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Koelnmesse: Taking control of leads and opportunities around the globe

Explore Koelnmesse’s journey with SAP

Koelnmesse GmbH is a leading name in trade fairs and operates thousands of events globally each year. An expert in cultivating lasting relationships with exhibitors, much of the company’s success relies on connectivity. So, Koelnmesse used integrated cloud solutions from SAP to turn first-time event participants into returning exhibitors.


for lead generation and opportunities, instead of several days.


lists saved weekly in communication with sales partners and call centres.


creation and processing of opportunities and leads.

The trade show business is undergoing breakneck transformation. We aspire to be right at the forefront of this development. This entails digitalising all processes around the customer as far as possible.

Stefan Kranefeld
Vice President of Sales
Koelnmesse GmbH

The Challenge

Improving, developing, and refining processes nonstop

In the trade fair business, everything revolves around satisfied exhibitors. That’s why Koelnmesse provides companies with the best possible support before, during, and after the 80 or so trade fairs it organises each year. The sales cycle is tightly timed – everything has to run as efficiently as possible when it comes to creating opportunities and leads, acquiring exhibitors, preparing the hall plan, and supporting exhibitors with appropriate on-site services.


Koelnmesse faces a unique challenge because 72% of exhibitors come from abroad. For a long time, exhibitors could register only by form and Koelnmesse received the registration as a printed or PDF document. The manual registration effort was immense and cumbersome. The company needed a solution that could move customer-related processes to the cloud and automate them.


The first step was to simplify its voucher system – the management of opportunities and leads. This was key, given the volume and diversity of stakeholders, with 54,500 exhibitors from 122 countries. 


“We wanted to simplify the process significantly. Here, cloud solutions are more powerful than lists and open up huge efficiency advantages in international collaboration,” Barbara Arndt, Project Manager, Koelnmesse GmbH, says.


Koelnmesse also wanted to further automate its campaign planning, including automatically transferring exhibitors from past years as opportunities to the next sales cycle. Last but not least, the company dreamed of collaborating more easily with its many sales partners abroad. Koelnmesse hoped the cloud could make it all happen.

The Solution

Fueling the sales cycle with powerful digital insights

Koelnmesse implemented SAP solutions that support each phase of the sales cycle simultaneously.


The cycle begins with the SAP Commerce Cloud solution. Based on SAP Commerce Cloud, Koelnmesse develops a service store that exhibitors can use to conveniently register for a trade fair. The process is simple and, for existing exhibitors, the registration data from the previous year is prefilled.


The registration data flows directly to the SAP Sales Cloud solution to be processed. With intuitive dashboards, employees maintain an overview of the current status of events – both within Germany and internationally.


Automatic data transfer makes it easier for employees to identify cross-selling and up-selling opportunities. After this, Koelnmesse can prepare an offer through SAP solutions. Once the quote is approved and any queries from the exhibitor have been clarified, nothing stands in the way of a successful trade show. Then, the cycle begins again, with every customer’s master data transferred automatically.


“The integration options of the various cloud solutions from SAP make it easy to implement even more complex requirements,” Martin Heinz, Technical Project Manager, Koelnmesse GmbH, says. “This enables us to evaluate information in real time at any point along the entire process chain and to intervene in a timely manner, even at short notice if necessary.”

The Result

Garnering support for transformation with improvement after improvement

“By continuously using cloud solutions from SAP, we are always up to date, which benefits us in the long run,” Achim Stolzki, Central Area Manager for IT & Organisation, Koelnmesse GmbH, says.


Koelnmesse and its subsidiaries work with many international sales partners. “Onboarding new partners is now considerably easier,” Heinz says. “And, of course, there are huge benefits to not sending Excel lists back and forth, with fewer errors and a faster, more efficient process. Those processes used to be error-prone, and reports were often delayed. Another benefit is that external call centres can now be much better integrated into the sales cycle.”


Agents make calls from the lists supplied – and these no longer have to be prepared manually. Instead, they’re extracted from SAP Sales Cloud.


Meanwhile, interactive dashboards display the status of acquisitions around the world in detail. The company can take commissions for the agencies from the sales data in SAP Sales Cloud.


“Through the ongoing development of cloud solutions from SAP, we have been able to steadily ramp up acceptance among the workforce,” Arndt says. “Our colleagues are clearly very satisfied with the tools and very much appreciate the support.”

Future Plans

Thinking ahead for the hybrid trade fair business

SAP Sales Cloud and SAP Marketing Cloud are running smoothly, and the processes are mature," Patrick Wölke, Business Unit Manager Digital, Koelnmesse GmbH, says. “But digitalisation continues, and we are now seeking to optimise other areas on the IT side.”


The plans for SAP Commerce Cloud are particularly advanced. Koelnmesse has been using the solution for only a few months, but it’s already looking to bring more customer groups onto the platform.


The Koelnmesse team also wants to build a customer data cloud, including consent management. This is a platform the company can use to obtain data protection consent from visitors before their data is collected through Web site scripts. And there’s more to come.


Koelnmesse is strategically repositioning itself. “It wasn’t just the global pandemic and lockdown that signaled that the future of the trade fair business lies very firmly in hybrid events – or, in other words, physical events that are extended digitally,” Wölke says. “Our first hybrid trade fairs have been a resounding success, and we are now building upon this. Cloud solutions from SAP give us the flexibility to reorientate our business model in this direction.” 

SAP helps Koelnmesse run better

Key business outcomes and benefits

  • Single location for exhibitor logon through a customer portal that autofills important information from past events
  • Reduced effort required to complete exhibitor applications through automation
  • Smoother operations across the exhibition process, resulting in return exhibitors
  • Less time to generate leads and opportunities (from days down to just hours)

Featured solutions and services

  • SAP Sales Cloud supports digital sales processes to enable customer-centric engagements.

About Koelnmesse

Koelnmesse GmbH is one of the top 10 leading trade fair organisers in the world. The company operates approximately 80 trade fairs, exhibitions, and guest and congress events featuring one million participants, as well as 2,000 smaller events in Germany and around the world.

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