Although some attendees met strong prospects and had good experiences, some others felt this year’s Channel Expo offered a mixed bag, falling short of the mark when it came to their expectations.
Sara Yirrell, editor of CRN, says that although many preferred the London venue, Expo also clashed with a larger IT show, held in Birmingham. Others mentioned a disconnect between the type of exhibitor and the type of visitors attracted over the two days.
“These things may mean a rethink and refocusing of the show next year – so suggestions and comments will be gratefully received by Incisive Media’s events and marketing teams,” Yirrell said.
Innovation on show
However, some innovative products and services on show were attracting more attention than others – proving again that taking some care deciding what will be on your stand may pay greater dividends.
Sunde is an 18-month-old product, a £35 box that lets you run 40 PCs for the price of one. Bash Ali, managing director of the UK company, says he talked to lot of people who were showing genuine interest.
“It is a completely new concept,” Ali said. “We are looking for distributors and resellers. We do direct sales at the moment. The PC today is too powerful, so most resources are idle in normal office use.”
Datafort was attracting attendees with its fixed-price managed online back-up service. Marcie Terman, business development director at Datafort, says most online back-up services are affordable at first, but climb in price as storage needs expand.
“The data back-up we can handle; the channel partners are getting to service the customer and charge for that service as appropriate,” Terman said.
Todd Sharwell, director of Locatorz, says its locating application, which uses Ordnance Survey data, is finding interest with businesses primarily.
“We have sold it to a company that has got van distribution where the guy said he was currently paying for all this efficiency stuff, petrol use and so on, but all he wanted was to be able to tell where the vans were. He was spending £500 a month on a tracking application, and he is now spending £5 a month for just what he needs,” Sharwell said.
As always, there was a small but focused Continental contingent.
Stefan Schlosser, international sales manager at Berlin router and switch maker Funkwerk, says its appliances stand out for their manageability and low maintenance requirements.
“There were not as many people here as we would like, but the ambience was fine. There were fewer visitors but more good opportunities,” Schlosser said.
Although some 3,000 pre-registrations were received for the show, footfall appeared to be slightly down on 2009 on the two days. Nevertheless, everyone we spoke to indicated that the venue was a great improvement over Birmingham – not just for the central and well-supported location but the layout and organisation.
Useful conversations, some deals
Furthermore, many exhibitors were pleased with the contacts they made and the potential deals that were discussed, despite the slightly smaller number of attendees overall.
Matt Dyson, sales manager at Seiko Instruments, says it launched four new products at Expo and new labels.
“We want to build on our success with our smart-label printers,” Dyson said. “We have got some tender opportunities.”
Rupesh Vara, channel manager at Synaxon, had by lunch-time on Thursday done another 30 deals with resellers wanting to use its Egis-Ecom platform.
“We are looking at SoHos and a couple of SMEs. It is about the bespoke, tailored service offering, being able for instance to locate stock and use the tool as a procurement portal,” Vara said.
Guy Meynell, national retail sales manager at Bullguard, says Expo always proves valuable to it in its search for new customers, but focusing in particular upon the consumer end of the market.
“It’s from 1-3 licences, but got good results from resellers last year,” Meynell said. “Our revenue share programme means you will receive 25 per cent of the online revenue your customers generate over the life of the product, on top of 25 per cent of any additional online back-up they buy, on top of your margins.”
Richard Clothier, channel marketing manager at Exponential-e, says it is seeking new resellers for its virtual private LAN service (VPLS).
“It is layer 2 but it is Ethernet, so you can switch to wherever you like with ultra-low latency,” Clothier said. “We saw about 10 people [on the Wednesday morning] who have said they are definitely interested.”
Jessica Smith, distribution channel sales manager at D-Link, says it used Expo to launch its new partner programme.
“There is something for everybody, with four tiers,” Smith said. “I don’t think we were managing the old one as well as we could.”
Gemma Telford, head of marketing at Ingram Micro, says that despite the show being relatively quiet, it had good feedback from attendees on its 30-vendor 256m2 Ingram Micro Zone stand.
“We have had good quality visitors, some interesting conversations and business. People are getting the right sort of people,” Telford said.
Seminars not well-attended
The seminar programme was not as well attended as at Expo 2009, with most sessions lucky to be half-full. However, various interesting, informative and inspirational talks were given – not least by Vistage’s Grant Leboff, of the Intelligent Sales Club.
Leboff said you have to be sure that what you are providing in the first instance delivers the value people seek. This is a big ask – as most products and even services today are in fact commodities, with the actual value of the deal to the customer being found somewhere else -- and also changes over time.
On top of that, traditional advertising and marketing techniques no longer work. You need to engage your prospects over time, and deliver them value, and then – maybe – you will get them to spend.
“And what you have today is a scarcity of attention; it is really hard to grab someone’s attention,” Leboff said.
Another Vistage bureau member, Malcolm Smith, gave a breezy and practical session on the Wednesday on how to negotiate better deals – something many of us wish we were better at.
“One rule is don’t open first with an offer. If you open first, you are in danger of leaving money on the table,” Smith told attendees. “Always try to get something from them first: ask what it is worth to them.”
In general, the Vistage bureau speakers were skilled and knowledgeable, managing to carry off that difficult balancing act of delivering relatively dry, business-oriented information while keeping the audience alert and engaged.
Others thought that for next year’s show a rethink might be in order. A perceived disconnect between the type of exhibitor and attendee’s needs was cited by several industry players.
Eben Owen, IT and distribution sales manager at Emerson Network Power, says he does feel that Emerson’s stand attracted a lot of tyre-kickers in 2010.
“Although that does not necessarily mean anything for the business,” he added.
Richard Allison, head of the IT distribution channel at Ricoh, says he thinks the show in 2010 was most of value if treated primarily as a networking event.
“But people are coming in expecting something different to what they get. For example, we had a lot of people pitching to us on the stand – rather than the other way around,” he said.
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