Vendors raise their antennae, put their fingers to the wind

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Manufacturers used to make regular pilgrimages to Medtrade Spring to sell products. But it's become commonplace, even trite, to note that buying and selling is no longer the primary attraction to the show. So say the major manufacturers.
"For this particular Medtrade, we're trying to learn as much from our customers regarding what they need for their business moving forward," said Larry de la Haba, senior vice president of marketing at Graham-Field. "There's been a lot of talk about CBI, but what direction will they be taking to increase their business, change their business, etc., and what will they need/ expect from their vendor partners is what we are trying to determine."
Prospecting, looking, listening-beyond the realm of the sale, this is what happens at Medtrade. Vendors raise their antennas; they put fingers to the wind. As far as intelligence gathering goes, there's little substitute for the aisles of Medtrade.
And that's what concerns many exhibitors, who are wondering what the defections of such high-profile manufacturers as Invacare and Permobil mean for the fate of the show, and their own participation.
"I am surely concerned about what impact the major manufacturers pulling from the show will have on expo traffic," said Mark Blount, vice president of marketing at Brightree. "So we head to Long Beach uncertain of what kind of attendance to expect but cautiously hopeful we'll again see overflow crowds in our demo theater."
If this event bears any resemblance to past events, Blount expects to demo Brightree to 300 prospects. And they expect another 600 customers at an appreciation event.
"Medtrade Spring has traditionally been an integral part of our overall HME/DME sales and marketing strategy and has always delivered us with a solid return on our investment," he said. "But we will need to see if the value continues in 2008 with what's anticipated to be significantly smaller attendance."
Golden Technologies is prospecting for intelligence as much as anything else.
"We're hoping to see as many dealers as possible," said C.J. Copley, executive vice president of sales and marketing. "We want to talk with them about what's happening in their business as well as show them our product line and the changes we've made to it since the last show."
Show and tell, feedback, edification-manufacturers talk about all of these activities before they talk about writing orders. In fact, Golden believes that it's important to support the show for the sake of bolstering a valuable forum for information sharing.
"We think it's important that we attend the show because we believe it helps support the Medtrade organization so that they can continue to hold educational seminars for dealers," said Copley. HME