Using CES and Other Trade Shows to Establish Relationships and Identify Potential Winners *

Being exposed to the products of a large number of companies in a short period of time can be rewarding as well as confusing and exhausting. Trade show exhibitors are seeking to sell things to the companies affiliated with the attendees, and are pitching uniqueness, novelty, newness, assistance, economic advantage and competitive superiority.

Many of the attendees are primarily interested in establishing relationships with prospective employers, as well as learning from suppliers of products and services important to the companies with which they are presently involved. In some cases, the attendees are also professional investors, seeking to identify companies which will be successful in the future.

In all cases, the exhibiting companies of greatest interest to the attendees will or should be those which have a single focus and intent. That focus will be in successfully creating and offering products and services which will be of meaningful benefit to the users. Customer benefit must be the focus and not magnitude of their company’s sales. The primary goal and likely success of the companies exhibiting must be based on the customer benefit derived from purchasing and continuing to use their products and services. If those companies’ customers benefit, so will the exhibitor. The key to the search will be obtaining sufficient information to allow an accurate assessment of the likely importance of the exhibiting company to their customers.

If one is seeking to become involved with a company, that company should already *be or able to become truly important to their customers, not just as a successful lower price competitor, but as a depended upon, integral element in their customer’s business success. Of course, investors and other relationship seekers are looking for exactly the same thing: companies which will create a customer dependence on the products or services provided. Therefore, they should assume the mindset of those customer executives responsible for purchasing whatever it is the company is offering. They should want to identify the companies whose customers are likely to become dependent upon them.

A part of this process is learning the identity of the companies currently supplying products or services similar to those being offered by the company being researched. It is the strengths and weaknesses of those companies which must be understood. Pretending, in one’s own mind, to be a purchasing agent is an important part of the game of predicting competitive success of suppliers. Of course, the research needs to be differently focused if the company being studied is a component maker or an end-product producer. If an end-product producer, the company’s marketing skills become more important. If the latter, then the question is how important they are likely to become to their customers. It’s all a matter of assessing competitive customer benefit and likely dependence.

In conclusion, this analytical process needs to identify those companies providing products and services upon which customer dependence will be created. Similarly, one should always seek to create one’s own products or services, upon which customers or clients become relatively dependent, as it is obvious that with dependence the pricing becomes less of a customer or client consideration. Stated more simply, benefit offered results in benefit obtained.

Arthur Lipper, Chairman
British Far East Holdings Ltd.
+1 858 793 7100

* Martin Cooper, the inventor of the cell phone is our close friend. The cell phone has been responsible for changing the way billions of people communicate and has therefore changed for the better billions of lives. The cell phone is also a device upon which many of us have become dependent. The next cell phone is what we are all seeking.

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