kopi-C with Audience Analytics’ Chairman: ‘We catalyse growth for SMEs’

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By Feng Zengkun • 26 Jun 2024 • 0 min read

Diversifying from its media brands to organise exhibitions and business, Audience Analytics has raised its own profile and business. Its chairman and managing director, Datuk William Ng, shares its story.

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When Datuk William Ng co-founded Singapore-listed media and company Audience Analytics in 2002, the term ‘small and medium enterprise’ (SME) was new. “At Audience Analytics’ inception, we identified a critical gap in the market. The concept of SMEs was just emerging, and we saw an opportunity to create a product that would empower these businesses with market insights and growth strategies. Our vision was to be the bridge between SMEs and their potential for success,” says Ng, the firm’s chairman and managing director. 

After launching the SME Magazine in 2007 and other print and online titles subsequently, the firm expanded into organising exhibitions and business awards. It currently has four business segments – namely business media, exhibitions, business impact assessment and recognition, and business intelligence and growth analytics – and operates in 15 markets.

“Our exhibition business predates our media arm, launching in 2002. As our network of sponsors, advertisers, and stakeholders grew, we recognised their need for direct engagement with SMEs and industry professionals. This naturally led us to expand into business awards, creating a comprehensive ecosystem for SME growth and recognition.”

Ng notes that Audience Analytics pioneered business recognition awards in the region, opening new avenues for SMEs. Trailblazing, however, came with its own set of challenges. “We faced a significant talent gap, with virtually no experienced professionals in this niche. Consequently, we invested heavily in developing our in-house capabilities from the ground up – a time-intensive but ultimately rewarding process.”

The company has also differentiated itself through strategic exclusivity. “Our annual SME CEO Forum, for instance, is restricted to chief executives only, not other management roles. This approach elevates our events beyond typical industry gatherings, creating a unique, high-level networking platform.”

Ng adds: “Our goal is twofold: to establish our brands as top-of-mind for our target market and to position them as aspirational. We achieve this by investing significant time and resources into crafting premium experiences at all our events. From the moment attendees arrive, through the event itself, and even in post-event follow-ups, we ensure every interaction reinforces our commitment to excellence.”

An organic path for growth

As Audience Analytics looks to its next stage of growth, its most valuable asset is its network of approximately 400,000 SMEs across various sectors and markets. “While not all are current customers, this extensive reach provides us with unparalleled market access and potential for expansion,” Ng says. 

“Our strong financial position, particularly our cash reserves, sets us apart among our peers on SGX Catalist, positioning us for strategic growth. We're focused on two key investment areas: strengthening our brand portfolio to create a competitive moat and expanding into adjacent businesses. These initiatives will leverage on our extensive network of 400,000 decision-makers across Asia, driving synergistic growth and long-term value creation. By reinforcing our brand presence while diversifying our offerings, we aim to solidify our market leadership and unlock new revenue streams.”

The firm is also one of the first to drive the integration of artificial intelligence (AI) in its industry. “Our unique AI-driven assessment model for our awards programme stands out in the market. This innovative approach allows us to objectively evaluate participating companies by analysing employee feedback, ensuring a data-driven selection of exemplary workplaces.”

Ng added: “Our AI-driven approach offers distinct advantages over traditional nomination-based awards. It eliminates the inherent bias of peer recommendations, where industry participants may have limited insight into other companies' operations. Moreover, this method yields valuable data for benchmarking – allowing companies to compare themselves against industry peers or track their own progress over time. This dual benefit of objectivity and actionable insights sets our awards apart in the market.”

“Our assessment process delivers more than just recognition – it provides actionable intelligence. We offer tailored recommendations to help companies enhance their performance and close competitive gaps. While there's significant demand for our model as a standalone assessment tool, our current focus is on expanding our current products. This strategic approach allows us to accumulate more diverse data points, further refining our model, and ultimately delivering even greater value to our clients.”

Ng adds that Audience Analytics aims to leverage on its existing market presence. The company is focused on expanding its product portfolio, including its prestigious awards, across all its established markets. “This approach not only provides us with a clear, organic growth path, but also enhances value for our clients. As we broaden our reach, award winners gain increased recognition across multiple markets, significantly boosting their competitive position and visibility.”

Of employees and entrepreneurship

As an advocate for employee well-being through its awards programmes, Audience Analytics is committed to exemplifying these principles within its own organisation. “We've implemented comprehensive wellness initiatives, including subsidised gym memberships, smoking cessation programs, and healthy eating campaigns. This commitment to our team's health and work-life balance has been pivotal in maintaining strong employee retention, even amidst the widespread turnover challenges faced by companies across Asia in the post-pandemic years of 2022 and 2023. Our ability to retain staff for a decade or more is a testament to our genuine care for our employees and the positive work environment we've cultivated.”

Ng adds that Audience Analytics takes a nuanced and tailored approach to staff management. “We empower our seasoned employees to exercise leadership in their domains while providing closer support and targeted training for those who are less experienced or need additional support. We recognise that effective leadership isn't one-size-fits-all, but rather requires adaptability to individual strengths and growth areas.”

That being said, Ng encourages all to step up if they have an issue to raise. “We foster an open culture of innovation where every voice matters. From the newest hire to the most senior executive, all employees have direct access to the top management. We actively encourage the sharing of ideas, regardless of their origin within the company. While this approach initially challenged some of our managers, we've maintained it to ensure no potentially transformative idea is prematurely dismissed.”

To further inculcate this entrepreneurial spirit, the firm hosts a number of business transformation sessions in every quarter. “These focused meetings bring together our key leaders and subject matter experts to tackle specific, high-impact topics. For instance, our upcoming session on AI aims to explore its integration across all our business functions—from finance to operations to marketing. This structured approach to innovation ensures we're consistently leveraging cutting-edge ideas to enhance our operational efficiency and market competitiveness.”

Ng emphasises that such innovation is Audience Analytics’ lifeblood and the key driver of its future growth. “We instil a culture of constant evolution across all levels of our company –from senior management to our newest recruits. Even as market leaders, we're committed to continuous reinvention. Our goal is to redefine the game every quarter, ensuring we remain at the forefront of our industry and consistently deliver value to our stakeholders.”

About Audience Analytics

Audience Analytics is a well-established business enabler with a presence in Singapore, Cambodia, China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Macau, Malaysia, the Philippines, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Thailand, United Arab Emirates and Vietnam. With products ranging from printed publications and online portals to exhibitions and business award programs, Audience Analytics partners with business owners to grow their businesses. The Group’s portfolio includes SME Magazine, HR Asia, Capital Asia, Mega Career Fair, SME Solutions Expo, Malaysia Career & Training Fair, Post Graduate Education Fair, ITX Asia, SME 100 Award, Golden Bull Award, HR Asia Best Companies to Work for in Asia Award and CXP Best Customer Experience Award. 

The company’s website is https://audience.asia/

About kopi-C: the Company brew

kopi-C is a regular column by SGX Research in collaboration with Beansprout that features C-level executives of leading companies listed on SGX. These interviews are profiles of senior management aimed at helping investors better understand the individuals who run these corporations.

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