The Marijuana Business Conference and Expo is the place where everybody in the cannabis industry meets everybody else, industry information is shared, friendships are formed, and partnerships are created. Listen in to hear how to make the most of your conference experience with George Jage, President of Marijuana Business Media.
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Matthew: Hi, I’m Matthew Kind. Every Monday and Wednesday look for a fresh episode where I’ll take you behind the scenes and interview the leaders of the rapidly evolving cannabis industry. Learn more at www.cannainsider.com. That’s www.cannainsider.com. Do you know that feeling when you sense opportunity, when you see something before most people and you just know it will be successful, then you're ready. Ready for CannaInsider Consulting. Learn more at www.canninsider.com/consulting. Now here's your program.
While it seems there are new cannabis related conferences popping up every day, there are very few that are worth it. The Marijuana Business Conference and Expo is definitely worth it. If you really want to get oriented as to what is going on and network with others in the cannabis industry, this is the place to be. I’m pleased to welcome George Jage, President of Marijuana Business Media to CannaInsider today. Welcome George.
George: Thanks Matthew. I really appreciate the opportunity. I love listening to your interviews and what you’re doing and of course thank you for the stellar introduction about our company.
Matthew: Oh sure. Now you have a background in trade shows and expos. Can you tell us a little bit about your background and how you got into this business?
George: Sure. Actually my background is really in B2B media. Out of college my family had a business where they were liquidating and jobbing surplus clothing in the marketplace. You know, very much at the beginning stages of when you started seeing big box discounters like TJ Maxx’s and Marshall’s and stuff like this, you know, companies that would liquidate excess manufacturers’ inventory and then we sell it to these types of companies. Very tough business, very cyclical. And the time when I was getting out of college was experiencing some pretty big challenges.
So I ended up coming on board to help my father’s business kind of dig out of the weeds a little bit. And, you know, at the time there was a major national peril event that was growing rapidly and kind of pushing these exhibitors or these jobbers out of the space that they had typically exhibited in. They really weren’t welcome at the big manufacturers’ show because, you know, quite often they might be selling Tommy Hilfiger’s last year’s merchandise at 70% below what Tommy Hilfiger is selling it at. So we saw an opportunity to organize a trade show, and organize some of those exhibiting companies. We actually not really as a business, but just as more of a means to an end. We ended up starting the off price specialist show. It was held in three floors of the Debbie Reynolds Casino Hotel and Movie Museum. Debbie performed nightly by the way. And so it was really again, you know, a means to an end. And that was in 1993, and we saw the opportunity that we were actually able to, you know, grow that business and actually get out of the apparel business.
We were doing four shows a year. We had nearly 500 exhibiting companies when we sold it to a company that’s based in London. That was a big conglomerate for Business 2 Business media assets. So, you know, a lot of our clients would do 70 to even 90 percent of their annual business at this event. You know really it kind of shows the power of very hardcore order writing trade show. You know, we launched a magazine as well for the off price of apparel industry, and I think we really helped elevate that industry kind of out of what, you know, the jobbers were always kind of considered kind of backroom, you know, businessmen and you know kind of somewhat of a shady industry. So there’s a little bit of parallels to what I’m doing now, but you know, it was absolutely a fascinating space. And I ran the company on a management contract for another two years after they acquired us. Then I moved out to Las Vegas.
You know when I moved to Vegas I started a couple of different businesses, but one in particular was a trade show for the specialty tea industry. And I honestly, I didn’t drink any tea at the time. I had a friend who’s wife had asked me if there was a trade show in this market, and it really just kind of stuck in my head so I started looking at it, and I saw that there was all these tea companies that were starting to emerge in the market that, you know, exhibited at a coffee show or a restaurant show but didn’t really have a marketplace of their own. So we started an event and it was really, you know, not my primary business I was running at the time but I really saw this opportunity and then I moved all my focus into that business which was World Tea Media.
And you know over the next ten years, you know, we had created the World Tea Expo which was the largest trade show for the Tea in world at one point. It was three times recognized as one of the fastest 50 growing events in North America. We also created the World Tea News which is an online publication, you know, kind of comparable to what we do with Marijuana Business Daily. We created the World Tea Academy which was an online training program for tea sommeliers and tea professionals. And the North American Tea Championship which was absolutely probably the most fun thing we did from a standpoint because we created our own proprietary kind of Parker Style wine rating system for tea to evaluate the best teas in the market. And basically with that competition we would have people from all over the country and at one point all over the world would send us the absolute best teas they ever had or ever made. So whenever the competition was done we would have this huge surplus of incredible tea leftover. So that’s why I like that one the most.
Matthew: You know there’s a lot of people like me out there and you mentioned that you really weren’t into tea until you got in that industry. You know I’m still in the stone age here drinking Lipton tea out of bags, and I know that there’s loose leaf tea is better but I really don’t know what I don’t know, and I think a lot of people are in the same boat. Is there any suggestions on what to get started with tea?
George: Sure I have to laugh a little bit. I get that question a lot. And you know, I even have people who come up to me and are just like compelled to tell me what teas they drink. And they’re like hey I drink Smooth Move, and then I have to explain to them that that’s actually a laxative in their tea. But honestly the thing that’s fascinating to me is there’s so many parallels between tea and marijuana. Yes they’re both plants, they’re both green and everything else. But actually one of the things I uncovered when I was coming forward with Anne Holland Ventures and Marijuana Business Media. Actually both tea and marijuana were both attributed to being discovered by Emperor Shennong who lived 5000 years ago in China and he is considered the father of modern herbal medicine.
Each of them has very unique biochemical components in them with cannabinoids and for tea it’s L-theanine and certain types of catechins and flavonoids that are really unique to that plant. And they both have a profound effect on your brain function. They cross the brain, the blood/brain barrier. Obviously there’s a little bit different impact of the effect to the brain for tea and marijuana, but you know you could argue that actually it’s just a different modality for effecting brain function. With tea the L-theanine that’s unique to tea actually has been clinically shown and I’ve seen these great brain maps of people that actually drink tea and it shows how it stimulates alpha wave activity in the brain which actually creates calmness and a relaxing state. And then coupled with the caffeine creates this calm state of alertness which is why Buddhist monks have used tea to meditate for a millennia.
But getting back to your question about drinking Lipton versus whole leaf tea. It’s kind of funny I mean this is almost like comparable to like the brick weed or the ditch weed that we all smoked decades ago. And I don’t want to say the Lipton’s ditch week, that would probably have Lipton’s attorneys calling me by the end of the week. But the importance really of creating a premium product, and you look at, you know, premium products. You know, look at the specialty coffee industry. You can look at the California wine industry where there was an investment into the quality of the product and offering a premium experience. And people are going to pay premium price. I mean Starbucks is the company that everybody wants to use as like Wal-Mart. You know I want to be the Wal-Mart of this or I want to be the Starbucks of that. You know, they’re successful because they’ve created this premium experience for people.
And I think the same can be said about, you know, marijuana and you look at the evolution of the product quality available to the consumers both medically and recreationally. You’ve created this connoisseur element to the industry and the same with tea, same with wine, same with coffee in those specialty markets. That’s really where I think that it’s kind of exciting to kind of see those parallels in those markets. But anyways really back to your question. Sorry.
You know I have my own personal favorites. I really like Japanese steamed green teas, you know, Kukicha, stuff that most people would never have heard of. A lot of times people will associate brands instead of actually products. It’s really about kind of exploring yourself a little bit and trying different teas. Time and temperature are going to affect the quality of the brew the same way as, you know, however you would consume a marijuana product. You know, if it was a vape pen versus and edible versus, you know, smoking a flower. But, you know, it really comes down to is just try it. Do you remember the Cajun chef that used to be on PBS years ago?
George: Yeah, he used to say, he’s like people would ask me what type of wine to drink with my chicken and I’d say any damn type you like. I always loved that guy. It really is about going out and exploring what you and your taste buds are going to enjoy the most. But there is a huge benefit to drinking loose tea. At the end it’s a higher quality product. It’s actually more cost effective for you.
Matthew: Now how is the Marijuana Business Conference different than say the tea or the clothing conference?
George: Sure. We didn’t have a big educational program around the clothing conference. I actually did launch another event called the Healthy Beverage Expo where, you know, education was really importing. Obviously communicating innovations in science, technology and packaging to deliver better products. You know the same thing with tea. There’s a tremendous amount of science and research. There’s also a tremendous amount of marketing, you know, data and everything else. But you know, as you know, I joined the Marijuana Business Team just a little bit less than a year ago, and this was actually the first time I’ve had a job since I’ve been in college. I’ve actually owned my own businesses before this.
Really for me, you know, for this opportunity, you know, what really really attracted me and this is so core to what I’ve done with my past businesses is just the exceptional journalistic integrity of the company as a whole, but also the very high level of curation of the conference programs. This really isn’t the norm but the exception. I mean there’s a lot of, and I’m not being specific to the marijuana industry, there’s a lot of event organizers and conference programs, and they don’t really understand how to develop a good and effective conference program and I loved what they were doing, and I really enjoy being a part of the team and helping to continue to grow and elevate that.
Chris Walsh is our managing editor. I mean he’s just an amazing business journalist, you know, for our conference program and he highly vets all our speakers, curates all the sessions, you know, has several phone calls with the panelists or the speakers, you know, before the show, reviews all the PowerPoint presentations and really makes sure that we’re speaking to the topic that we’re communicating to the attendees. And most importantly is we don’t allow the outside influence of many owners, board members, exhibitors, you know, advertisers determine what topic and who speaks. You know, this industry like every other one, you know, there’s a lot of opinionated people who might not always agree that a speaker we put on stage is the best speaker, but you know, it’s the best speaker that we felt that could speak on that at the time.
You know, there’s also so many new people coming in the market that we are always going to continue to make efforts to try to bring those new ideas into the dialog that we really get to facilitate. We’re not the ones making the conversation, we’re facilitating it. And yes, we want to be able to bring in those new ideas, those new speakers. We still want to balance out with, you know, some of the industry stalwarts that we have speaking at our show. And so I think that, you know from a standpoint of what makes our conference different is just that, you know, we’re approaching this strictly from an approach of saying that this is content, this is journalistic content, and we are going to make it, you know, create it with the highest integrity possible. And there will not be any type of pay for play type of opportunities.
Matthew: Right so the integrity’s there, but then how do you dial in what people actually want to hear more about?
George: Sure, you know, there’s a couple of different ways to approach that. In organized conference there’s a push method and there’s the pull method. I mean, basically we can kind of say hey we’re going to push out and tell everybody what they need to know because they might not know what they need to know at this point. Or we might pull the content where we really, you know, analyze data from the industry, the community surveys, you know, educational advisory boards and everything else. I think we really kind of have a nice balance. I think any show and industry that starts up, it tends to be heavy on the push side of content creation. And as it evolves it definitely becomes more pull and more community driven, you know, content.
So I think we have a nice balance of that, and the way that we have that nice balance is the fact that we’ve got a team of journalists. We brought on several new people onto our team last fall. You know, one of our editors, you know, is from Bloomberg and Wall Street Journal. You know Tony Dreibus. We’ve got John Schroyer out of the Denver area that’s written in local beats and throughout the Denver area that’s really an exceptional journalist as well and then Chris. And then, you know, even that I mean the owners of the company and the founders of the company Cassandra Farrington and Anne Holland. I mean they’re both exceptional, you know, journalist in their own right too to kind of support the team.
So I think, you know, really having our editorial team’s ear to the ground, they’re constantly having conversations with people in the industry. What is the challenges that they’re facing? What are the successes they had? And really being able to, you know, kind of have that really kind of unique knowledge I don’t think that a lot of other organizations have of really having this many conversations with the community on a regular basis allows us to really have some great input to pull content. And then as I said before, you know, we do kind of internally create the topics that we want to create, and then build the speaker line up around those. So we do have a balance of that push and that pull.
Matthew: You mentioned Anne Holland there, and I just want to give listeners a little context about her. She is a business internet marketing Jedi for sure.
George: Jedi, I like that.
Matthew: I’ve followed her work from Marketing Sherpa all the way to Which Test Won. I’ve learned so much from her. And I think people may not realize because she’s kind of behind the scenes, but she’s really a brilliant woman, and I follow her work closely.
George: Yeah I agree with you. I mean I’ve learned a tremendous amount from her as well. You know, she serves a lot of different roles within the company, and I think, you know as everybody knows, when you start a new company and kind of do things there’s a lot of kind of everybody’s kind of doing a little bit of everything. But from a marketing standpoint, I mean, she’s brilliant. She literally wrote the book and she really has kind of created the framework for us to be able to build the audience that we have and the followers and the listeners and the readers over the years.
Matthew: So let’s figure out what year is the conference in right now and what was it like for the first couple years? I went to Vegas in November just a few months back and it was great and booming and there was tons of people, but I think the first couple years it wasn’t quite like that. It was much smaller correct?
George: Absolutely. You know it’s kind of hard to believe. I mean this is our fourth year, and certainly one of the things that we tout in our marketing is that we’re the oldest national event for the industry because we have been around for five years, or moving into our fourth year. But the conference and expo was originally launched in Denver in 2012, you know, it was held in a Masonic lodge in Downtown Denver. Several hundred people came, there was a lot of excitement. And I think that, you know, that’s kind of that foundation for creating, you know, the bigger picture event and having that kind of yeah core group of people that were there at the first year.
So from there the event the second year in 2013 moved off to Seattle. It was held at the Emerald Downs Race Track. They ended up selling out that conference with I think a total attendance of around 720 people. It was wall to wall. The fire marshal was there making sure that they didn’t go over capacity. And you know again it was definitely a nontraditional venue that they had to go into because of the stigma of, you know, having a marijuana event and what that means to different people and the perceived value, you know, of the business to a venue operator. So fortunately we were able to get the show moved to Las Vegas for 2014 that you were at. You know it’s the trade show capital of world for a reason. We have great entertainment options, you know, unprecedented convention space, hotel rooms and everything else to really support that type of draw to Las Vegas. You know you get cheap hotel rooms. I mean you’re not going to see rooms at $69-$79, quality rooms like you would in Vegas in the San Francisco, Chicago, and New York. You know, there’s always going to be that price disparity.
Matthew: Right so you mentioned Chicago, and the next expo is going to be in Chicago in May. Is there any estimates on how much that will grow from the Vegas event?
George: Sure. Well and I just sent out an email this week kind of to the community talking about this. And you know we don’t use slang terms in our publication as a professional business magazine and certainly in print, but we’ll make an exception for this interview is that, you know, we’ve really kind of broken things down into pot years in our business. You know, the pace of this industry is so fast that you kind of have to look at dog years, you know, being 7 dog years to 1 year. I mean it’s probably somewhere in the range of 4 to 6 pot years in a calendar year of how quickly this business is moving. And this is really why we’ve moved to having a second national annual event is because the amount of investors that are coming into this market, the amount of new companies that are being launched, the amount of existing companies that have gotten funding and are going to market with a stronger, you know, go to market strategy, and the number of new licensor winners.
You know, Illinois just obviously released its licensee winners and other markets are coming online. So this is really why we wanted to move the two events. The market has changed so much in six months that you can’t wait a year to come to a big annual event. This is what really kind of catalyzes bringing the community together, driving innovation, driving ideas, getting products to the marketplace, you know facilitating the business deals that are done at events. And it’s so important to the industry as a catalyst. So we projected that we were going to have 1500 people come to the Las Vegas show. As you know we had way over that. It was about 3200 people plus that were at the Las Vegas show. And that certainly I think is driven by the growth in the market.
For the event that we’re doing in Chicago we’re projecting to have 2000 attendees and in that same context we are making our projections with I think the journalistic integrity the organization is founded on of not saying that we’re going to have 50-60 thousand people and, you know, it ends up being 1000 people . So we want to make sure there’s truth in our advertising.
Matthew: So you’re having it right there on South Michigan Ave by the lake in Chicago in May. That’s a good time to be in Chicago.
George: Yeah it is. And you know, it’s going to be a great event. You know really kind of having the background that we had in Vegas. I mean you know, it’s kind of unparallel, but you know this is really an amazing venue. You know Chicago is obviously very centrally located in the United States really to get the people that are, you know, developing their businesses in the New England states, Florida, Missouri that are on the cusp of coming into the industry. The Illinois license holders have just been awarded. But the destination that we’re going to be at, the Chicago Hilton, I’m sorry, the Hilton Chicago. There’s a number of Hilton properties through Chicago, but this is the Hilton property of Chicago. It is exceptionally historic and architecturally unique, but every president since I think going back at least 150 years has stayed at this hotel property. So, you know, if this is where presidents of the United States come and stay when they’re in Chicago, I feel it’s an appropriate venue for the future emerging leaders of the marijuana industry to stay at.
Matthew: And just to make a plug as a Chicago native. Buddy Guys is pretty close to that Hilton in the South Loop there, and that is some of the best live blues music you could ever hear in your life. So switching gears back to the conference. Were there any panels or speakers that stood out at the last conference?
George: Yeah. You know Ben Cohen for sure. And this last show we really wanted to set the bar high and bring in somebody with a really big name from outside the industry. I think that the industry’s evolution, we need to, you know, start seeing that type of star power. We are seeing it in other areas of the industry. You’ve seen Snoop Dogg is investing in raising capital. Other people from PayPal are investing big into some cannabis ventures. But no, Ben Cohen was phenomenal. He really nailed his presentation.
And his message really resonated very strongly with our audience. You know he’s been a very passionate, you know, entrepreneur. He’s very very much for social change and you know really kind of wrote the book on corporate social responsibility. I think that that’s something that many of our audience and attendee members really are very passionate about. They’re creating a business based on a medical need by patients. And so they’re trying to do, you know, a lot of the foundation of this industry based on people creating opportunities to help other people. So Ben’s message was fantastic. You know it’s ironic, you know, it’s usually when you have a big trade show and a conference, it’s usually you don’t get to enjoy your own part. So I was able to kind of peak into a few session, but by no means, you know, was I able to sit and listen to every single one.
Patrick Basham from the Democracy institute really did a phenomenal job. We had a session talking about the impending invasion from Big Pharma, Tobacco and Alcohol. You know that’s I think always on people’s minds, and I thought he gave some really really powerful insights into it. And you know, the content that I love is really bringing together thought leaders to really kind of, you know, kind of decode some of the myths and the facts of the industry. The final closing session that, you know, had really powerful industry leaders like Tripp Keber and Andrew D’Angelo and Meg Sanders and met Rob Campia from the Marijuana Policy Project. You know it was great to listen to them kind of have this debate about when do they see the end of federal prohibition you know coming to its term and getting some really powerful ideas. They have their different opinions, but you know at the end of the day to have those types of people up there talking about and saying this is in sight. It’s three years, it’s four years, it’s five years out that we are going to finally have a end to federal prohibition and a full national legal, recreational and medical market.
Matthew: And just to clarify. Ben Cohen is the cofounder of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream, and he was really inspiring. I didn’t really fully understand their philosophy. I knew they were into social change, but he talked about how he considered himself being in business to help different people in their Ben and Jerry’s ecosystem. For example he was thinking of making a profit, not to make a profit so much for shareholders as to keep people employed in Central America who were getting his cacao or his chocolate to him. So he had all these kinds of ideas that were I would call capitalism plus, like yes very capitalistic, but he had a reason behind what he was doing that were kind of his passion. And he had just a fantastic talk I thought.
George: Yeah and you know you hear about the shareholder, and it’s really about the stakeholder. And I really believe that in a business model. I mean the tea industry, my previous life to this, I mean you know is in a business that is highly profitable. I mean there’s so many people in that industry that are really driven by the passion of I’ve experienced this amazing thing, this tea isn’t normally available in the United States. I mean tea is the second most drank beverage in the world next to water. People are kind of surprised by that, but 2/3 of the world’s population live throughout India and Asia and in those countries where drinking tea is part of their culture, and it’s in every other culture Europe, Africa, Canada, just not so much Central and South America and the US. But you know it’s really that passion that drives up business.
From that standpoint previous business World Tea Media, I mean, it was always I think was with the onset of saying how can we help companies be successful. And that, you know, by us helping companies be successful as a B2B media platform, you know, we get to be successful. And it’s really an amazing business to be in, and that’s where I really kind of, you know, really connect with Ben on this is, you know, making sure I mean that, you know, this isn’t about our company or profits. It’s about are the attendees going to get tools that they need at our event that’s going to help their business grow. If they do and they’re successful, they’re going to be great customers of ours. Are exhibitors meeting with the right people to sell their products or services and getting a positive return on investment through that? Are the readers of our magazines getting insights and tools that they can put to work in their business and the advertisers, you know, getting good reach into the market that way.
So yeah you have to look at a business very holistically as terms of stakeholders and you know the employees of the business. And you know are they finding, getting a meaningful experience and the better that they’re able to contribute to our business, again we can be better at serving the market. It’s all cyclical and I love the fact that Ben looks at this as really as a global, you know, kind of picture. And some personal conversations with him, I mean, I could tell that you know, they did sell their business at one point and the business I think modality changed significantly and was much more corporately driven and you could tell. It was a lot of I think you know kind of angst and pain in his eyes when he had to talk about it that way because he was very mission driven.
Matthew: Yes I believe Unilever acquired Ben and Jerry’s sometime ago.
George: Speaking of Lipton tea they own Lipton too.
Matthew: Okay, okay, but the two are still fun in Watertown, Vermont I believe. It is still very, very fun place to go visit if you get the chance. Now for somebody that is considering purchasing a spot on the expo floor in hopes of growing their business, what advice can you offer them to help them put the best foot forward?
George: That’s really the art of the trade show. There’s so many simple things that companies can do really to make the most out of their marketing spend, you know, looking at the return on investment. You know trade shows are very well documented as being the most cost effective medium for generating leads for your business for sales leads. And you know when you look at I mean you know it’s your ability to meet with a large group of people very quickly in a face-to-face opportunity because you know that that’s so much more valuable than being on the phone with somebody and be able to qualify those prospects in a single location as opposed to, you know, making scores of sales trips and having a field of sales people out there or cold calling them which is going to produce marginal results.
So you know trade shows in my opinion, I mean, I’ve always been a big fan of them because they drive commerce. They catalyze markets. On the flip side of that it’s actually pretty shameful. The Center for Exhibition Industry Research actually estimates that 80% of trade show leads are never followed up on. And this is the most important part of any company’s investment in the event. So you know my first tip is always, you know, is to ask questions first when you’re at the trade show and having a good plan and really realize that you have a finite amount of time that you are going to have in that booth meeting with attendees.
So you know, you don’t want to spend a half an hour talking with somebody that’s just looking to gather information when, you know, ten people could have walked by that might be in the early buying stage or you know with money in hand ready to buy your product or service. So ask some questions and find out what stage they are in the buying process. You know are there other people in that company that are going to need to be involved in the decision making process so that they, you know, get to the decision makers quickly. And find out, you know, what are the key obstacles for them engaging with a product and service. So really that qualification step is really important. You know if somebody’s not qualified, you don’t have to say hey get out of my booth. You know you could say listen, you know, I’ve got an appointment in a few minutes, I would love to follow up with you with more information, but if you give me your card I will follow up with you afterwards. And spend two minutes with that person instead of twenty. And spend twenty minutes with the people that are going to be potential leads.
And then once you qualify those leads is certainly taking copious notes. You know, rent a lead retrieval system, and you know add comments to the record. You know if you can remember hey the guy was a big fan of dog sweaters, you know, so when you follow up with him you can tell him that, but that’s kind of salesmanship 101. But when you really think about it is making sure you have that plan before you get to the show of how are you going to qualify the leads? How are you going to capture that information, and who and how and when are you going to follow up with them after the show. And if I walk to a show and met with 30 companies that were selling a product or service and I went to that show to find more information about, and I got two follow-ups within 24 hours of being back from the show, those 2 companies are going to be on the top of my list. And I think that’s just, you know, anybody would probably agree with that.
So making sure you follow up with them. You have a plan. You know what you want to send them and say to them, make it personal so that they know you remember them and that you generally care about them. And there’s tons of other little things that people can do at trade shows to really optimize that opportunity. You know, they really discourage you, at least some of the trade show trainers that are out there, say don’t ever put your table at the front edge of your booth. You know make your space inviting so that people can walk into the space. Don’t put yourself behind a counter to them. But it’s a deep topic and if anybody ever bumps into me in the market, in the community, at another event, at our event and they want any tips and tricks, I will spend as much time as they want with them. I love making sure that people get the most value out of it.
And it’s not just at our event. You know, I want to make sure people get value out of events period because, you know, if somebody goes and does an event that they don’t do well at, they’re going to devalue the proposition of doing events elsewhere.
Matthew: Okay so let’s take an aerial snapshot of the expo floor. It’s a pretty large space that was there at the Rio, and I went around it several times. So I saw all the, you know, exhibitors, but in your mind how do you think about the exhibition spaces, some real estate more valuable than others, what’s the park avenue?
George: Well you know location location location. You know I think it’s always, I think it’s human nature. I mean I think anybody that’s looking at a show floor, they want to be as close to that front door, as close to that main isle as they possibly can. But you need to look at a number of different factors. And you know first of all is recognizing that you’re not paying for real estate, you’re paying for access and the access to the attendees. So you know depending on the attendee density of a show and that’s a measure that we use in the trade show industry, the number of attendees per exhibiting company. And we always have maintained, you know, close to 20 to 25 attendee density, 25 to 1 attendee density. And then that’s strong. I think a good show is anywhere from 10 to 15 is really good. When you start dipping below 10 you kind of get that feeling that there’s a lot of room in the trade show isles for you to move around.
If you have a very highly dense show where you have a lot of attendees coming, being in the front of the show might not be the best space because there’s this kind of natural push to kind of surge in the front door. So a lot of that kind of initial tidal wave of attendees coming on a show floor kind of go past that first booth and then when they’re coming out they don’t see it because they have their back to it. So it’s not so much about real estate. I think you know, if you want to kind of drill into that, don’t necessarily look at just where the front isle is. Look where the bathrooms are. Everybody’s going to have to go at some point. And you know, where the food area is. You know, are there other attracters such as a press room or show management office that’s going to draw people over into that area, you know, there could be equally as good space. Or you know, if there’s a big company that you know is always busy at every single trade show, get a booth next to them. It’s open season at trade shows and everybody has equal access to the attendees coming to the show.
And I think what companies need to realize though, going back to that, you know access versus real estate, is when they evaluate a show to go to, I mean, you know you got to say, you know, you can go to a show and pay $1,000 for a booth and maybe walk away with 10 quality leads, or you might end up spending $5,000 for a booth in another show and walk away with 100. Clearly you got to look at what is that cost per lead for my business. And this really gets into the return on investment for events. And obviously return on investment, you’re looking at return on your investment. And you know, this is one of the things that’s really also very core to me is, you know, making sure that the experience for the exhibitor and the attendee is at a very, very high level. You know the old way of doing trade shows, I shouldn’t say the old way because most trade shows are still run this way, is that they will sell somebody a booth and once they’re on board they have tons of hidden costs, most prominent being drayage or material handling. And that’s a fee that an exhibitor would pay to have their freight moved into a show flow. And the way that that’s set up is the organizer would hire a general contractor and the general contractor would kind of have unbridled egregious ability to charge people for moving their freight from the dock to their booth and back again. And I might be $500 or $2,000 depending on how much freight they have.
You know so this is something that exhibitors have complained about for decades and very few show organizers you know choose to listen. But you know it’s important, you know, making sure that experience is there. And at our events I change this for the fall event and will be the way moving forward. You know we package that into the booth price. So you basically have a host of freight package. So if you don’t, you know, you bring in a single box or you bring in four crates of really heavy, there’s no extra charge to you and there’s not that surprise factor. It’s so punitive on so many levels. I mean you’re creating a ton of non-value added workflow. So now the contractor would have to set up a billing department on the show floor. Usually the second morning of the show, they have an invoice in that exhibitor’s booth saying hey by the way you owe us $2,000 for moving your stuff in and you’re not going to be allowed to move out unless you pay this which isn’t going to make very many happy customers. And it just creates a lot of conflict in the show.
So there’s things like that that you know when you look at what is the cost of doing a show, the general rule of thumb has always been that it’s 20% of your overall cost for doing the show is the booth. And then when you add in the staff, the time, the travel, your display, meals and entertainment, everything else. I mean it’s usually about a five time multiple of what it costs you for the booth at a show. And what we like to do and really where I feel that we can offer a competitive advantage is that you’re not going to have the surprise costs at our show. You’re going to get to the show. Yes you’re going to have still your staff time and travel, but I don’t like to have exhibitors or a customer come and be surprised and all of a sudden be upset because they’re having all these nickel and dime charges.
Matthew: Great point. And circling back to you know, how you can put the best foot forward. I noticed that some of the exhibitors can really state their value proposition well in one sentence. You say oh what do you do, and they say it very clearly and so you can understand and make that connection, and everybody on their team has that. And some other exhibitors don’t really have that quite as polished where they say what they’re doing so you can understand it just instantly and what the benefit is for a prospective client. Just that simple thing, it made my understanding of what they’re doing much better in talking with people.
George: Yeah and I agree. And that gets into you know making sure your staff’s trained and that you guys have a consistent message and kind of elevator pitch and everything else. Again when you’re at a trade show it’s also, it tends to be very long days, you know. Make sure you have enough people out there so that whosever staffing your booth, you can kind of rotate some breaks in there. You need to kind of take a mental holiday from standing in a booth. You know, I’m sure you’ve seen it before and everybody else has. You know, you walk by a booth and a guy is sitting down reading a newspaper or you can tell that he’s just frazzled. He’s spent for the day or she it, and you know so you want to make sure whosever in that booth, you know, is fresh, you have breaks scheduled and for your staff and everything else.
But yeah going back to that is there’s a lot of businesses that are still trying to figure out where they’re going to fit in best in this market. So you know, they might be kind of a little bit all over the place. That’s I think inherent for a young industry like this. But you know, you should be able to, you know, walk up, look in their booth and have a very clear understanding of what that company does. I mean I think it goes leaps and bounds of them being able to more effectively meet with the right buyers that are coming to their show too.
Matthew: George in closing, how can listeners learn more about the marijuana business conference and expo?
George: Well we certainly invite them to come to our website, but and more importantly come to our show. So we have a number of brands in our portfolio, you know, really built around that marijuana business media family. So we have our Marijuana Business Daily and you can go to www.mzbizdaily.com and sign up for your free subscription. We have Marijuana Business Magazine www.mjbizmagazine.com. We obviously publish the Marijuana Business Fact Book which you can find at www.mjbizfactbook.com. And the conference is www.mjbizconference.com and as a special offer to the listeners of your program we set up a discount code for our spring show. So if they enter in CannaInsider50 when they register for our event, they’ll save an additional $50.
Matthew: Awesome, awesome and everybody just a reminder Canna has two N’s in it. That will be helpful when trying to put in a coupon code. Thank you for that George.
George: Absolutely, absolutely.
Matthew: George thanks for being on CannaInsider today. We really appreciate it.
George: Hey I love the opportunity Matthew and continued success to you.
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