The Convergence Summit North closed its doors last month after its most successful show to date! The two days were full of deals, networking, seminars interspersed with coffee and beer! David Dungay skipped his way around the halls talking to visitors, exhibitors and even sitting in the odd supercar!
This year there was a real buzz about the Convergence Summit North as visitors streamed into one of the most visually stunning shows to hit the convergence market. Not that we are biased here…a’hem! There was the odd moment of confusion as some visitors thought they had inadvertently wandered into a car show but there was no doubt that the cars were pulling in the crowds and serving their purpose rather well.
As a regional show the Summit North lends itself to high quality visitors from the north of England and even Scotland! Highnet and Net Data Tel made it across the border and both had a cracking show.
Jamie Sword, Marketing Manager at Highnet said “This was HighNet’s first time exhibiting at the Convergence Summit North and it was definitely a worthwhile investment. We exhibited alongside our partner SSE and our main aim was to promote our network and partner programme. We are also looking to promote our brand and range of services within the Channel and the summit was an ideal vehicle for that. Over the two days we spoke to a good number of promising leads. From those opportunities we can already say that the show proved extremely valuable to us and we are now considering exhibiting at Convergence Summit South later in the year.”
Craig Busst from City Numbers was also a newbie to the event, “As a virgin exhibitor we didn’t know what to expect from the show. What we did get was the opportunity to meet lots of our existing resellers which would have taken us weeks to drive all over the country. We also met some very exciting prospects who are interested in adding international phone numbers to their portfolio. A very worthwhile 2 days!”
There were a few changes to the show this year with the introduction of some snazzy technology. Prior to the show we launched a web tool called Connect which allowed exhibitors and visitors to arrange appointments during their time in Manchester. Although a relatively new tool those who used it found it to be extremely useful.
We also introduced an audience interaction tool for our popular seminar sessions! Every member of the audience was given a voting pad which enabled speakers to engage with attendees and provide valuable insight into sessions. The results of the audience votes were instantly displayed on screen and provided many interesting points of debate. One of our exhibitors and speakers particularly enjoyed this high level of audience participation, Trefor Davies from Timico said “We had a bit of fun with this but one specific question stood out for me. That was ‘Is your company recruiting right now?’ 29% of the audience said no they weren’t but a staggering 65% said they were recruiting and a further 5% said they had plans to. That’s 70% of business in the communications market taking on new staff.”
Trefor continued “We also heard that although the market for hosted VoIP slowed down last year the SIP trunk sector continues to shoot up with a 25% growth in the second half of 2012. Over half the audience were selling SIP trunks and half said they were selling more SIP than ISDN which I believe may well be the case at Timico now. Those that don’t sell SIP need to take a hard look in the mirror. There is going to come a time where ISDN isn’t around.”
Another new addition to the show was the Technology Round Tables. The idea was to allow resellers to sit down in a more intimate session and have a conversation with an industry expert and other resellers. Although some topics were more popular than others the sessions that were well attended were invaluable for participants.
Steve Jagger of Quickline found the roundtable sessions particularly useful “It was good to not only engage with the host of the roundtable but also with other resellers to see what their experiences were in selling this technology”
One of our hosts, Paul Taylor from Voiceflex, commented “The technology round table format introduced at the northern summit worked extremely well, hosting the SIP Trunk table on the 2nd day covering two sessions, each session was full with an interesting mix of people from both voice and data back grounds, selling or looking to sell SIP services to their customers and potential customers. Comms Business has their finger on the pulse knowing what technology interests the Channel.”
As always members of the Channel use the Convergence shows to launch new services and technology, this year was no different. Griffin used the show this year to launch their new service EVERYETHERNET.com which is a new portal for dealers which allows them to sell Ethernet leased line services whilst cutting out the hassle of billing, circuit delivery and fault management. The champagne corks were popping on day one to celebrate the launch and Cherie Howlett, Head of Marketing, commented. “The show has been steady for us today. There has been some new faces, some old faces, but it is going well for us. The new launch has been well received too. We are fixing a problem for people, there are a lot of dealers out there that want to sell Ethernet but don’t want to take on the risk of a long term contract. With us they can get still the commissions and not take on the risk.“
Jeff May of Konftel was launching a new UC product “We had a great show as we were launching our new UC Conferencing phone the Konftel 55 series and the interest from the Channel was tremendous. The timing was perfect for us to make a new product launch and to exactly the right audience whose feedback to us was that they really appreciated the opportunity to see and discuss something so innovative.”
Paul Barnet of ICUK.net used a Ferrari to pull in the visitors to his stand this year and it seemed to work well for him. “We have not only got a pot full of cards we have also got some really useful leads. We have our new branding out today so we are now known as ICUK.net. We have also launched a invoicing and billing platform here which has gone down well. It’s an automated platform which doesn’t just work for ICUK services but it can bill third party solutions as well. When we talk to people they always tell us billing takes up too much of their time so we have made that simpler and quicker to do.”
Barnet continued “We were cautious about coming up here through the feedback we had got from other people. In the end, we have a great brand with some pretty unique tools. To promote that you need to get out and have a presence here. So far I would say that in terms of quality leads the north is just as good as the southern show.”
It has been a whirlwind of success for Coms Plc this year and Tim Loveday, Sales Director of Indirect Channel commented “The show was actually really successful for us, bearing in mind that the northern show is usually much quieter than the southern one, we actually picked up a number of decent leads and done a lot of valuable networking.
“The main objective for us this time was to back up the advertising we have been doing over the last few months and really establish Coms as a serious player in the Channel. We also wanted to pick up leads as normal. I think we did a good job of achieving this and the brand was extremely well received. We took in somewhere around 100 leads however it is much more quality rather than quantity that we were looking for. If we convert 15% of what we took in, at the larger end, I will be happy.
Tim concluded “The show seemed to have more focussed, quality resellers there this year rather than lots and lots of people trying to sell to the people that had paid for stands, this made it feel much more productive.”
Over on the Daisy coffee lounge Garry Growns told us “Our lounge area is working well for us. We’ve had a lot of really positive feedback and there are a lot of networking opportunities here for us. We have had the girls walking around handing out our promotional material and that has attracted people to the lounge. We have announced our new unlimited product from BT and TalkTalk, which is priced really aggressively, and have also got a new mobile wholesale tariff out, both of which have been getting a lot of interest. “
Back to back
There were a number of regulars at the show this year who have refined their approach and know exactly how to work the event. M247 were back in force and had their secret weapon to bring in the visitors. Paul Silars, Sales Director commented “This was our second showing at the Convergence Summit North and this year’s show is far busier than last year. Maybe it’s the fact that our stand has a particularly special crowd-puller in the shape of the very beefy race car we are sponsoring throughout the British Touring Car Championships 2013 season. The car has certainly caused quite a lot of interest as it sports the message “Turbocharged Internet”.”
Sillars noticed one important change in the 2013 show and says “this time last year we were a relatively unknown player in the Convergence Channel market but now, after 12 months of developing business in this sector, everyone knows who we are and people have commented that we’ve grown a lot as a company. This year we are taking many more enquiries for our broader services and not simply from resellers. The show has been very successful for us and we have so far doubled the sales leads compared to last year”. Are these increased leads demonstrating a bit more confidence in business development after such a protracted downturn in the UK economy?
Darren Farnden of Entanet is no stranger to the northern event “We have been at every Convergence Summit North since it started and I think it is great that the Channel still visits the show. We have seen shows come and go and I am glad that this one is still going strong.Our objectives coming in are twofold. Firstly we wanted to make new contacts and show people what we are up to and also to maintain our presence here in the north. Compared to previous years I think the show is better which reflects the show is well established.
Farnden continued “Through both the North and Southern shows we have seen a growing awareness in the Channel around what they want and what they think they need. It is interesting from the conversations we are having that the resellers are really trying to find their niche. They are really trying to leverage their relationships and different experiences in different markets. “
We caught up with Chris Pearson on the Telepliant stand and he told us “The show has gone very well for us. We have been here in the past and we have come out here with an aim to gain wholesale resellers. The people that have come to the stand have been interested and I would class them as very good leads. I am expecting a high conversion.
“This is a smaller show than the southern event but I actually think there are more professional people at this event. Here there are more people that come with a purpose to do business. “
Katie Ireland, Marketing manager from SSE commented “The show has been really good, this is our second year now and we went for a bigger stand so we could bring along our partners and showcase more of our product set. The first time around we were having a lot of introduction type conversations but now more people know who we are so we are having more meaningful conversations around our products.
There are a lot of high quality people here and we have been talking to them about our new strategy to improve our network. We have a great network but we are really concentrating on that last mile because it can make all the difference to the services you deliver along the network.”
Richard Bligh, Head of Marketing at Gamma Commented “ We got more leads than we did last year and the round table that Steve Ashley Brian did on SIP was absolutely packed. There was a decent amount of traffic on the stand too.
Richard continued “From yesterday I would say the main takeaway for us would be the huge interest in SIP still. We think of SIP as a fairly well established technology but actually to a lot of people it is still quite new. “
The northern show is still seen as a place to do business but many of our exhibitors take the opportunity to connect with existing customers and really cement their presence in the Channel.
Laura Joseph, Head of Channel Marketing at BT Wholesale said “We’ve had a good show, and it’s been fantastic having the BT Next Generation Access Fibre bus here on the stand. It has attracted a lot of attention and it is a great way of demonstrating our Ethernet and Broadband services to customers, because they can see how everything works and connects in a live environment!
“The show has been a good opportunity to catch up with some of our existing customers who are based outside of London in addition to meeting new faces – we have had a lot of interesting conversations and will be following up with those as soon as possible. Kris Barker’s key note speech on Fibre Broadband was a great success and, overall, we are pleased to have had these 2 days in Manchester to connect with our customers and demonstrate our commitment to the Channel.”
When asked why he was in Manchester this year James Emm, CEO of Oak simply said “To eat the pies! They have fantastic pies! I come up north for the pies.”
Emm continued, “All joking aside, we are here every year to have a presence. This year we have had a lot of discussions but all with existing customers which is important to us. I probably had 20 to 30 discussions with people today which is impossible in any other environment. We are the only call recording/ logging company here but because we have quite high market share we are treading water here in quite a healthy manner. I think we will be back next year.”
Annette Reynolds, Ingram Micro commented “It’s been very useful to be here, this is a great networking event. One major interest we have had is around Lync, which is a bit of a buzzword right now, also the work we do with Sangoma and Shoretel has attracted interest.
“I would say the conversations I have had have been high quality and we will come away from this event with some new engaged partners which is great but the main aim was to highlight the extent of our portfolio and to make sure existing partners start to engage with areas of technology that they aren’t already offering. The show has really helped get across the Ingram portfolio and help resellers take advantage of our end to end solutions.”
Annette finished with “This is a different audience to the southern show and although it isn’t as big as the south it’s still important for us to engage with the northern resellers.”
Day one was topped off with a great night at the Manchester Comedy Store where Channel players could mix in a relaxed atmosphere over a few beers. The comedy was a roaring success as always and as usual members of the crowd were picked on for the slightest discrepancies in their appearance. Our very own editor Ian Hunter was affectionately named the Fonz after he bowled up in a leather jacket! Bart Delgado, MD of Akixi, made the fatal mistake, along with many others, of nipping to the gents halfway through show and was suitably lambasted when he failed to find his way out of the auditorium! The evening was topped off with some live music and dancing which was warmly received after long day. I didn’t see a hypnotist in the venue but there must have been one as several members of the Channel seemed to be under the impression they can actually dance!
We would like to take this opportunity to thank all those that supported the northern show and made it a success. Here’s to next year!