Charles McCurdy, the CEO of both Canon Communications and its parent company, Apprise Media, has seen Canon revenue and profits jump 30% annually since the company's 2005 acquisition—growth in no small part attributed to an aggressive events strategy, he said.
That's not an unusual route in the business-to-business media industry, where investments in face-to-face marketing have helped offset a decline in revenues from print advertising.
“Most of the b-to-b media companies are either building their own events, expanding their own events or acquiring events,” said Mark Rothman, chief marketing officer at American Business Media. “They are a very profitable business, and they enable a magazine brand to expand its franchise beyond a magazine and a Web site.”
What is unusual at Canon is the pace of that growth. The company acquired 19 trade shows in about as many months, expanding its reach in the $3 trillion global technology-based manufacturing sector.
Seven of its purchases occurred in the European events market. The company's most recent acquisition saw the publisher of such trade titles as Pharmaceutical & Medical Packaging News enter the $9 billion European market for pharmaceutical packaging. The company did not disclose the price of the February purchase of the Pharmapack trade show from French producer Organization of International Congresses and Exhibitions.
When Canon unveiled that acquisition it also announced the launch of BIOMEDevice Europe, a conference and exhibition to be co-located with the Pharmapack show. News followed last month that the company plans to launch MEDTEC France next year.
Why all the interest in the European market?
“We've deliberately opened our aperture to define our market as the manufacturing technology sector,” McCurdy said.
That opening required global reach, he said, largely because advanced manufacturing companies target industry sectors, selling their products in international markets rather than restricting themselves to national or regional opportunities. Moreover, attendance at manufacturing shows tends to be local, McCurdy said, making it an asset to own a show where a sizable market exists.
“Canon sees European activity as core to the mission of the company, which is not always the case for b-to-b media companies that tend to be geographic,” he said.
Canon moves in markets where it has an established presence, where existing exhibitors have expressed an interest and where growth opportunities exist, he said.
That kind of pointed growth strategy has become more common, though Canon has been a bit more aggressive than most other media companies, said Doug Ducate, president-CEO for the Center for Exhibition Industry Research.
However, companies that undertake rapid acquisitions and event launches cannot keep up a breakneck pace indefinitely, he said.
“There comes a point where you need to pause and transition those businesses the way you want to,” Ducate said.
Canon has no plans to take a breather yet, McCurdy said.
The company has expanded its organizational structure to include event producers in global markets that stretch from China and Japan to Europe and the U.S., while centralizing marketing support for its events operations in Los Angeles.
“We plan to continue growing Canon,” he said. “I think the company can sustain the pace of growth going forward, with organic opportunities continuing to present themselves and acquisitions being a little more opportunistic—looking at who is going to sell the right business at the right time. We've had success with those kinds of acquisition opportunities, and we're going to continue to look for them.”