"A failure is not always a mistake, it may simply be the best one can do under the circumstances. The real mistake is to stop trying." - B. F. Skinner (Harvard Psychologist)
The Leading Age Michigan Expo was a rough time. It had nothing to do with our product, our presentation, nor with our price. But still, our performance fell well short of expectations. We expected to leave the expo with 30 non-profit care facilities signed up to receive a free Dignity Lifts trial. We only signed up 11. That is a pretty significant miss.
What happened on Tuesday in Grand Rapids, MI? Well, the expo was a complete dud. The entire conference was poorly attended and the expo portion of the conference was even weaker. The Dignity Lifts trade show booth looked great. We had two of our lifts, a Deluxe Model and a Commercial Model to show. We had business cards, brochures, and even a sign up sheet that care facilities could use to sign up for a free trial. We were ready early and poised to help people with their toileting needs.
The first indication that we might be in trouble was the attendee list. It only included 150 people. That is far short of the 500 or more that typically attend this yearly event. Our second indication was when no one came by for the free lunch. Lunch almost always draws a crowd. The expo and the lunch inside it was 1 1/2 blocks from the other events. That distance must have been far too long a walk to see some possible suppliers. I'm not sure more than 30 people walked in through the expo doors. When it was over we only spoke with 24 people, many in groups. We received 11 sign ups. Those are awful numbers.
Why did this happen? Trade shows are seeing low attendance because of the pandemic and Leading Age Michigan was no different, but there was also a problem with how they dealt with the smaller numbers. Our Expo could have easily fit into a hotel conference room and saved the 1 1/2 block walk. We could have attracted a much higher percentage of people to the expo. Dignity Lifts could have also avoided this Expo altogether. No one forced us to spend $2,400. We made that decision on our own.
What will we do now? What does it mean for us, long term? Our success will come from showing people our toilet lifts. It is difficult to grow without some way to demonstrate them. But it is also difficult for care facilities to find the time to look for new technologies. Expos and trade shows have always filled this role, but if few people attend, the march of progress will become slower.
Dignity Lifts are a new solution to a troublesome problem. Toileting is a big issue. Toilet costs you care facilities time, money, and it often pushes people into the next stage of more expensive care. Toileting results in worker injuries too. Toileting is not enjoyable for the workers, nor for the residents. Residents want independence. Dignity Lifts can solve all of these things, but most people do not realize that toilet lifts exist.
In order to be successful we need to demonstrate. The pandemic has made this very, very difficult. This week's expo was our most extreme example of this. Everyone we showed our lifts to had "never seen anything like them." so it was great to show them. But what about the hundreds of people who didn't attend? How will we get them to find out?
We certainly won't stop trying. We will continue to travel the USA showing off Dignity Lifts toilet lifts. In October we have three national events with much larger audiences. And while we expect attendance will be less than prior years, we should meet thousands of new customers. We will show them how Dignity Lifts can help them. Then, next year we will likely return to Leading Age Michigan to give it another chance.
The real mistake would be to stop trying to help people stand up, for themselves.