Industrial Supply Association Boosts Matchmaking Performance with networkNow

ISA logoThe annual convention for the Philadelphia-based Industrial Supply Association connects equipment manufacturers, manufacturer’s representatives, service providers, and distributors from the Maintenance, Repair, Operations and Production (MROP) industry. The 2015 event held in Cleveland welcomed approximately 1,700 attendees and housed 320 booths in a space that could have occupied two and half football fields.

In an effort to streamline networking, the association searched for a digital solution to improve its matchmaking program for event participants. a2z’s networkNow was the perfect way to grease the wheels of the existing process.

Searching for higher performance

ISA FASTMATCH LogoThe primary purpose of the annual convention is to promote networking. Prior to 2013, the association facilitated meetings between exhibitors and attendees informally—leaving participants to research and discover mutual interests using traditional tools: the exhibitor directory, word of mouth, previous relationships, or show advertising. While somewhat effective, the unstructured process left some exhibitors and attendees wondering what opportunities were left on the table. ISA’s board of directors began considering ways to boost productivity on the trade show floor.

A better way to find a match

ISA’s show management team developed a program called FASTMATCH®—a sort of speed networking—in which exhibitors and distributors preset meetings with one another based on mutual profiles and product listings. At 15-minute intervals, an announcer would signal the end of one meeting and the beginning of the next. FASTMATCH® was powered by a2z’s networkNow solution, an online appointment- setting and participant matching system that helps create meaningful connections between attendees and exhibitors.

As exhibit space and registration was confirmed, exhibiting manufacturers, master distributors and service providers were invited to complete their profiles, and use networkNow’s powerful search algorithms to find recommended potential matches and request appointments. a2z provided a full complement of marketing materials and professional services to introduce the offering and help exhibitors and attendees learn how to use it.

More, better meetings

The annual convention was held over two days. FASTMATCH® was conducted on the “feature” day, while traditional networking took place on the remaining day. Even with networkNow used primarily on only one day, the results were impressive:

  • 462 of the 570 pre-qualified registered attendees logged into the portal to plan ahead.
  • 280 of the 329 exhibitors added product categories, and 96 included product listings.
  • 5,904 appointments were requested between exhibitors and attendees, and 2,546 were marked as confirmed.
  • Exhibitors were added to attendees’ personalized planners 1,376 times.

Dan Ehinger, administrative coordinator for ISA and FASTMATCH®, explains the benefits of the program. “[Participants] get to set their own appointments so they can choose who to meet with. Exhibitors know they have pre-scheduled appointments and it helps to take some of the pressure off of exhibiting,” he explains. And, from a purely administrative perspective, the platform was easy to use. “There wasn’t very much work on my end. The automation made my job easier,” he says.

NetworkNow delivered value to ISA beyond the number of appointments that were facilitated. It gave the organization visibility into “who was meeting with who and how active the distributors were,” Ehinger says. In addition, it brought traffic to exhibitors in less visible areas of the show floor. “With this program, the guy in the back corner can send out a [meeting] request, and even if it’s declined, attendees know there are people back there.”

Kicking it up another notch

Dan Ehinger is already thinking about next year with networkNow. One of his main objectives will be to boost usage among his exhibitors and attendees even further. Although a2z provided ISA with a variety of ready-made promotional tools, it takes time to get everyone on board. “Our exhibitors and attendees want meetings, but there are always some late adopters. They held off on smartphones as long as they could,” he says. Nevertheless, knowing that networkNow is easy to learn and use, Ehinger has plans to convert the 2016 convention into a mean networking machine.