IBEX Uses networkNow to Support Exhibitors Without Overloading Attendees

Background
The International Boat Builders' Exhibition & Conference (IBEX) is the leading marine technology and networking event in North America. In 2012, the event hosted over 2,500 buyers and 542 exhibitors. Like many industries, boat building was negatively impacted by the economic recession, and like many trade show organizers, the National Marine Manufacturers Association and Professional Boat Builder Magazine—the organizations that produce IBEX—were concerned about offering exhibitors more support without compromising the strong relationships they maintained with attendees.

Challenges
As part of the agreement that IBEX has with its attendees, the show does not sell its lists to any third party. That policy presented a challenge to the organization when exhibitors began asking for a way to contact attendees before and after the exhibition. At the same time, IBEX's marketing and operations teams were sensitive to the number of emails being sent to attendees for various purposes: promotions, deadlines, updates and general information.

They were understandably interested in a mechanism that could protect the identities of attendees, allow exhibitors to make contact and limit the number of emails being distributed.

Solution
a2z's white-label networking and lead management platform, networkNow offered IBEX the perfect solution. Marketed to exhibitors and attendees as myIBEX, networkNow allowed exhibitors to contact attendees and set appointments via blind emails. IBEX management closely monitored the number of emails that companies could send and attendees could opt out of receiving any or all emails at any time. To introduce the platform to exhibitors and attendees, a2z developed and executed an email campaign complete with instructional videos. a2z technicians handled all technical support questions enabling show managers to focus on event logistics.

Results
With the boost from a2z's informational email campaign, exhibitors and attendees exchanged 1,039 emails and 25% of the attendees used the system in the first year. Because networkNow automates the exhibitor directory, 99% of the show's exhibitors added a company profile (ensuring that nearly every company appeared in attendee searches), 95% added product categories, 11% uploaded press releases and 5% offered show specials online. "Adoption of new technology always happens in stages," says, Jackie Fuller, staff accountant, exhibitor customer service for IBEX. networkNow was easier for exhibitors to use and actually increased the [exhibitor] response rate for providing directory information. "a2z's email and technical support made a huge difference in adoption," she says.

Next Steps
With a2z's help, the IBEX staff will start promoting networkNow earlier this year, hoping to increase attendee engagement. IBEX will also use the platform to sell more products, such as logos on the floor plan and in the exhibitor directory, as well as other offline exhibitor marketing opportunities. IBEX will also try to educate attendees more by explaining the system in the registration confirmation email and working with a2z to develop some new emails and videos. "It's a great system and it's one of those things that the more you use it, the more you figure out what you can do with it," Fuller explains.

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