Can vendors afford not to go?

Friday, August 31, 2007

Orlando, Fla. -- The annual industry-wide trade show is a fixture on every vendor's calendar, lodged in place by the cement of decades. This year's no different. Vendors may grumble about the cost of attending Medtrade, but they'll troop to Orlando as usual, intent upon deepening relationships with customers, generating leads and showing off new products.
"I don't believe any vendor serious about this market can miss Medtrade," said Spencer Kay, president of Fastrack Healthcare Systems. "It is important for clients to be able to talk to key executives of the company and see the newest products, something that most providers do not have the opportunity to do during the year."
That's the the feeling at Computer Applications Unlimited: "I believe we must have a presence at both Medtrade and Medtrade Spring. We still generate business, generate new interest and solidify relationships with current clients," said Brian Williams, marketing manager at CAU.
But as the specters of squeezed reimbursement and competitive bidding spook providers and threaten businesses like never before, vendors now wonder whether there's adequate cash flow in the provider community. If suppliers start walking, vendors are likely to follow.
The cost of attendance has always hurt, but a looming question always trumped that pain: Can you afford not to go to Medtrade?
"The question may very well be (now), 'Can we afford to go?'" said Barry Steelman, marketing director at Permobil. "There may come a day when our providers are no longer sending personnel to tradeshows in an effort to run their business more efficiently. If we see this trend continue, then it only makes good business sense to spend our dollars in other areas."
For now, Permobil goes. But they, like others, are monitoring the fallout carefully. They notice that Drive Medical is not attending. They're clued in to rumors about other major vendors who may be getting cold feet. But attendance still makes sense. They want the leads, and the opportunity to set up future in-service presentations.
In the old days, Graham-Field banked on Medtrade as an opportunity to write business. No more. Today, they're attracted by the show's ability to function as a forum.
"We consider Medtrade a two-way street," said Larry de la Haba, senior vice president of marketing at Graham-Field. "We need to know what our customers are thinking, what types of programs/support they need to be more successful and what changes they are making to their business and how Graham-Field can fit into their plans."