What a Week! (Or, Reflections from the Disneyland Hotel)

Last week didn’t see too many posts due to my involvement at the annual construction defect seminar hosted at the Disneyland Hotel. Over at More From Less, I posted an overview of my thoughts on the 2011 WCCCDS event.

As I indicated in that post, I’ll be posting more information as I have time, but I did want to take a moment to reflect on the event from a business development and marketing perspective. Overall West Coast Casualty’s Construction Defect Seminar isn’t unlike many other tradeshows and conventions. There are speakers presenting information, opportunities for networking, and vendors exhibiting their products and services to attendees.

The vendors present at this event consisted primarily of niche providers of legal and consulting services, as well as a few manufacturers of construction products. In other words, nothing really surprising considering the demographics of the attendees and focus of the event. The question is, does spending money to exhibit at an event such as this produce a reasonable return on investment? According to my research, it depends heavily on certain factors.

In the past, I have heard from several firms working in the construction defect litigation industry that the primary reason to exhibit there is for the networking, but that no real business transpires for vendors. However, in an informal conversation with someone intimately involved in producing and organizing the event, some firms see tremendous results from their involvement as exhibitors.

In particular, firms that are promoting services and products that are innovative see the greatest results. One such example is a firm that has developed a cost-effective and novel approach to documenting observations from visual inspections and intrusive testing. Last year this company maintained a small booth located in a low-traffic area of the exhibit hall. This year that same firm occupied two adjacent vendor booths in a very prominent location. Every time I walked by their booth, I saw numerous potential clients engaged in discussions and demonstrations. In my opinion, the primary factors driving the interest were innovation through the use of technology, and a strong focus on cost savings.

Another firm that appears to have achieved positive results through their involvement as exhibitors at the annual event also leveraged innovation in order to increase business. The unique selling proposition that this firm offers is based on distributed/outsourced consulting services. The firm maintains a core group of employees that handle administrative tasks for expert witnesses involved in construction disputes. Experts involved with the company benefit from additional work, support services and most importantly, getting paid on time. According to the individual I spoke with, this firm had only four experts signed on to its outsourcing service at the beginning of last year’s seminar. Following their participation and due to the overwhelming response, that roster grew to around 40 experts. And once again this year, the buzz surrounding this unique firm was obvious.

And then there was a third firm that stood out this year. Unlike the previous two firms I’ve been discussing, this company did not pay for a booth in the exhibit hall, nor did they pay for sponsorship of any meals or parties. Instead, every employee of the company was outfitted with an iPad running the slide deck featuring their innovative approach to construction defect litigation. Every time I looked around the exhibit hall, at least one employee of this firm was engaged with a conference attendee. In addition, the firm’s principal was able to secure a speaking engagement that resulted in a packed house with several people standing in the back. By the end of the event, the company had already posted a roster including more than a dozen “preferred vendors” on its well-crafted website. If there was a “winner” of this year’s West Coast Casualty’s Construction Defect Seminar, it was them.

In conclusion, sometimes just showing up is not enough. Clients engage firms that are effective, innovative and offer real value. That is true at conventions and it is true throughout the marketplace.

Innovate Or Die.