Since returning from InfoComm 2014, I’ve read a lot about #AVSelfies, booth babes, absentee exhibitors, and the ‘problems with 4K’. But I’ve seen little written about the success or failure of the show from an audio visual business perspective and I think its time someone talked about why many of us were there.
We flew ten people to Las Vegas this year; fed and housed them, paid for their courses, and the astonishing number of taxi chits accumulated crisscrossing the Strip to the many ‘free’ vendor events. Was it a lot of money? Sure. But not nearly as much as it cost the company in lost billable hours and productivity during one of the busiest months of an integrator’s year.
Now, as all the credit card bills and expense reports are beginning to trickle in, we’re beginning to identify the specific takeaways – or ROI – from our significant investment in InfoComm. This includes compiling individual reports from each attendee, arranging for test equipment, follow-up webinars or sales calls from manufacturers, and scheduling business strategy sessions. Here are the questions we asked to determine our InfoComm ROI:
Will We Increase Sales?
✓ Yes. This year our team was on the hunt for everyday products that were simpler, more reliable, less expensive, and more efficient — all of which are compelling reasons for customers to buy now and buy more, and center in on what the actual technology accomplishes for an end user. By focusing on what customers really want and need, we identified a number of exciting net-new sales and market opportunities at the show that will increase both our revenue and our profitability in the coming year.
(I’m sure you’ll forgive me for not sharing our favorites. AV is, after all, a business; we all have many competitors, and the ability to offer compelling solutions first or better or more cost effectively has been a key factor in our ongoing success.)
Will We Reduce Costs?
✓ Yes. We found both new and existing products that will help us do our jobs easier, faster, more reliably, and at a lower cost. More important were the conversations with progressive AV manufacturers about changing the industry’s prevailing business model from “any site costs associated with our product failures are your responsibility” to “if we make it, we’ll stand behind it 100% and cover all your costs.” More manufacturers are identifying warranty terms and service response policies as key sales differentiators and relationship builders, which will go a long way towards reducing everyone’s project costs and improving everyone’s profitability.
Will We Improve Performance?
✓ Absolutely. While some pundits view the new products at InfoComm 2014 as evolutionary, rather than revolutionary, we were ecstatic with the lineup. Manufacturers have been listening to integrators and are now offering the configurations and features, sizes and colors, styles and options we’ve been asking for. The audio all sounds better. The processors are faster, the bandwidths broader, the resolutions higher, the colors deeper, the industrial designs more stylish, and the costs more stable or lower. And there were, dear pundits, also some absolutely brilliant new products and technologies scattered throughout the outer galaxies and remote star systems of the exhibition floor.
Can We Do Better Next Year?
✓ I hope so. With over 900 exhibitors across nearly a half million square feet, and abundant educational and networking opportunities, InfoComm is a huge show to get through in only three days – even with 10 people sharing the load.
Here are some simple ideas for exhibitors I believe would improve our overall ROI and show experience next year:
- Provide more assisted listening systems for large group tours. Cisco made it easy for us to hear — and for their representative to speak — by outfitting us with simple Listen Technologies RF receivers.
- Invest in much better pre-show booth staff and sales rep training. Reps with less than 24 hour’s product familiarity wasted a lot of our time, which we resent. Start training by video at least a week or two prior to the show. Print or digitally publish comprehensive new product reference guides they can study. It will stop making their front line relationship people look like unimportant afterthoughts (or idiots) in front of their (and your) customers.
- Move ‘hospitality’ off the show floor or don’t take sales appointments when the bar is open. We can afford to buy our own beer – but they can’t afford to offend customers like us (as one notable manufacturer did) who can’t get a comprehensive booth tour because of the crowds of freeloaders.