Monday, March 22, 2010

Worldbex, Then and Now

Last Thursday, I took the rare opportunity to go out of the office to take a peek at Worldbex.  Worldbex is one of the major construction exhibit in the Philippines.  We have been showcasing our products in these exhibits for a number of years already.  This year's was very different from the previous years...

The first exhibit Amici has joined that I can remember was Philconstruct 2002.  I was then working in Canon Information Technologies as a software engineer, and I remember having to leave work at 4pm to get home on the way to the World Trade Center in Buendia.  (No, I didn't do under time.  I was usually at Jollibee Plaza in Ortigas by 7am then, so I could leave work when the clock strikes 4pm.)  It was my first time to commute to WTC.  Luckily, it was just a jeepney ride away from Dapitan St., using the Mabini-Buendia route.  I got down Buendia, and it was just a nice short walk to the exhibit.

Our booth was part of the USA pavilion, showcasing our A.O. Smith Water Heaters.  Laptops, LCD TVs, projectors were not popular then.  Instead, we had a small TV with a built in VHS player showing to visitors factory production of A.O. Smith water heaters, including the application of glass lining to heater tanks.  I cannot recall if we even had heaters on display.  But storage heaters being storage heaters, they are notably unremarkable.  Then, our booth was manned by my dad, my uncle, my cousin, and me.  The exhibit organizers were generously offering red wine, in which I was exquisitely interested, but when offered I refused, as shy people are wont to do.

That was back in 2002.  Our exhibit was more a haphazard experiment in marketing.  It's unexplored territory.  We didn't have any good way of measuring the impact of the exhibit.  And for the next three years, we did not join any more exhibits.  A competitor supposedly remarked in 2005 that we were just a small "store" selling water heaters.  Three years before that, we probably didn't exist at all, for all that same competitor cared.

I think it was in 2006 when we started joining exhibits after that.  It was also that year when we joined the most exhibits in a year -- Worldbex, Conex, Philbex in Cebu, and Philconstruct.  We were once again aiming to leverage exhibits as a marketing channel, and we were game to try all of them.

For Conex, we invested on a rather expensive but reusable module, hoping to attract more people with a nicer booth.  We have up to four sales personnel entertaining clients.  And we have a nice display of storage heaters and pumps.  The storage heaters are as unremarkable as before, except for the high efficiency Cyclone storage heater, which brought us some trouble transporting, but nonetheless brought a lot more attention to our company.  On the night of the last day of the exhibit, we still had a project completion meeting (aka dinner at Napoli's at Tomas Morato) to reflect on the days' successes and challenges.

The same year, I had my first trip to Cebu for the Philbex exhibit.  It was not normal that I was part of the Cebu delegation.  But I had a foreign friend in Cebu then, for whom I took the opportunity to tag along.  Our booth was simple.  We again had a display of our wares, this time focused on instant heaters and swimming pool products.  Instead of our expensive module (which early on showed its age due to wear and tear), we opted for the more portable posters and tarps.  Philbex was the prelude to our company opening a new Amici Water Systems branch in Cebu.

The exhibits followed brought repeated performances.  We started having a formula.  We have the registration forms for interested clients.  We have a fairly stable product make up.  We have pictures and designs of our projects we can show off.    We were also more conscious about our expenses.  We cut down our exhibits to the essentials that prove effective.  We were a bit stingy with our meal allowances.  And we didn't have our project completion meetings any more. 

Worldbex 2010 had just come to a close.  I was only there last Thursday and again on the Saturday.  In some ways, it reminded me of our first exhibit in 2002.  It was again a small adventure, commuting to WTC and back, to see what's there and what we're cooking.

Gone were our rubber stamp booth of the last few years  that looked like a market place with our water heaters, pumps, and other products.  We didn't go with an expensive outsourced module, but we had a nice, creative booth thanks to our fantastic and versatile  industrial designer.  We had an interesting set of videos to show, no longer through a TV-VHS combo but now through an LCD TV and DVD player.  We had an aquarium with a manually operated wave ball toy, to get the idea across.  We're here again to exhibit,  like our first venture, to introduce a product, this time quite different and innovative, this time from France (though we were not in a French pavilion) -- the Wave Ball wave generator

It was a frontier once more, a revolution of sorts for our company, a reset of our exposition in water technology.  We're here to make waves.  It's a Wavolution.

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