The aim of MacroRail was to prove the concept that a successful exhibition for the sector does not need to cost thousands of pounds to the exhibitor and that quality can win over quantity. We were delighted to see at least seven new members joining the Rail Alliance just for the opportunity to exhibit at MacroRail. We were particularly grateful to the companies that brought along equipment to demonstrate, including Trackwork’s Demountable Tamper, which very gracefully dismounts from its low-loader on to the railhead under its own steam, demonstrating great flexibility and effectiveness; additionally, Arc-Gen Hilta brought their on-rail welding equipment – a most compact and quiet solution to the challenge of on-track or track-side welding. New members for the event also included Keltbray Rail who brought their pile-driving equipment to demonstrate and the ease and grace with which these 36-tonne monsters went about their work had to be seen to be believed!
One of the main advantages that MacroRail provided was the abundance of track around the venue – this we feel sets it apart from many of even the most established of rail exhibitions in the show/exhibition calendar. Additionally, we felt it vital to keep the ‘associated costs’ to a minimum for the exhibitor; so, we made sure (by means of a refreshing change for those of you who have had to pay £80+ for an electrical socket or £100 per half hour for fork lift activity), that exhibitors were not charged for electricity – each exhibitor had the use of at least one 13A socket – and we provided free teas and coffees all day and even fork lift was offered free of charge. Moreover, the occasion enabled members and visitors alike to see the potential offered by the Long Marston site to their business, whatever sub-sector they were working in. We have for some time now assisted several members in proving and evaluation trials, photograph opportunities for PR work, the provision of meeting and training facilities for consortia or member companies and so on. We see all these activities as part of our core offering in terms of Rail Alliance membership and a true benefit to our members.
Back to MacroRail 2011, with a ‘flash to bang’ time of less than three months, we had set ourselves quite a challenge – but a determined approach by all in the Rail Alliance saw it come to fruition, providing an exhibition opportunity for our members (importantly, at no cost to them) in a live, working rail environment. Through collaborating with other businesses on site at the Long Marston Business Park – not least the innovative use of existing warehouse accommodation – we have proved that, to quote one of General Colin Powell’s famous rules, “It can be done!” In particular, we are very grateful to the CEO of Motorail UK (Ruth Flack) and the MD of Motorail UK (Steve Dunmore) and their team for all their hard work on our behalf, both during the preparation for the event and on the day. Our grateful thanks also go to Richard Popple, the site manager of the Long Marston Business Park, for his team’s efforts in smoothing the flow of exhibitors and visitors alike through the main gate.
It is always difficult to put a value on any exhibition; indeed, that factor alone provided the challenge for us to seek to rewrite the rules of this particular game in an attempt to come up with a ‘value-based’ concept of exhibiting. The combined marketing effort of the event by the members, as well as the Rail Alliance’s targeted marketing to influential contacts in the industry ensured that the majority of visitors to MacroRail were informed decision-makers as opposed to those from the well-intentioned ‘tyre kicker’ fraternity. So, to answer the exam question of: “How much business was done then?” … the majority of our members reported having received good quality leads (including one member getting a strong lead into the automotive sector); additionally, we have had feedback from a handful of our members where aggregating the value of their potential orders would exceed £1 million – itself proof positive that the concept does work.
Throughout the day, there was also the opportunity for typical Rail Alliance ‘Four Walls Working’ with many members seeing each others’ products and services for the first time with – importantly – plenty of time and space to learn more about each other’s capabilities and requirements. So, we are particularly pleased, but not surprised, that the initial feedback we have received indicates that a significant number of members reported doing business within the four walls. Importantly, such is the range and diversity of our membership, there was little or no chance for ‘own goals’ where, as can happen at larger events, companies battle with competitors to secure the same leads.
The planning for MacroRail 2012 is already underway and, with 12 months to plan next year’s event, the concept can be fully developed and we look forward to partnering with other clusters with a simple, common philosophy that underpins everything we do as an organisation – the staging of ‘low cost/high value’ business development opportunities.