Huawei at CES: nice booth but nobody understands last three feet


Huawei is a major Chinese telecommunications company founded in 1988 by Ren Zhengfei, a former officer in the People’s Liberation Army. The official story is that it began as a third-party reseller of other groups’ telecoms devices, before selling its own technology to the Chinese domestic market.

In 2008, Huawei ranked Number 1 in the world among all the company and individual applicants for the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT), according to the latest statistics released from the World Intellectual Property Organization. Huawei had the highest number of patent filings, with a total of 1737 applications in 2008.

Fast forward to this week at CES 2010. For some odd reason Huawei was not listed in the Official CES Show Directory. We found them at a large booth on the fourth floor of the North Hall at the Las Vegas Convention Center, where they displayed most of their product lines.

There, we ran into the ?last three feet? problem.

Everybody in the telephone, wireless, and data markets are familiar with the concept  of the ?last mile? ? where they have the big pipe infrastructure, but cannot seem to deliver services that last mile to the customer?s office or home.

At a trade show it is the last three feet that are most important. That is the part where the booth staff approaches the customer, answers questions, and hopefully makes a good first impression. Because, a first impression is always the most lasting impression ? ?love at first sight? is a real fact of life in the trade show world.

Years ago, we spent time at a used car lot selling older cars. A friendly sales manager said ?you need to read a book by Joe Girard?. The very next week the sales commission check was bigger.

Huawei needs to train their booth staff on Girard’s 13 Rules to Success. One of the most important things their booth staff failed to do was have the properly formatted information the customers wanted. We asked for a press kit ? nobody had ever heard of that item. Even the smallest booths at CES most often had a USB drive with all their information on it.

The reason you?re not seeing product photos, an explanation of products, and a positive attitude towards Huawei is: they didn’t do a good job in that last three feet. Their brochures were not offered to all those CES prospective customers who asked for them.

So Huawei’s  bosses in China spent tens of thousands of dollars, probably closer to a hundred thousand dollars preparing and coming to CES 2010. All of that expenditure was for nothing, because the preparation forgot to give the staff the proper tools to deliver on the last three feet. Maybe there is a good reason Huawei sales stumbled in 2009, forecasting near flat revenues for 2010. Oh well there is always next year and another chance at CES to do a better job on the last three feet of the road to success.