Tuesday, March 18, 2008


Once you have done a few, you come to realise that there are certain inevitabilities about tradeshows.

One is that in the last few hours of the event, a smart, besuited lad or lass (or three) will saunter up and be incredibly concerned about how well it has all gone, and hence interested 'how it was for you?'. It's was only after a a couple I sussed that these were the advance guard for next year's sales.

I suspect my stock answer is hard to read, being 'I'll tell you when the cheque clears...'. Because you sure as heck are not going to commit until you figure out if being there resulted in anything to cover the time and money it cost... plus a bit on top to make it worthwhile.

And I defy most to know that, short of a guy whipping out his chequebook on the stand and making a purchase on the spot.

The best one gets (or at least I do), is 'a sense'.

So... what was my sense here? Short answer: No idea.

Unless you are odd, you are there to get in front of a person who will like your product or service enough to want to buy it. And I am pretty odd, having done several of these with such a vague offering (Junkk.com) that it was hard for anyone to know what to do with it. At least this time we had RE:tie. And in combo they did great. Our Steptoe-like stand was like no other, and certainly attracted many who were intrigued. This presented the opportunity to chat on re:use in general, and then close with the RE:tie. And one has to presume anyone who devotes the time and cost to visit 'Innovative Packaging/ECOPACK' must be quite keen on, well, innovative or eco-packaging.

Being 'co-located', there were in fact three distinct but complementary events running concurrently. At one end was Innovative Packaging, at the other ECOPACK, and in the middle
Packtech & Contract Pack. Hence our main interest was our end and t'other end, as the bit in the middle was mainly big machines sticking stuff on or in things. And we presumed our audience would come to us for the same synergistic reasons.

So... who came? Well, the reason for the stand was to capture the Heads of Marketing, PR, Production and CSR of the likes of Tesco, Unilever and Kelloggs. Sadly, they did not seem to make it. But all those companies' logos are on the cards of folk who did stop by. The key is whether they are senior or motivated enough to turn their interest and enthusiasm (which all were... very) into actual follow-up. But it's a start. There were also the mysterious one. These are folk who don't wear their badges. I have a theory that they are either big shots not wanting to be pestered or minnows who don't want to be seen for what they are so they can nick a free pen and mint. At least one hopes there were some big shots breezing by. Then it's a case of fingers crossed they see what you are doing and bear you in mind. Unlikely.

And finally the media. Not good. I did not get the impression the show was very well attended by anyone, even from the trades, much less the nationals. Which, bearing in mind the interest in packaging these days is odd... and sad. We did get a few visits, but all from overseas design magazines!

As to fellow exhibitors, I was pretty disappointed. Though there were lots of nice folk, there were very few products to float my boat. In the innovative bit there were a few cute designs, but nothing special. And in ECOPACK about 99% were bio/compostable trays. Some worthy... some not so sure. A less than inspiring collection, at least in a reuse sense.

I am having a definite rethink on our ideas-packed stand. Great for educational shows, but to attract a business visit maybe it's time to invest in one of those pull-up Nimlock jobbies and just stick it up with one message and a sample on the table. KISS.

Was it worth it? Hard to say. Between the stand and my speaking there were several score who loved what we're about and with whom who knows what may transpire. And all it takes is one nugget to turn things around and cover the costs.That's the trouble with the old digging for gold thing... unless you keep digging you may miss the seam that lies just a few more feet ahead.

Frankly, our thinking is that it's now time to go personal, and pick up the phone and make appointments. One thing the stand did show was that when people get the 30' elevator they 'get' it and like it. And a phone call and a warm-lead trip is a lot better than standing in a 3x4m void hoping. And for several thousand pounds paid for the stand and logistics, you can make quite a few sales calls.

On an 'in-passing note' , what was interesting is that the NEC has recycling bins in the foyer with four choices of separation (no glass, oddly). Inside, there were a few token cardboard jobs for paper, but as to the rest... chuck it in the bin mate!

There was also a repeat at the end of what I witness time and again with events that claim to be green. With no excuse, but plenty of fair reason in a world dominated by time and cash pressures. As soon as the end bell rang everything got thrown away in the dash to strike stands as quickly as possible and get gone with as little to weigh one down. Of course every part of ours was/is reusable, so I was one of the last to leave. I even tried to get our press kits back, mainly because they are reusable and expensive to make up, but of course they were already in a skip. Frustrating.

And maybe a fair metaphor for the show. A bit too much trying to look green and not enough actually wanting to really be it. But maybe one or two of those visitors will make it worth our whiles to have gone... and us being their the same for them.

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