Trade shows or events often serve as a platform for household names and startups alike to showcase their products and grow their network. However, if you’re a startup, you need to be able to identify and weigh the benefits of a big show versus a little show. Tom and Tracy Hazzard share their experience and insight at CES. They provide some points to ponder if you’re planning on showing up at events and trying your luck. Learn where you need to be if you want to educate yourself in 3D printing, as well as what to do when you’re looking for growth in the industry.
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Big Show Vs. Little Show
This is the Ask Us Anything segment.
We’ve had some questions from our audience about some of the events that are going on locally and there are some things have come up about what events are more meaningful, locally and internationally. We get the big events as well but the question that has come up about is which events are better to attend or participate in, a big show or little show.
We are coming off CES so we have that big show perspective we’re coming off of. It’s overwhelming. CES stresses me out.
It’s massive. Although the 3D printing portion of it is bigger than at any regional show may be that we’ve seen. It’s big and it’s connected between those specific 3D printing areas and some of the bigger companies that are in the main area.
That’s what stresses me out about it. If you’re coming for 3D printing, I still question the value of CES because it’s super costly to exhibit there and to even attend that time of year. The hotels are expensive. It’s a pricey time of year to be in Vegas. All in all, it’s a costly event and you have to weigh that against its benefit. The problem is its big fish, little pond, little fish, big pond situation so it depends on your goals.
It doesn’t depend on whether you’re an attendee or an exhibitor to know that aspect. Let’s break that down. Let’s talk as an attendee right now. You want to inform yourself. CES is certainly the biggest. As an attendee, I would think while you can see a whole lot of stuff in a day or two at the show, you could cover all the 3D printing stuff. If you are trying to cover the whole show, you’ve got to be there for more than that. You have a day or two and you can see all those 3D printing companies now some of the smaller companies are not going to be there. What you’re going to see the most of are the larger companies or startups that have a big budget or well-funded startups.
Smart ones that want to be seen like they’re bigger than they are.
It’s an exhibitor thing. You’re treading into the exhibitor aspect.
You’re going to see some that are falsely large.
The downside is it’s an expensive show to attend. If you didn’t plan and get your registration back early, it’s going to cost you $100 or $200 to attend the show and you’ve got to get to Vegas. There’s a cost in that and the hotels are expensive.
I find that unless you have a much more general technology interest as an attendee, you want to see more than only 3D printers. You want to see exercise technology, GPS technology, and the latest big TVs. Unless you want to see all of that, which it’s hard to still see that in a couple of days. Mind you, it’s hard to see that. That show is five days total. It takes you the whole five days to see the whole thing. It’s huge. Unless you have a more generalized interest in consumer electronics, or you are a buyer of consumer electronics, which is what these shows are intended for. That’s the purpose of it. It’s not like your general average. If you’re wanting to educate yourself on 3D printing, do not go to CES. It’s not worth it.
Local shows and most of the 3D printer companies that we know and have experienced, they have a rather big trade show because that’s how they’re marketing their companies. They’re going to all sorts of regional trade shows, Maker Faires and all sorts of different events. There are going to be some regional events near you and you’re less overwhelmed and you get the opportunity to dig in a little deeper to a lot of information. You don’t have to go as far and it’s not as costly because a lot of those shows some of them are free, but the cost, if they are a paid show, is a lot less.
Let’s look at it from the exhibitor stand.
If your startup business is involved in the 3D printing industry, whether you are 3D printing, scanning, materials and all that. We know a few of those startups too. We know the one that is exhibited at CES for the first time. It’s a brand-new startup.
Blue Dragon is a cool idea and company for a new 3D printer. They went about it smart. They shared a booth.
They teamed up with a couple of other people who have been in the industry for a while. They’re not completely new, but they’ve come together and started a new company. They’ve teamed up with others to share the cost of a booth which as expensive as CES was, that was a smart move.
It gets them seen by investors who might be coming through and looking at consumer electronics to evaluating what’s the latest thing. It gets seen by the press. There’s a lot of press there.
It depends on your purpose. You’re right. If you’re a business that is growing your business and you’re growing it for future acquisition or trying to gain credibility for investment, showing it to CES is an important thing to try to do. It’s certainly a good way to accomplish those goals.
Another important thing if you’re exhibiting and you have the intention of being on the retail shelf, you need to be present at a show like CES of that caliber.
You’ve got to start to generate brand awareness, familiarity, comfort, and that takes time. It takes showing multiple times in front of people, but the more you do it and the higher profile some of those shows are, the better. CES is good for that. If you’re a business that is shown as a marketing tool to sell the product, whether that product is a machine, material, consumable or whatever accessories that you may want to show more at these regional shows where people are going to attend who are more potential consumers directly.
It’s a more customer-based store. To me, it’s always a lot of trade shows. We’ve done a lot over the years. We did a lot of international furniture and product shows and things like that for our clients. Unless you have the relationships and you are in the sales process already with buyers from large retailers or boutiques, you’re not going to get sales at these shows. It doesn’t work like that. You have to have appointments ahead before you go. It has to be an easy consolidated place for a buyer to shop.
I wasn’t trying to suggest that you’re going to sell to consumers at the show but it’s about who you’re getting brand awareness with and helping to make sure they understand what products you do sell and where to get them. I don’t think a lot of people do a lot of selling at some of these regional shows. It’s about making sure that as they are growing in their 3D print experience, they know about your product and why they should choose it over somebody else’s.
There’s a good example of that. Let’s say your printer is MAKEit. It’s focused on the design and architect community and they do the fun to make it.
They mare the high precision one.
If your company is like MAKEit and you have an unlimited marketing budget because you’ve just started up and you’re focused on architects, designers, engineers, and that prosumer level, where are you going to meet those people? You’re not going to meet those people. They do not have time in their busy schedule to travel to an international trade show in Las Vegas. They are going to be at the local regional shows where they’re educating themselves about the latest technology in CNC, 3D printing, and robotics or whatever their general interests are. That’s where you’re going to meet them, in that prosumer model or you might meet them at an architecture and design show that’s international. That’s where they are. That’s where they go. They might stop in and see a demo of something. You have to consider and go where your market is and where your buyers are. If your buyers are more consumer-based or educator based, then go to an education trade show.
I would think for the big market for the school systems in this country, which is I know a lot of 3D print companies are heavily focused on the education market. You probably want to find some state education conferences and things like that to be showing up or there are different kinds of shows, I guess that isn’t 3D printing shows where you might want to reach them.
The only reason to be a part of a 3D printing show is if you are already a major player in the marketplace. If you are already meeting with retail buyers or the types of buyers who are coming and buying other electronics at the same time and they want to immediately shop in one place. If you must appear to be a player for your investment to be significant.
Also, to position yourself for acquisition to be bought out by a competitor at some point.
Those are the only reasons I see because a show like CES is too big. If I’m a buyer, I’m too busy to stop at the small guys. I might swing by and say, “I saw that. That’s cool.” That’s it. You don’t have time.
A lot of companies show at CES is for media attention. Now, it’s old school mainstream media, television and things like that. Every local news around the country has somebody at CES who’s highlighting certain things. Some companies go there hoping their thing is cool and they’ll get on the highlight reel on the evening news.
To expect to get on the highlight reel when you’re competing against thousands and thousands of booths is difficult. Where at a local show, you’re still probably going to get on the local radio if you’ve got something cool because you’re only competing with 100 booths. You have to be realistic and expect to understand that unless you are in that big-league player position right now, there’s not a return on investment for a trade show like that. It’s not a direct return on investment.
Marketing is a complex subject. While we have a lot of experience with it, we are not marketing consultants. There are plenty of those people to give you opinions on that one. We certainly have experienced that quite a bit. There are many different purposes for marketing. Sometimes it’s not directly to sell, it’s about awareness, investment or acquisition. There are many reasons you do that.
Am I glad we went to CES? Yes, I’m glad because we saw a lot all in one place and it’s great for the podcast. If it were general and general interest, I don’t think I would not know.
For us as individuals, I probably wouldn’t. As designers, we wouldn’t have gone. We went because of the podcast. That’s our reason and also because of Inc. I needed to write an article about it, but that’s about it. I like the fact that we went.
It’s fun and we got to do a lot of interesting things and interact with a lot of players in the industry and things like that. We’ll do a few more podcasts on a couple of things like the Women in 3D Printing Group.
I hope that that conversation was useful for those of you that are either looking at attending shows or you’re in business or considering exhibiting. There are lots to consider there. If you have any thoughts on this or any future questions for us for a future episode, you can reach out to us anywhere on social media @HazzDesign. Thank you so much for reading, everybody. We will talk to you next time.
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