Clarion’s Duncan Reid and Tom Fisher on the integration of PennWell and creating the Clarion Energy brand.
In early 2018, Clarion Events – newly acquired by private equity firm Blackstone – bought US-based organiser and media company PennWell for around $300m.
The ambitious purchase added a wide range of events to Clarion’s roster, many of which were in the energy and power industry. In addition, as with any acquisition, a process of integration and standardisation began across the organisation.
“It was significantly larger than any acquisition we’d made before,” Duncan Reid, managing director – energy at Clarion, tells EN. “On the energy side, how it integrated with our existing businesses has sat with me.
“One of the first things I did when I took over was start to look at some of the brands that we have. The first part of the strategy is about how you take these individual businesses, which have a lot of strengths and some really good people, and merge them together to create one brand and one team.”
The answer was to create a new umbrella brand – the Power & Energy Series – which would encompass some of the PennWell events and Clarion’s existing events in the sector and sit within Clarion Energy.
“Historically all those events had been very successfully run, and we were very happy with them, but the PennWell acquisition changed what it was we were looking to do,” continues Reid. “We naturally had much more scale; when you’re talking to an exhibitor you might find that they’re speaking to five of the other offices, so it made sense to join everything up.”
The benefits of joining up the global team, while keeping local offices, were clear. For one thing, Clarion could maintain relationships with local markets while at the same time scaling the offering available to bigger exhibitors and customers.
“You might find someone’s advertising just in the European event, and actually they’re looking to get into Asia,” explains Reid. “We can now point out that we have an event in Asia, and by having this Power & Energy Series brand it’s clear that it’s run by the same people.”
Another benefit is being able to compare and contrast various events around the world, using data gathered from visitors, exhibitors and the Clarion teams themselves.
But creating that level of integration and standardisation has been no easy task, and it’s one that has required an epic migration of the global products onto Salesforce and the automated email marketing service, Pardot.
“What that gives you is greater insight into what customers are doing, what they’re interested in and what they’re buying,” continues Reid. “If we run a campaign from one of our American shows and they email their visitors saying, ‘I’ve got a show in Europe’, then when people then land on the European website you know that they’ve come from the American data set.
“When all that data is held separately you don’t know that a particular person from the California electricity authority, for example, has gone to 10 of your events globally. Now we know that we can market to them in a different way.”
Tom Fisher, marketing director – energy, adds that standardisation is of huge importance even when sending out something like a post-show survey.
“If on one post-event survey it says, ‘on a scale of one to 10 how happy were you with the show?’ and on another you’ve said, ‘would you rate yourself as being very happy, happy etc.’ it’s the same question asked two different ways, but the answers won’t fit together,” he explains. “It’s common sense to most people, but you need to work on standardising what you’re asking people.”
Another reason to make it easy to compare and contrast events across a portfolio is in looking for ways to improve.
“Clarion puts a lot of emphasis on the Net Promoter Score,” says Reid. “We look at lots of benchmarking metrics, but the Net Promoter Score is a key one for us. We’re always looking to improve. The industry average for Net Promoter Score is minus 17, but we’re looking to make sure that we’re positive on every event that Clarion does, not just in Clarion Energy but across all the shows we do, and that we buy.
“The benefit of having a portfolio is that some people are waiting 12 months to try out the second edition of their idea to see if they can improve it, but every single month we can be refining different ideas.”
Reid and Fisher are keen to point out that, while many of the systems used are becoming standardised, the events themselves have retained their own look, feel, identity and relationship with their market.
“Each market is different, but they’re all about bringing buyers and sellers together and making sure that they do business,” says Reid. “One of the things we do to help make that happen is having great content at the show, and then networking and matchmaking around the event. Those pillars of content, networking, business and experience are in everything that we do.
While the months following the acquisition were all about evolving the global portfolio, the coming year will see that effort coming to fruition.
“2018 was all about bringing the Power & Energy brand together,” concludes Reid. “2019 will be when we start to see results.”