Overseas sales agents can help organisers boost their international presence at an exhibition. But do they provide a strong ROI or would a good in-house team do a similar job for a lot less? EN investigates.
For an organiser, the prospect of widening a show’s exhibitor profile can be a delicate process involving intensive research and telephone calls.
Or there’s the alternative of hiring a sales agency to boost the show’s numbers. Overseas Trade Show Agencies (OTSA) is one firm which aims to help organisers boost their international presence.
MD Annika Fila told EN OTSA’s clients stretch across South Africa, Bulgaria, Sweden, Singapore, the United Arab Emirates, Spain and the US. The agency also has an appointed suppliers’ list.
“We work on a basic retainer fee to do the work, and then we would charge commission based on square metrage sales,” she said. Fila proudly said OTSA helped increase UK participation at Showtech, hosted by Reed Exhibitions at Messe Berlin, by 170 per cent in June. The firm has also worked with several clients for more than 20 years including Messe Basel and Messe Essen.
“We set out a business plan to outline the what, how and when for the key players we’ll meet,” Fila added. “We’ll propose the shows where we’ll meet people and the telemarketing campaign.
“Organisers will look through our proposals, have their say and come back to us. We then report back to them on everyone we have spoken to.”
Consulting and lobbying boutique company CBBS Management Consulting and Business Building Company has forged a new initiative with central and south-east European associations in an attempt to bring more small and medium enterprises (SMEs) into the exhibition fold. A memorandum of understanding between CBBS, the Central European Trade Fair Alliance (CEFA) and international exhibition statistics union Centrex aims to give more regional backing to the SMEs that comprise trade fair exhibitors.
Fresh Montgomery sales chief Corby Ganesh often uses overseas agents but advises caution before taking the plunge. “For those organisers not fortunate enough to have offices abroad or looking to expand sales in new territories, the best solution is usually to appoint a local agent,” he said. “However be warned: Success is not guaranteed.
“There are no shortage of agents out there – especially in developing territories – but choosing the right one is key. They may bring knowledge of the local market and customs but are they a suitable ambassador for your brand or business? Are they specialists in your sector and do they have the necessary connections with key stakeholders in their territory?”
Wise Guys Consultancy COO Brian Wiseman believes organisers are increasingly looking to turn to their operations in–house for international research. “You may get more results with a dedicated person in your company who is used to the industry you are covering,” he said. “It all depends on ROI. If the agents are working on commission, how much control and pressure can you exert on them?” In addition, Ganesh insists research is vital when going into a new territory to locate suitable show partners. “As with any venture in to new territory it pays to do your research and have a clear idea of exactly who you’ll be working with,” he added. “Talk to key local clients and government agencies to find out who they work with, and find out who other international events in your sector are using.
“Realising you’ve made the wrong choice three months in to a sales cycle can be an irretrievable mistake in the short term and achieving subsequent success in that territory might take even longer as a result.”
Ganesh said it is also crucial to remember your event might be one of many your chosen sales agent represents and not necessarily their most lucrative. He advised organisers to make sure their agents feel involved, are kept updated on key developments and given plenty of encouragement.
“It is also vital to understand their way of working, set sensible targets and intelligent commission structures,” he added. So, when casting your net, it is vital to think clearly on who you want to pursue and how you go about it.
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