No secrets to success at Cannes
One particularity of Cannes is that it hosts the most important trade fairs in a number of different industries. The Cannes Film festival, Midem, MIPIM, TFWA, the Film Market, MIPTV, MAPIC and MIPCOM – to name a few – are the most influential trade fairs of their kind. This is not news, and in boom times, many people would not hesitate to attend them. But what happens in times of bust?
Calculating the return on investment of a trip to Cannes is not easy. Rather than look at that, I’d like to ask a few questions that can help those that have decided to attend a trade fair in Cannes, notably how do you get the most from your visit?
Plan for success
At the risk of stating the obvious, the “secret” of success is to plan. But plan for what? And how? This very much depends on what brings you to Cannes and how you define success. Take a second to think of the one big reason you have to attend either Midem or the Cannes Film Market (the other events work along similar lines). Let’s say you have a new product you think you can license worldwide. If you are reading this, you are probably a relative newcomer, so what are your realistic expectations?
Nearly everyone you might want to reach will be there. So how do you reach them? How do you then approach them? With what, and with what expectations?
You should know that very few deals are done directly at Midem or the Film Market. Although you are entitled to try, it is far more likely that what you are getting at Cannes is two very simple but precious things: access to interesting people and – hopefully – the permission to keep in contact with them afterwards. That’s it.
Wait, what about my sales figures? I’m not going to Cannes to waltz around the Croisette! Nope, you are going to build partnerships, to find the perfect fit for your product or service in a few if not dozens of territories. You are going to find people that need you in some way. This is not to say you won’t sell stuff – the trade fairs would crumble overnight if that was the case, and some companies report 75% of their annual sales are a direct result of contacts made at the fairs – but you have to focus on connecting with people first.
How do I meet the right people in Cannes?
Why? Because these people are usually more open to deals. There are far more of them. They are less courted and might have more time for you. Check their profiles completely. Visit their website. Check every angle of their work. What other activities are they involved in? Google/Bing/EntireWeb them. Have they sent out press releases recently? What does that tell you about them? Is there something else you can suggest them? Think wide.
Don’t wait for Cannes to come around to meet the right people. Start as soon as possible. I strongly advise getting one of the early bird event rates for two reasons: you save money (sometimes enough to cover a cheap hotel); and you have a head start in mining the database. Again, with your new product, you go looking for licensors. First, pick off the big names in territories you know. That part is easy (although getting a reply from them is more difficult). Then comes the time-consuming but fun part: investigating the hundreds of smaller players in each region. This could well be where your business comes from.
Offer more to stay in the game
Although some companies can afford to attend Cannes with one hot product, I strongly advise against it. There is nothing more gutting than to realise after the first three meetings that your product is totally dead in the water for whatever reason and you have three more days of spending money to look forward to. If you’ve done your homework, you’ll know the people you are meeting are also active in character licensing, physical distribution, packaging, music supervision or whatever. Move the subject in that direction and hit them with the back-up plan. Rep someone else, if necessary. Mention your next upcoming project (if it is notably different from the one you did not impress them with right now). It could pay for the trip and more.
And when all else fails…
Never let yourself feel down when all else fails – there’s time enough for that in the plane going home. Analyse what people are telling you. Look for new angles. How could your idea be re-packaged? And in your time off, attend the conferences, they are a source of great ideas and also offer great networking opportunities. Read the dailies and determine to try and meet at least one company mentioned in them per day (I have a trick for that, more of which later).
And lastly, I strongly recommend doing what only about 15% of people do properly: follow up every contact 10 days later and see who is still open to some sort of business situation. Remember also that your Cannes event is usually about five days. The database, however, is open for 12 months. Armed with your new knowledge, you can develop products that fit what you learned and can then go find exactly the right person to contact in each territory. The fact that you did not make a sale this time does not mean you never will – on the contrary. A slap in the face is often a great stimulus for business. You are now armed with greater insights and access to the people that can make them work.
I’d really love to get some debate going. So feel free to make comments ask questions (below). I deal with specific aspects of travelling to Cannes on the rest of the site. Keep up to date using the RSS feed, follow me on Twitter or why not get Cannes news straight to your mailbox. I cover Cannes, music and movie biz news.