Friday, January 11, 2008

CES Report 3 - Marketing Thoughts

As with all shows, the greatest value is in the "hallway" conversations. Here the hallways are filled with slot machines and juggling bartenders.

At one point, we were waiting for Dave Sobel. Katie Mazek sat down at a 2 cent slot machine because she needed to rest her weary feet. Within ten seconds, a hostess came by and asked if we wanted drinks.

Wait. We're not gambling. If we were, these are the two cent slots. In fact, we're on our way to dinner, so we're not going to gamble.

When I relayed this story to Dave he proceeded into a soliloquy about service delivery. All the big casinos have great, personalized customer service around everything in the casino area. These casinos serve thousands of strangers a day. But they never make you wait for anything. It's easy to do business with them.

I don't have a thousand clients. I don't even have 500! How can I make them happy to turn over their business to my company?


One of my hobbies at these shows is to ask the boothfolk why they're here. Most of them are confused by the question. They certainly don't know the answer. On the edges (in the cheaper booths), there are more owners. They frequently tell you why they're at the show, even without being asked.

The most memorable yesterday was the guy who said "My first goal is to sell you parts. If you do that, I'll try to sell you on the inventory management software for the parts."

Perfect. Easily defined and therefore easily quantified. Success has been defined, and when he leaves the show, he'll know if he's been successful.

Compare this to big vendors (HP, Intel, MS). They say stuff like "We're showing off our new goodies so you'll know all about what's out there."

Useless. As a stockholder, I'd rather you didn't show up if that's the goal. Realistically, I'll never talk to the person at the show who knows what the goals are.

I hope there's some goal.

In the middle are big but not monstrously big companies.

The best of these was Why are you at the show? "Well," she says somewhat conspiratorially, "It looks like we're here to give away free domain names. But really, we're scanning badges so we can filter people out and sell them services that are appropriate for them. And if we can win over some resellers, that's the ultimate goal."

WOW. Do you own the company? No?

Well, tell your boss I said to give you a raise.

It is extremely rare that an employee will have that level of understanding of the marketing process, and their role in it.

[ Side note: Almost no one at this show did any screening. They gave away the give-aways to everyone who walked past. They talked to everyone without screening. In other words, they went through their sales spiel with people who can't do anything more than nod politely. In the process, I'm sure they missed many opportunities to actually engage people who need the product. ]

I may have the only hobby without a dedicated yahoo group.


Final note: The hottest product on display was Guitar Hero. Not the game, directly. But indirectly, it owned the show because it was used to demonstrate monitors, screens, controllers, guitars, etc. In other words, when people were thinking about a cool thing to use to showcase their product, they all came up with Guitar Hero. Very cool.

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