IS THIS WHY: Hopeless exhibition demos

Being an inquisitive chap even way back in 1976 when I entered this industry I kept a log of conversions from ‘prospect’ (that’s the term we use for potential buyers) into clients. The initial results were inconclusive. There were just to many variables. However as the years moved on, I learned more and understood more. There were still too many variables for comfort but at least I was able to prioritise them and to marginalise the less important factors.

Moreover I spent many, many hours as an exhibitor at many of the UK audio shows. It was grueling, occasionally fun, financially moderately successful and yet invaluable because of the concentrated opportunity to observe room visitors’ expectations and aspirations being met and confounded, seemingly in equal measure.

I came to a series of conclusions, only one of which I'll discuss here. If you want to hear (at a hifi show) my carefully configured system or at a home demonstration you listen to my demo first – then you can play whatever you want. Candidly, and I hope this won’t put you off, I leave little room for argument.

My reasoning is I believe valid. I usually start by saying something along these lines ”Let me show you the best qualities I know this system to have so you can quickly hear what I hear.” Who better than me, the assembler of the system, to know what really works to show it off?

Of course this is ‘easy’ at an exhibition because I have complete control over the items that comprise the system. It’s slightly more complicated when making an ‘intervention’ into a client’s existing system. Here the situation is usually that the client:

Wants a system improvement sonically and …

Has already decided that the weak part is the amp, or turntable, speakers of whatever.

Re point #2 above, they may be right – sometimes, but not always. Mind you, using my approach it really doesn’t matter. The truth will be determined one way or the other.

So in the home, I introduce one variable at a time. I play music which I know will demonstrate the best of the combination of their original setup plus my suggested variable. Then the customer gets to play their music.

Today it seems to me at shows in particular many manufacturers have abandoned this demonstration technique. They let anyone play anything they want and hope for the best. I think this is a disservice to potential buyers.

I should in fairness though alert you to the converse. I've experienced a few of fixed demonstrations where the potential customer has no ability to play their own material; not even for a moment. Notwithstanding what I said earlier, that sort of draconian approach is a disservice and arguably disrespectful.

My highest conversion rate and arguably therefore my best demos bee a combination of the controlled demo (to initiate the listener as to what’s possible) and then let them play whatever they are familiar with to gain their bearings. Frankly, one without the other doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.

Thank you


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