CEDIA Expo ’13 - What a Great Year
This year was just as energizing as my first in 1991. I’m unsure if it was the return to Denver. Or, that many attendees believed business is finally improving. But, everyone was positive and confident. As you’ve heard the numbers were up across the board. It felt good.
Like we’re a community again, rather than a disparate bunch of hungry contractors in survival mode. This year was also special for me because it was a coming out party for my client NEAR. A surprising number of Expo attendees fondly remembered NEAR. Equally gratifying was the response of attendees new to the brand. It truly was a great year.
Denver was the culmination of a year spent creating a new line of outdoor audio under the venerable NEAR brand. Last fall, after a 14 year absence from the residential business, Bogen Communications green lighted a program to rededicate NEAR to residential contracting channel. Shortly after they contracted us to help orchestrate the re-launch of NEAR at CEDIA Expo ‘13.
NEAR founder and General Manager, Bill Kieltyka spent last winter updating and re-engineered his legendary spider-less / metal cone drivers. In early spring, of this year, we partnered with British industrial designer, Allen Boothroyd. With Bill in Maine, I in Minnesota, the Bogen mechanical design group in New Jersey and Allen’s team in Cambridge we established a wonderful transcontinental / trans- Atlantic collaboration to create eight all new all weather speakers and an amp. Four new bracket mount speaker models were evolved from an existing enclosure design and mated to a unique mounting bracket that makes hanging and connecting the speaker a tool free process. Starting with one of Bill’s concepts, the team created a design for three partial bury direct radiating full range speakers and a partial bury band-pass subwoofer. In the hands of the industrial design team the in ground exercise resulted in a very striking and unique in ground / on ground speaker. Leveraging parent company Bogen’s expertise in amplification for commercial applications we worked with their amplifier guru, Gian Portanova, to create a NEAR 70 Volt / 8 Ohm amp, specifically for driving outdoor speakers.
Early last spring, with product development running full
steam, we began to prep for Expo. We did a complete refresh of the NEAR logo and brand identity / style guide. Using that exercise as our guide we designed our booth, developed www.nearspeakers.com, created a full line brochure, spec sheets for each model, implemented a Facebook page and created business cards. While all that was in the works we contracted for booth construction and managed the logistics of getting it to Denver, setting it up, stocking it, equipping it, staffing, tear down and return shipment. Then came organizing communications and opportunities for brand and product exposure. We signed on to sponsor the CEDIA Expo After Hours party, committed to display in two kiosks in the New Products Village, organized a press conference, developed press kits, created press releases, participated in the CEDIA Expo Media Preview and connected with writers via phone and e mail. Each projects had a litany of details to manage. We did it all with the equivalent of two and half people! By the time the show started we should have dropped. But the excitement started to build as soon as we began set up. Forklift drivers and convention center staffers all wanted to hear our stuff. Other exhibitors and the ever present wandering sales reps stopped, admired and gave our new toys the thumbs up. Everyone was upbeat. Tired as we were we rode that wave of positive energy right through until the end of day Saturday. We couldn’t have picked a better year to re-launch.
So I had a great show. I really hope you did too! To wrap it all up, I’ve got two take-aways to share. The first should be obvious – it was a great show. The exhibitors I talked with all felt the same energy. I couldn’t find an unhappy attendee. And the CEDIA staff and volunteers were all on their game. Was it as big as our biggest year? Of course not. But, it could very well have been as good as our best year. And, that’s saying something! Second, I’ve found a connection to the regular topic of this column. As a marketer I was overwhelmed by all our little NEAR team was able to accomplish in such a short period. Did we work eight-day weeks consisting of sixteen-hour days? Yes we did. However, that doesn’t begin to explain. What made things really happen for us were digital communications tools. I could run the list. I won’t. Instead, I’ll highlight the biggies. First, simple e mail and Skype. Our product development team couldn’t have convened without them. Next, the web, CEDIA’s exhibitor portal was a game changer. It made the tedium of managing all the details from choosing carpet to managing shipping labels painless and efficient. Hats off to CEDIA and Freeman Services for making digital media really work. The last one that nails it for me, e mail services. If you don’t have your client list loaded into Mail Chimp, Constant Contact or something like it - do it NOW. I know you’re a systems contractor, not a marketer. But if you want to make money, this is the easiest, most powerful tool ever created for nurturing relationships and maximizing the monetary value of your client list. I bet that with just a little attention, a truly savvy established systems contractor could grow business without ever soliciting another new client. Sound like recurring revenue? So where’s the yang / analog side of this installment? There isn’t one. Digital media wins hands down over any analog marketing tool ever created. •