Steve Vick International’s enviable track record in the gas distribution industry would make them an obvious candidate to accelerate productivity in the nuclear sector – but where would you start?
Ind-Ex on-site supplier events proved to be the answer. Putting them in front of a focused audience of on-site decision makers and giving them the platform to showcase their innovative skills.
Status : SME
Steve Vick International is a SME based in the southwest of the UK
Our company has developed a number of patented techniques for the trenchless repair and renovation of underground pipes, including live mains insertion techniques. Our main market is the gas distribution industry in the UK, we also supply gas utilities in the rest of Europe, Scandinavia, the USA, South America and the Far East.
The Business Challenge
- Realising that our capabilities were transferrable to other industries, the decision was made to penetrate the UK nuclear sector.
- In common with other SMEs wishing to enter the sector, our primary challenge is identifying individual technical decision makers and making contact with them.
- The secondary challenge is then opening a dialogue with those individuals to enable us to outline and demonstrate our unique skillset.
- Our geographical location presents difficulties in maintaining regular face to face dialogue with nuclear engineers in the main industry clusters.
- We have an excellent reputation in the gas industry and, based on market intelligence, are aware that the nuclear sector is keen to adopt transferrable technologies, rather than continually ‘re-inventing the wheel’. There is clearly a market in the nuclear sector for the technologies we offer.
- We need to identify the people, within the nuclear community, that will actually make the decision to evaluate our capabilities.
- Having identified supplier events as probably the most cost effective routes to market, to select, from amongst those on offer (NDA organised, site operator organised, business clusters, independent organiser’s events) the most beneficial marketing vehicles to achieve the objectives identified in the business challenge.
- Utilising the previous to establish contact with tier 2 and tier 3 suppliers, as well as site decision makers.
Previous Attempts – Other Strategies
We have attended all available events offered by the NDA, site operators, business cluster organisations and independent exhibition organisers. The results were mixed:
- NDA: We were able to establish a relationship with the NDA and it has been very fruitful;
- Site operator supplier events: These events are very useful for explaining supplier policy, speaking with strategic decision makers and networking with outer suppliers but do not offer any conduit to the engineering decision makers, who are the people we really need to talk to.
- Business clusters: Ditto the above.
- Independent exhibitions: These have ranged from superb (we have genuinely picked up some excellent business and engaged with the exact stream of engineering decision makers) to pretty disappointing (haphazard selection of exhibitors, consequently low attendance and very few visitor s relevant to our market).
To increase our company’s visibility within the nuclear sector, through a selective use of supplier events; specifically, the NDA and site sponsored events (strategy, networking), business clusters (ditto) and concentrate our efforts on Ind-Ex events (identifying and engaging with exactly the people we need to meet)
NDA: We have been enrolled in a SME mentoring programme and now work with a major tier 2 supplier as a result. We were the winners of an NDA SME ‘Best application of an innovative solution(s) with tangible savings/benefits’ award in 2014.
Ind-Ex: These events are actually on site. The organisers invite engineering managers, engineering team leaders, site engineers, and procurement officers – exactly the people we need to meet! The people who understand and need our technologies! It’s no surprise that our primary vehicle (on the sites where they operate) to make contact with the specific decision makers that will evaluate our services.
We meet more engineers at Ind-Ex events, have more in depth conversations and gain more business than all the other events combined. 50% of our conversations will move on to meetings and preparing proposals and half of those will turn into concrete business. The remainder may yield business in the longer term or lose momentum in the safety case phase. From these exhibitions, we have also picked up business in the defence sector, through occasional visitors from other sites.
Importantly, our technologies make significant savings for the site operators. One small £18k project saved the site £30k, another, a £30k project, moved the process forward two years!
Ind-Ex seem to concentrate on building a firm relationship with the engineering managers on the sites, and so they have their finger on the pulse when it comes to focusing their events – they understand what the sites’ needs are. Because their exhibitions are focused there is a higher proportion of the people we want to speak with – the people who are interested in evaluating our services and the people that need the technologies.
As a minor benefit, being based some distance from the nuclear clusters, we can also use these events as a focal point to plan other visits in the same geographical area, thus fully maximising efficiency.