For the past year or so, the Ipex email machine has been spewing out regular updates, telling me how spectacularly wonderful the show is going to be in its new digs at the ExCel conference center in London. On the show website,
the crawl below the top banner proclaims that exhibitor space sales continue to grow with more than 200 confirmed exhibitors, some of which are now booking larger stands for Ipex 2014.
What the site naturally doesn’t say is that some major players will be conspicuously absent. HP, Heidelberg and now Xerox have pulled the plug on their Ipex plans and others will no doubt follow. (And I’m guessing some of those expanded booths are due to killer deals on the space once staked out by players who decided to stay home.)
These big companies bailing out certainly makes a lot of sense. Given the economic realities of the print industry, the seven- and eight-figure sums a big player must pony up for a show like Ipex are not necessarily a wise investment. With six- to 18-month sales cycles for much of the equipment, the ROI from exhibiting at a show is difficult to track, making it increasingly hard for any executive with P & L responsibility to justify the spend.
After all, anyone considering the purchase of a digital press generally knows what is available, has done online research, gotten input from other users on Linked In and elsewhere, read magazine articles, and waded through the propaganda and print samples brought by the sales reps. How is going to a trade show adding real value for that buyer?
If they are even moderately serious, prospects likely have been flown to a demo center, wined, dined, talked money, and been able to run test jobs. For Xerox, the ROI on stroking individual prospects one-on-one at the Gil Hatch Center in Webster, NY, at road show venues, and in carefully arranged small groups is far better than any trade show. In HP’s case, there’s certainly a lot more measurable value in supporting Dscoop—with its growing international audience and 100-plus partners—than participating in a broad-based show like Ipex.
Come 2014, Ipex will probably wind up with 250 or so exhibitors. Some will be big players, the likes of Canon, Konica Minolta, Ricoh and Xeikon. There’ll also be software vendors, finishing companies, offset press manufacturers chasing their shrinking market, and a host of smaller players that round out the world of print.
And at the end of the show, they’ll all try to decide if exhibiting was worth the investment. Meanwhile, the vendors that don’t attend will spend most of their 2014 marketing budget on road shows, webinars, social media efforts, and bringing more prospects to their demo centers. They will invest in educating customers and building relationships that turn into sales—all for a fraction of the cost of being at Ipex.
We’ll hear a lot more about Ipex in the next 14 months before the doors open in London. And by then, we’ll know (with apologies to Lennon and McArtney) how many vendors it takes to fill the ExCel hall.