Expos aren’t just for Show
For SMEs from experience
Taking part in trade shows and expos is a crucial component of overall marketing, networking and market research for small businesses, say SMEs participating in the upcoming Business Entrepreneurship and Franchise Expo, presented in partnership with Eskom.
Madoda Khuzwayo, Opentenders
“When you’re operating in isolation as a start-up, you don’t know what you don’t know. You have to get out there and engage with potential partners, and crucially – your market,” says Madoda Khuzwayo, a ‘serial entrepreneur’ who has launched four successful businesses and a number of other ventures which he concedes have failed but have provided valuable insight on what not to do. Madoda is a regular participant at the Business Entrepreneurship and Franchise Expo.
Madoda and business partners, Mnive Nhlabathi and Sivu Maquongo, will showcase their newest enterprise, OPENTENDERS.com at the Business Entrepreneurship and Franchise Expo this year. “OPENTENDERS is a B2B networking platform that began as a procurement information hub last year and has since evolved into a social media portal for entrepreneurs and small businesses,” he explains. With years of experience under his belt, Madoda has come to understand where small businesses go wrong, and measures they need to take to improve their chances of success. One of these measures, he says, is continual market research and market engagement.
“I recall hearing that you need an average of seven touchpoints before a customer actually buys from you. We have discovered this to be true. You have to be visible across trade shows, expos, broadcast, print and online before your brand is familiar to the customer. In fact, we have found customers sending us forms from previous expos up to eight months after the expo, after they heard us speak on radio and saw us in print. So you have to be realistic about your expectations of an expo – it may not turn into business deals overnight, but it’s an important part of overall marketing and future business prospects.”
More importantly, says Madoda, expos present a unique opportunity for the entrepreneur to carry out market research. “When you’re starting a new business, nobody knows who you are and your normal sales cycle doesn’t always give you the opportunity to get feedback. A mistake all of us make is we assume everyone needs what we want to sell. This not true – we need to understand what customers need, and create a solution accordingly. Generally, SMEs can’t afford to do market research, but there’s no better place to do it than at an expo, where you can engage face to face with thousands of potential customers.”
Vovo Johnson, MD of VoMayise Holdings
For Vovo Johnson, MD of VoMayise Holdings, the Business Entrepreneurship and Franchise Expo will provide an excellent opportunity to gain exposure for his new business. VoMayise Holdings, which specializes in the sales and distribution of hydraulic truck-mounted cranes and forklifts, says a niche business such as his would typically advertise in niche publications. “Typical marketing strategies are very targeted, but as an SME, you need broad exposure. Expos give you access to a broad cross-section of markets, and they are actually better than advertising, because you have three days of meeting people to explain in depth what services you can offer. And participating in an expo is actually quite cost effective,” he says.
In addition to opportunities to conduct market research, gain exposure and engage with potential partners, SMEs participating in the Business Entrepreneurship and Franchise Expo 2015 will benefit from opportunities to discover more about the Eskom Business Investment Competition (BIC), meet large enterprises seeking BEE partners, and participate in workshops and information sessions designed to help small businesses overcome the business challenges they face.
Nokuthula Dladla, Megaphase Road Marking and Traffic Signs
Nokuthula Dladla, whose company Megaphase Road Marking and Traffic Signs was a past finalist in the Eskom Business Investment Competition (BIC), says opportunities such as the BIC and exhibitions such as the Business Entrepreneurship and Franchise Expo have helped her gain valuable business knowledge, which she has used to grow her business.
Megaphase, a 100% black women empowered company launched in 2009 with 8 employees. Today the company employs more than 60 people. “As a small child, I used to follow my granny around as she sold eggs and produce, and I always dreamed of owning my own business. So the ambition was there, but I did not have the benefit of extensive education and business management knowledge. By participating in competitions such as the BIC, and by attending workshops at the expo, I have increased my business knowledge. I’ve learnt to fully understand cash flow, I’ve had to learn how to speak in front of an audience, and I have come to understand compliance. These things have been very important in helping me to grow my company.”
The Eskom Business Investment Competition rewards outstanding small businesses in the agriculture, manufacturing, trade or services sectors with funding and prizes annually, and boosts their growth by showcasing them at the Business Entrepreneurship and Franchise Expo.
The Business Entrepreneurship & Franchise Expo is a one-stop annual start-up and small business boot camp, presenting a broad range of business opportunities and financial and business advice under one roof. Staged from 10 – 13 September at the Ticketpro Dome at Northgate, the Business, Entrepreneurship & Franchise Expo features hundreds of business and franchise opportunities, networking, opportunities to seek individual advice, as well as workshops and seminars on business strategy and management.
To find out how your small business can benefit from exposure at the Business Entrepreneurship and Franchise Expo 2015, visit www.befe.co.za