Ballarat Trade Fair Consultancy (BTFC) is an SME company based in Ballarat, Victoria, with a web-based operation that assists Australian companies in exhibitions at overseas trade fairs. BTFC arranges floor space at the trade fairs, as an agent for the trade fair managers. BTFC also assists companies in organising the construction of exhibition stands for the fairs, if required. BTFC provides further value-added services, for fees, to the exhibiting companies by arranging their travel and accommodation during fairs, organises marketing material for the trade fair (or for distribution to current and potential clients before a fair), and can arrange hospitality (food, drinks and staff) for the exhibitors to offer theirs visitors. BTFC also organises tickets for Australian-based visitors to the trade fairs and are paid a commission for each ticket sold.
BTFC is a small owner-operated business with capitalisation of $A200K, annual sales of $A100K (increasing at 10 percent per annum), and net profits of 40 percent of total sales. The owner, Ms Holt is university educated and has 20 years of industry experience. However, with ever-changing industry and global business environments, the future of BTFC is uncertain.
The main business activities of BTFC relate to marketing trade fairs to Australian businesses, organising details of contracts for exhibitors, selling visitor tickets for each trade fair and co-ordinating all these activities with the trade fair managers in Europe and South-East Asia. BTFC has a broad network of government, industry and business-level contacts and engage in extensive marketing campaigns (mainly by letters, brochures/flyers and phone calls, which are all time-consuming and expensive activities). All contracts must be signed by the management of the exhibiting companies and BTFC is responsible for ensuring all details are complete, correct, and sent to the overseas trade fair managers before deadlines. BTFC knows that many of their contacts and many of the businesses they target for marketing purposes are already online.
BTFC receive payment directly from the exhibitors: a deposit to exhibit at a Trade Fair is taken when a contract is made, and the balance of fees to exhibit and for other value-added services is paid before the fair begins. BTFC also receives direct payment of commissions from the trade fair managers for visitor tickets and exhibitor floor space sales.
To promote the business, BTFC also has some branded merchandise available for sale (e.g. mugs, mouse mats, key rings, etc.) and also sell merchandise relevant to each trade fair (caps, badges, pens, etc.), which are bought by BTFC from the trade fair managers for sale to the exhibitors.
BTFC has very close working relations with graphic designers, printers and mail-out companies, and with merchandising companies, who each support the marketing activities of BTFC. Supplier relations are all by word-of-mouth (which has led to some confusion and delivery of incorrect designs, printing or products), while exhibitor contracts are managed using traditional post, email and facsimile transmission of documents.
Ms Holt is keen to improve efficiency in marketing and communications, to expand ticket and merchandise sales, which are potentially very profitable for BTFC, and to improve relations with supply partners and exhibitors. To do this Ms Holt is considering the creation of new online channels for marketing, sales, and for improved communication and collaboration with exhibitors, trade fair managers and supply-chain partners.
You have been called upon as an Internet and management consultant. BTFC wants to know how e-business technologies could be used to improve the company’s operations. The company is keen to leave as much open as possible you have been told that it is a ‘clean sheet’ strategy but cannot consume more than half the profits of next year’s business. The owner, Ms Holt, needs a report from you with a specific brief, and a general design and functionality of a proposed e-business system.
Your e-business proposal should address:
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