A different theme, but same strong customer focus

David Russell reports on the recent Handicare Partner Event

It isn’t every day that you receive a "Hailing All Frequencies” save the date message from Lieutenant Uhura, so it’s bound to get your attention.

The invitation was from the same company – Handicare – that created a ‘Stair Wars’ and James Bond ‘006½’ theme for its annual Elite and Select Partner Event in previous years.

This year’s invitation wasn’t entirely unexpected because Handicare had invited me to speak at the event. I often get asked by people what makes a good news story and so I presented on the benefits of producing PR and how to go about it effectively.

The morning session included a review of 2016, covering the topics that one would expect to see at a manufacture’s meeting - growth in sales, improvements in quality and product updates. National Sales Manager, Paul Stockdill, also introduced new point of sale material that would be available to Elite and Select partners, examples of which were on display around the venue. As Paul told the audience that they could take the on-site examples, we saw a great example of audience participation as people loaded their cars and vans with the display towers and posters and the room was stripped bare!

Marketing Manager, Sharron Cutler, explained that last year’s speaker programme had been well received and that both traditional and internet marketing were highlighted by partners as areas where they would welcome insight. "We felt that some pointers on generating effective PR would sit well alongside a refresher session on Internet Marketing. Although we can’t hope to tick all the boxes for everyone, we aimed to provide some learning points that would support a review of current practice.”

The team at Handicare have always been good at combining the delivery of essential information with a dollop of fun and this year was no different. After Afternoon Tea, the audience took their seats as ‘Admiral Slack’, ‘Captain Stockdill’ and ‘First Officer Edwards’ took their places on the Bridge and invited the ‘Stairfleet Federation’ members to hear about their latest mission.

What followed was a clever homage to Star Trek, with all the Handicare team members dressed in Star Trek uniforms - making a pleasant change from the usual delivery of lists of features and benefits. It was also when the company introduced its new straight stairlift, the Advantage. The company says that the new lift offers the market’s slimmest straight track in a design that has removed not only its teeth but the need for greasing the rail too – according to the company, a real ‘Star Track’!

Shortly after the audience was asked to clear the area (Klingons on the starboard bow apparently) and report to the ‘Observation Deck’ where six Advantage series stairlifts were installed during the presentation. The Handicare crew were on hand to answer any questions Partners might have about the new lift while they got hands-on with the product.

The event was rounded off with the Elite and Select Partner Awards Dinner, which always includes interesting entertainment. While this year’s speaker may not be able to travel at WARP speed, Typhoon Fighter Pilot and ex-Red Arrow Graham Duff will probably get a lot closer to it than the rest of us ever will. As you might imagine, his talk was fascinating.

This is also when Handicare presented a few awards. Matt Armstong received the Elite Partner award on behalf of EMS Lifts and Colm Connolly of Leinster Bathrooms picked up the Stairlifts’ Growth award. The Select Partner award went to Somerset and West Country.

Putting together a full day and evening event like this doesn’t happen overnight. It takes an awful lot of time and effort by a lot of people. For some companies, it would be just too much effort, but clearly Handicare feel that it is more than worthwhile to be able to spend over 12 hours with your key customers. They are also good at doing it and you get the feeling that, even though it can be pretty stressful and ‘full on’, they really enjoy it too – maybe a little bit more when it’s all over!

So, was the enterprising approach to this year’s Partner Event a success? Well, you can’t deny that this team choose to boldly go down a route that many would find alien. The company reports that the day was universally well received, even by the non ‘Trekkies’ in the audience. No doubt the Handicare team will hope that its annual get-together will live long and prosper!

To find out more about Handicare, visit www.handicare.co.uk