Have any of you guys who are commercial producers even attended a trade show? I mean, sure we all have... but as vendors? I can't really say I know of any producers who've done that.
We produce lots of television commercials for medical clients (a couple of hospitals, several dentists, a couple of big orthopaedic and sports medicine centers, lots of plastic surgeons).... and the lady who heads the marketing/advertising department at one of our big hospital clients urged us to attended a regional industry show that's coming up. The show is specifically for those in hospital marketing. Not a gigantic show (not thousands of attendees) but she seemed to think it would be a great place to show our stuff.
Anywho, we bit... and signed up to attend this thing next month since the show's not wildly expensive to attend (vendor fees are less than a grand) and within a day's driving distance of us (and at the beach!). We've put together a decent-looking booth... fun graphics with a big plasma monitor to play a continuous demo loop of our medical stuff. The loop has some interspersed narration about our company which the great Peter Thomas was kind enough to do (because Peter is a friend and the nicest man on the planet... plus he's got that perfect "hospital voice"). And we've got DVD demos to give away with nice graphics and company info on the inside cover.
Among the vendors we know there will be a couple of advertising agencies there, but we will be the only production company. When we were trying to decide whether it was worth it to go, we called a couple of the marketing guys at hospitals we knew were going to attend. Invariably they said "I can't really say if anyone else would be interested, but we would certainly like to talk with you."
Just wondering... is there anything that I've not thought of? Can we expect to get many "bites" at an event like this?
Wisdom and advice appreciated as always,
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
Cine-Med, as you may know from reading my blog, attends numerous medical meetings every year. Actually we both attend and organize a few small meetings. I'll give you a few pieces of knowledge:
Meetings for Physicians
Doctors/dentists tend to buy their own video-based materials. If you do custom work for individual practices, show a great demo, but something eye catching and quick - people don't spend more than a few seconds walking past your booth. Think of it like the non-broadcast area of NAB. you can walk past 50 CD printer and video card booths in a few minutes.
You might pass out some DVDs, although they often get filed accordingly. Have a one-sheet brochure to hand out listing your services and approximate prices. If the show has a badge reader, try to scan as many badges as you can and then consider these leads and send some customized letters with followup by phone, within a week of the show.
Meetings for Nurses
Nurses, in general, fall into two categories. Nurses who work for educational hospitals, thus they have nurse educators, and the individual nurses won't buy anything themselves. Most of our nursing sales are by purchase order, not credit card. Then there are nurses who are essentially free agents or freelancers, who still won't buy anything at a show. We sell most of our products by direct mail marketing.
Dentists - I have only worked with one dentist, via a dental implant manufacturer.
Remember that convention halls are loud, so make sure the visuals in your promo tell the story. Your narration may be lost on the passer-by, although the DVD if watched sounds nice.
I probably have more insight, feel free to ask some more questions. Trade shows can be hit or miss. We have been to some duds, and some spectacular ones as well. The duds may not have resulted in many leads, but they are a good way to learn about the industry and potential customers. For example, we went to ASMBS last year, the organization of bariatric surgeons. We did not sell much product and most of the people who inquired about our services were looking for products we did not at the time offer. So your thousand bucks can help educate you about your market, beyond what you have been successful doing thus far.
All of the above being said, our business is threefold. One, we have a large selection of pre-made educational videos and books, marketed to particular segments of individual medical people. Second, we do custom production work, but usually as a result of pounding the pavement and doing sales calls, although you can make contacts at shows like this. And thirdly, we do CME, which is a lot of word of mouth, although shows can be a good place to make contact. It does not hurt to make nicey-nice with some doctors at your area hospitals, in the hopes that your grass roots contacts will trickle up the chain to the marketeers. But you knew that!
Appreciate your insight.
I think this one is going to be a bit different from the average trade show we are used to seeing.
Firstly, it's pretty focused... we are told that only hospital advertising/marketing people will be attending. No doctors, no nurses, dentists, or administrators. I think that will help us focus our message.
Secondly, it's going to be small. Very. Probably less than a couple hundred attendees... I haven't seen the venue, but I'm envisioning a smallish hotel ballroom, not a big convention center exhibit floor. Ergo, I'm thinking (could be wrong) that this may be a quieter affair than the noisy hubbub we usually see at trade shows. That's the one and only reason I made the call to produce a booth video with a narration track... we produce a lot of trade show videos for other people and I always tell them their video needs to be just as effective with the sound down, as people may likely not even be able to hear it. I'm not taking my own advice this time, but I think it's the right call in this specific case.
We have pretty much saturated our market with the medical work available here and know more doctors and medical types than we care to count (and those we don't know seem to know us)... but we are unknown out of our immediate market. We're taking chance on broadening that a bit. Our real goal is not necessarily to get more work... we are very blessed in that we are pretty much always booked up a fair bit in advanced... but my goal is really to get different work... i.e., clients with deeper pockets than might be available in our immediate medium-sized market.
Thanks for your thoughts.... I'm afraid I never read blogs, but I'll try to check yours out when we get some breathing room.
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
So Todd, did you ever attend this trade show? Was it worth it? What was the experience like? Did you book any new business from attending?
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Yes, we indeed attend. It was an interesting experience.
It was a very small show as expected, and probably only a couple of dozen vendors... but the attendees were exactly the kind that we were trying to hit.
I don't know if anything will come of it... we made a lot of contacts and gave out a lot of demos and had a lot of visitors. One advantange of the small show was that we were able to meet with probably every single registered attendee. We didn't exactly sign up anyone for anything concrete... but a large number of them have big 2009 first or second quarter projects that have promised to call us about. We will touch base with them again before the end of the year.
It was a bit of a whirlwind... after committing to go to the thing we had to update our reel, burn a bunch of DVDs, produce a loop demo, and build a booth... which was starting from scratch since we had never even thought about attending a trade show before.
I was pretty proud of our booth itself which was quite a success, and one of the more notable things of the whole show. Every single other vendor had just the usual boring standard "pop up" variety booth. We tried to make ours a bit more fun, turning our 10x10 space into more or less a small living room right out of "Leave it to Beaver" or "I Love Lucy" in keeping with the very retro look that is the trademark of all of our company's graphics. We did buy a cheap used fold-out tradeshow popup off eBay which formed the "back wall" of our "set," but then tricked it out with a bunch of big fun graphics and a few pieces of vintage furniture that we stole from our lobby and conference room (small sofa, coffee table, end table, couple of lamps). A demo loop was playing on a 42" plasma monitor, but we built a facade for it so it looked like an old-fashioned console TV. Tons of people dropped by just to sit on the sofa and have their pictures taken, which was pretty funny.
One of the side benefits of the thing was that we got a good demo reel built. Much like the cobbler whose own children have shabby shoes, our reels were always in need of updating... and this forced us to do that and really do it right. Peter Thomas did a narration track that tied different pieces of it together, and I think it really helped to have a well-known and great-quality national voice like Peter's on it.... give it some legitimacy... ha.
It remains to be seen if any of it pays off. On the upside, it was a cheap show. Even with show registration, travel, hotel, expenses and all... we probably didn't spend more than $5K or so on it. So if we get even one little job out it will have been more than worth it. If not, at least it was a bit of a learning experience.
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.