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Meetings and acquisitions: buying to replicate
posted on: 25/2/2013 11:35:34
apples fruit food
In the final part of this series, Mayfield Media’s Steve Monnington looks at how to integrate and expand a brand that has been acquired for its potential for replication.

Replication, geocloning, geo-adapting or simply launching your brand in another country: Whatever you want to call it, if your exhibition has a tight-knit community of global exhibitors wanting to develop in new geographical markets, you should be looking at expanding your portfolio internationally.

This is fine for a show you own but how do you assess a potential acquisition for replication opportunities? And having bought the business, how do you balance the development of the main show with exploiting opportunities for territorial expansion before someone else launches into the space?

This was exactly the situation facing easyFairs when it acquired StocExpo, the exhibition and conference for terminal storage operators. Although the main event moves between the Netherlands and Belgium, the business has always been run from the UK so post-acquisition it is now the responsibility of easyFairs’ UK office.

The organiser’s UK MD Matt Benyon was clear about why it wanted to acquire the business.
“We had tracked StocExpo for three or four years and we made a formal approach about nine months before we acquired it,” Benyon said. “We liked it because it was an industrial show, it was niche and we believed it had geocloning potential.”

In addition to the main event, there were already confex-type editions in Canada, Malaysia and Turkey and easyFairs felt it could add more to these and push the brand further.

“The owners had looked at other new markets but as a publisher the main focus was on its titles and I think they found it wasn’t easy to expand in this way,” Benyon said.

Due diligence is always key when making an acquisition but potential new launches add another dimension. “We always do our commercial due diligence in-house but for the first time we used AMR to carry out global research to identify where the brand should be launched,” said Benyon.

“Even so I wanted to hear it for myself so I took my team into AMR’s offices and we worked alongside staff talking to the exhibitors and visitors ourselves about which markets they wanted to target. This way we knew where the gaps were and what the community wanted before we made the acquisition.”

So did the research validate the existing business and also their feelings about expansion? Not entirely, Benyon said. 

“Canada was in the right place with the right format, Singapore was a better place for a Southeast Asian show and Turkey was marginal,” he explained. “However it also validated the potential of launches in Germany and elsewhere in Asia. Our immediate response post-acquisition was to re-launch the Southeast Asia event in Singapore and to make it more exhibition-led. We are working with Singapore Expo as a partner on this and we are also holding off on Turkey for the time being.”

It would be easy to be seduced by the excitement of chasing new launches throughout the world but without a successful and growing main event, there would be no satellite shows.

“The due diligence highlighted major potential growth in the main show,” Benyon continued.

“Through our research we got to know the community and identified new sectors such as pumps, valves, fire prevention and safety and security that can be added. Clearly this is our priority but this is thoughtfully balanced with the overseas opportunities. The quick switch to Singapore is a case in point.”

It is clear extensive research prior to acquisition is key to fast development once the business is acquired but easyFairs went one stage further. “We acquired StocExpo four months before the main show and prior to acquisition our team developed a full blown marketing plan using the seller’s data,” Benyon said. “We took the view that if the deal went ahead we were well prepared and if it didn’t then the owners would have a nice present from us.”

The preparation paid off as easyFairs reported a 51 per cent increase in visitors for its first event and largely as a result of this, onsite rebookings for the next year were up substantially too. Benyon said easyFairs has a three-year plan for growth.

“The next task is to ensure a successful debut in Singapore in December followed by the main event in Antwerp in March,” he said. “The big step is to launch in another major market. The key is that this is a very close-knit community so we were able to map it out fully during due diligence. This means there have been no nasty surprises in the integration process.” It’s something we’d all do well to avoid.

This was first published in the November 2012 edition of EN. Any comments? Email

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