I have spent the last few days in California, at one of the largest Bike Festivals Worldwide. Sea Otter is traditionally the start shot for the US bike season, and brands, customers, and racers converge on Laguna Seca Raceway (near Monterey, about an hour south of San Francisco) to completely feed their inner bicycle nerds.
It is a local show, for the USA with no, or very little International relevance from a sales point of view (I had a conversation with a potential distributor from Peru, and South America remains high on my radar of places to build the brand). For me, traveling here in the past was, as I mentioned in a different post, about helping my US colleagues while we established the brand there. However, as the job has evolved, I am now working with bike brands establishing relationships, with a view to supplying the products OEM for bike manufacturers to include on bicycles when purchased new.
The reasons for doing this are many. First of all, there are larger quantities involved. We are unlikely to spoil the market place for ourselves, given the number of bikes produced worldwide. Selling the product as accessories will remain core to the brand, but there is room to sell OEM alongside. Increased quantities means increased turnover and increased importance for the vendors and factories involved. The second reason is that it means that more end consumers are exposed to the brand, as are more retailers, but in a stealthy fashion. People who would have never experienced our product or considered it, will now be exposed to it, because a bicycle they have purchased has it as standard. This will then instill a trust for the brand, which in turn will help them consider it when purchasing products from any of the other product categories that we serve.
My trip here was focused on these customers. On finding them, and presenting the product to brand / product managers. The people who decide if your bike has this saddle, or that saddle, for example.
Sea Otter festival is great for this. It is a chance for me to talk to a lot of brands in a relaxed environment. At the larger shows, there is often little chance for this, as product managers are there and focused on looking at their competitors’ products (or discussing things with existing suppliers). For me, too, the International Sales side of things is the focus in Taipei in March, and Eurobike in September. Adding an extra opportunity to find new customers, particularly in the Californian sunshine, where everyone is relaxed and enjoying themselves is actually an ideal environment for this.
I would call it a success.
On top of this, there is the social aspect. Taking people out of their every day work environment, putting them in a hotel – it helps free up the mind a bit. You take more away from it, than you expect. Always.
I didn’t really take many photos of the event itself, but I did ride again – a different borrowed pimped out bike. Also, my friend Dorothy was enjoying her new bike!