The nature of business is that everyone is always chasing the proverbial big fish which, once caught, leads to high volumes and very often healthy margins. However, also today's big players in different sectors, such as the automobile industry and mobile communications, started small.
Toyota is a case in point when the company imported a few vehicles in the early nineteen-sixties and the South African market frowned upon the chances to succeed with a Japanese product. Today the company is a household name with annual sales around 100,000. MTN is a similar success story growing from zero sales in the nineties, to more than 80 million subscribers in Africa today.
Brian Kennedy, Chief Executive of Oasys Innovations, Africa's leading supplier of infrastructure for exhibitions and events: “There are many examples of small companies from yesteryear who have become big players today. Some of them have invested in strategic marketing communications initiatives which have helped to position them in the sectors in which they wanted to become key players and I know that most people can relate to the one or the other successful brand.”
He says that the onus rests with suppliers of communication services - from advertising agencies and public relations practitioners to exhibition and event management companies to position themselves as professional consultants to support small companies who do not yet have the luxury of in-house marketing communication personnel to guide both the internal and external processes and large budgets. “Many small entrepreneurs are concerned about making it from one month to the next and apply themselves 24/7 on the core competence of their business. Yet, they are well aware of the fact that their businesses can only become successful against the background of a solid marketing plan and a communication strategy and related communication activities. The problem is that many suppliers of communication services shy away from them because of the danger of associated risks, including non-payment. However, how else can they become successful if established suppliers of services continue to be non-supportive?”
Kennedy believes that one of the first communication options for start-up companies is to venture into exhibitions where they stand the best chance of networking with new prospects and where they can directly influence sales opportunities ahead of any other form of communication. “A large percentage of our clients are small companies who walk into our receptions in Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban asking for help. Of course, a credit check is necessary but we look beyond that in terms of the prospective client's offering of products, systems and services, the energy and credentials of the management and a passion which we have to be supportive to small entrepreneurs. In the process we strike a relationship and our success is pegged on their long term growth.”
“As first timers, many companies have never had their own booths. As a measure of goodwill and to help with the growth of the small client and to contribute towards the growth of the industry, suppliers should provide a consultative service at no cost, except of course for a cost effective package of materials including the booth enclosure, design of displays, as well as the production of graphics and communication support that announce the services of the company.”
As a multi-billion Rand industry and with demands on marketers to generate sales leads in the shortest possible time, exhibitions and events have become a preferred channel of communication for small medium and large organizations. With this approach of extending support and guiding small companies to present themselves in a professional manner utilising all components in the exhibitions and events supplier toolkit, the industry will continue to earn priority attention in the communications mix.