6:30 am Sunday morning and I’m up ready to fly out of Buffalo, NY, to make my way to Las Vegas for the International CES show via Chicago. By 8 a.m., I arrive at the airport only to be told that the flight has been cancelled (this of course happened after my family drove away).
Two days at the airport and four attempted flights later and I never left the ground. This was the story for many attempting to get to CES this year during one of the worst winter storms to hit the Midwest in decades. Some say trade shows, in general, aren’t worth attending anymore — that CES, in particular, is over-covered by the media, and there is no need to attend. Trying to soak up this opinion, I’ve been living online “watching” events unfold from Las Vegas, and you know what? It’s just not the same as being there.
I can read all about the OLED that curves when you want it to, but without experiencing it, it seems just like another TV to me. My approach to the show is different from some of my colleagues in the press. I attend a lot of conferences (and had many planned for this year). I do this to hear top executives explain their top innovations, and I usually learn a lot more in person than I can ever read about online. For me attending the show is more than products, though, it is about the experience and energy of being there.
The trade show experience is similar to having products and services for your clients to experience in your store or demo room. When a client comes in for an HDMI cable, to ask a technical question, or to learn about a specific new product, do you ask them if you can give them a demonstration? At my company, we became bitter over the years from too many customers misusing our time. After the downturn of 2008, however, I found that I made my best sales after showing clients new product that they didn’t even know they wanted—that they didn’t even know existed.
We can talk about macros and discreet codes all day long, but it is when you press a button on the keypad, remote, or smart device and “things” happen that the customer really grasps the concept of what we can do. Expand your horizon beyond the theater and ask your client what their favorite song is, then wow them by “throwing” it onto a speaker in the shop. Not so long ago I secured a client by playing their favorite song outside as they pulled up to the store. He loved it. I then took the same song and played it in different areas of showroom, letting him experience the simplicity of the system. He signed a contract that day, and ended up being one of the top clients of 2013.
Experiencing CES from home just wasn’t the same as being there.
Back to CES… No written word can explain to you how that pair of headphones transported you to other realms. No article can justly explain mind control (I experienced this last year). Until you experience 4K, you won’t understand the depth and color that it delivers. I am a huge proponent (in case you couldn’t tell) of “the technology experience” and good trade shows can bring this experience to us. When you experience a great technology demonstration, you learn how to provide one for your own clients. Ask industry veterans to recall demos that have stuck with them over time. We want to provide THAT to our clients. They may not be ready for a new system today, but their best friend might, or they could be ready next year. They’ll remember who planted that seed, and they’ll be back.
I challenge you to show more and do more for your potential and current clients in 2014. Give them the experience! Ask for their time. Throw a party. Get them in your shop and show them all the gems that you've discovered. There are so many new and amazing products that the general pubic has never seen and heard. Show them what they’ve been missing.
Heather L. Sidorowicz is project manager/designer for Southtown Audio Video in Hamburg, NY.