot of ground work before you start to see or hear about it. That mitigates the risk; we’ve got 90 per cent of the work done, they’ll help us with speakers and with rates on venues and we go from there.”
Geo-cloning, he continues, has increased in importance for Clarion: “It’s something we’ve woken up to. We had established brands, DSEI for example, but it’s this year that we’ve taken that to Egypt and Japan. Why now? Because we’re seeing it as a good way to take a solid brand with less risk around the world. We can’t stand still – we have to make growth.
“We will also geo-clone to knock out a competitor. We’re trying to take on some big players so we’re using our strong brands to compete against those.”
Feraye Ozfescioglu, CEO of Aid&Trade London and the World Humanitarian Forum, comments: “Government support is a key factor. Exhibitors and key stakeholders should be coming with you but also the strength of the country is an important factor in my field – if there are lots of NGOs or if the private sector is really strong, for example. Having a venue partner is something we would look into, but the main criteria would be the nature of the country that is hosting.”
Juliet Trew, business development director – events at Informa-owned Aviation Week Network, says that government backing has less of a central role when it came to geo-cloning in her sector.
“What we’re looking for is industry support,” she explains. “If we’re looking to geo-clone something we’ll try and get a host partner or host sponsor, which for us would be a big maintenance or manufacturing organisation. We want them to give us sponsorship and also help us get into the community and from there launch the show. We’re looking for our industry to say there is a need for an event.”
You need market commitment and you need a sense that the market and geography is going to be right for what you need and what your exhibitors want” – Frazer Chesterman
Frazer Chesterman, director of FM Future, adds that he always looks for cornerstones when launching a show, such as committed ambassadors.
“That could be key exhibitors, major players – people who are interested in new markets – maybe press or local associations,” he explains. “You build this key stakeholder group to help you step onto the ladder in the local market.
“There are challenges associated with going into any new market. Some people think if you have a successful brand you can geo-clone anything but that’s not true, you need market commitment and you also need a sense that the market and geography is going to be right for what you need and what your exhibitors want.”
Researching a new destination
When it comes to deciding on the best location to hold a new event, the criteria can vary wildly depending on the show’s sector and subject matter. But one thing that is important is establishing strong partners on the ground.
Anastasia Yates, marketing manager at Fresh Montgomery, describes the launch of the Independent Hotel Show Amsterdam, a geo-clone of the organiser’s existing event Independent Hotel Show London.
“Our target audience is very clear,” she says. “it depends how many hotels are available and the star rating or equivalent. Then we would have someone come in and reach out to all the associations active in that sector in a country to establish whether there is a sense of community that we can tap into.”
It’s possible to do too much research. At a certain point the event organiser just has to make a decision” – Juliet Trew
Chesterman adds: “You know, if you’re running an event in the UK already, exactly why it’s successful. It has traction with the local market, it’s got strong partners and associations involved – you know the key factors.
You’ve got to replicate that where you’re going, and you need to do the research. Whether that’s through exhibitors or on the ground with a research company or in Thailand for example the TCEB (Thailand Convention and Exhibition Bureau) is really strong. Some countries are very keen to get your business and will work very hard to make life easier for you, which can also be significant in making a decision.
Trew comments: “It is possible to do too much research. At a certain point the event organiser just has to make a decision and either you go or don’t go for it. However much feedback you get it will always be a mix of pros and cons.”
Go, or don’t go
In the very early stages of a potential geo-clone, there are certain strategies which can reduce the risk of the launch.
Chesterman says: “You have to have a go/no-go period, so you know what you have to achieve by a certain point in your sales cycle. If you’re not selling at that level, then stop doing it because it’s not going to work.”
“There always a risk with geo-cloning,” adds Sewell. “Brand damage and all the rest of it. But I like to think we don’t go until we’re absolutely sure. No one gets shot in Clarion for trying, we’ve got a measured approach to risk.”
There are ways of soft-launching an event with an established community, says Trew. “You can get a feeling when you just have a webpage and test the waters before going full ‘save the date’.”
“Things like that are cheap,” agrees Chesterman. “You can invest in a website and start to build a community and build a story around it.”
Consistent across events like ICE North America and ICE Africa, says Sewell, were the bellwethers.
“There’s a two-pronged approach,” he explains. The bellwethers are interested, they’re at contract signing stage before we start to move. Second stage, and this is not uniquely Clarion, but we’ve expanded our global footprint with every acquisition, so we have offices all around the world. We’ve got that local knowledge so it’s not quite such a big risk to go fishing when you have someone on the ground who can tell you what the dynamic is like.”
Macdonald asks how the attendees navigate relationships with local stakeholder and agents.
“We could be getting into country stereotypes, but they really do dominate how we work with agents,” says Sewell. “We have agent networks in our power and utilities group, which is where we mostly focus our agent groups because they are the areas where we’re getting international presence the most.
“We couldn’t operate without a strong agent network. Most of our agents are in Germany and China, and they are fiercely protective. We’re really at the mercy of some agents; they demand exclusivity and we have to hand over large swathes of our key accounts and it creates internal friction. Having said that, we cannot operate without them, and even with the geographical footprint that Clarion has, it’s still the most cost-effective way of getting the coverage that we need.”
Trew comments that on the whole she doesn’t use agents, instead using the in-house sales team and contractors.
“Agents are also a way to overcome language barriers,” adds Ozfescioglu. “In somewhere like China the culture is so different that if you don’t have an agent you won’t be able to bring certain groups of companies to your event.”
Chesterman says that he has worked with agents and had offices in international locations.
“The challenge is controlling agents,” he comments. “Stepping back a bit, say you have a European-run show and you want to geo-clone in another location. It’s quite useful to have one of the sales guys who has the reputation with the market to go and do the work in that new location.
“It depends on the mix. When you first geo-clone you use the existing team and get them working on that first geo-clone. Agents can help you out but having that person who is well-known in the market and has good relationships can help with that step.”
Sponsor Britt Gorniok, international project manager for Innovation Norway, concludes: “Geo-cloning can build your reputation, build loyalty and enable you to take the brand into new regions in a cost-effective way. But there are many pitfalls, mainly around market knowledge and cultural issues. Solid market analysis is therefore key, but it is also important to choose the right venue with a convenient location, a solid reputation and with a network of full-scale suppliers.
“Being the largest exhibition and conference centre in Norway, located 10 minutes from Oslo international airport – Oslo Trade Fair welcomes new international partnerships for mutually beneficial cooperation.”
Roundtable images: Myles Henry.