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EVP, Marketing at Specialty Print Communications

Against the Grain

By Dustin LeFebvre

About Dustin

A third-generation printer, Dustin LeFebvre delivers his vision for Specialty Print Communications as EVP, Marketing through strategy, planning and new product development. With a rich background ranging from sales and marketing to operations, quality control and procurement, Dustin takes a wide-angle approach to SPC


What a Week of Trade Show Madness!

As things return to normal, everyone wants to know how the shows went. That’s a hard question to answer when typical sales cycles range between six and 18 months. Depending on whom you ask, the leads are either weak, or they’re Glengarry leads. I guess we’ll see next year at this same time, if someone shows up in a Cadillac Eldorado.

My week started with the annual pilgrimage to McCormick Place for GRAPH EXPO 2012 and Printing Impressions’ Gold Ink Awards dinner. Along the way, I had the privilege and pleasure of networking with a growing number of familiar faces at the Great Lakes Graphics Association. Then, it was off to the always-glowing lights of Las Vegas to exhibit at the Direct Marketing Assn. (DMA) meeting.

On my way home from Vegas, I had time to reflect on these events. I wondered what happened to decorum, and whether we really accomplish anything in the exhibit halls of these shows.

Prior to the DMA show, I decided against sending out any advance marketing communications for a few reasons:

1. Attendance is down—8,000 attendees was the promoted count, down from previous years (if you even believe that figure).

2. Getting attention in Las Vegas is always a challenge—too many distractions! There is very little a printer can do to compete with some of the more...“enticing” attractions that Vegas has to offer.

3. 80 percent of the attendees opt out of receiving marketing materials!

The last point really blows my mind. These are direct marketers—they make their living by connecting with customers—and they’re declining receipt of the same sorts of materials themselves. If you purchase the show list, it’s about 50 percent vendors. While I like many of my fellow vendors, I’m not always interested in sharing my marketing materials with them.

And those exhibitors aren’t there to harass attendees; they’re looking for good business fits to find mutual benefit. Anything else is a waste of time for everyone.

Working a trade show floor successfully can be done in four steps:
  1. Engage
  2. Qualify
  3. Seek Agreement
  4. Disengage and Repeat Steps 1-3

I guess there are only three steps, and it’s kind of like a session of speed dating. What amazes me is the growing number of people who take themselves off the market by closing themselves off to the possibility that vendors can help them achieve their goals. I saw an increasing number of people with their badges turned around.

As you might imagine, that type of atmosphere doesn’t make dating all that much fun. These were people who wouldn’t look you in the eye, and I’m not just talking about the few folks who are still ticked off at me after last week’s blog post. 

Are they doing this because vendors have conditioned them through over-aggressive tactics in the aisles? I got a little of that at the DMA show, but it seems far-fetched to think that people would close themselves off to all possibilities of contact because of the behavior of a few. What do you think?

My thoughts? Perhaps I’ll concentrate on smaller shows where social pressures guard against rude behavior. Small shows where, knowing that you might eat lunch with someone the next day, you show at least the barest level of civility—if only to avoid embarrassment when that time comes. Small shows targeted to specific vertical markets and job functions to build a reputation among smaller communities.

And until then, I’ll keep an eye out in the parking lot to see how the show actually went.

Until next week...

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