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Are You Peddling Hotdogs? – By Jim Obermeyer

hot-dogger-2I was talking to a good friend the other day about our changing industry. He has been around this business for about 25 years.  He was venting some frustration about how some of his staff still approach every new sales opportunity from the perspective of how much shop work there is for them.  They look at a design, or a concept, and say “Well, there’s not much build there for us.  Maybe we should pass.”

A very telling comment. It says so much about where that company has parked themselves culturally.  They’re basically saying that they’re a shop first, and everything is done to feed the shop.  If it doesn’t fit their perception of what they do – build stuff – they are unwilling to consider the project.

If you align with the idea of finding one thing you do well and sticking to it – then this might make sense. But what happens when the world around you changes?  What happens when the industry you’re in becomes more concerned about shipping and drayage costs and lighter weight materials?  What happens when your client wants to spend less on capital purchases and more on rental?  When they want someone who can provide a total event solution – not just the property, but also lighting and sound, staffing, logistics, and even consulting on any number of issues?  When each event is a distinct project, rather than just part of a larger program?

What it means is that companies that have done well in the past are going to have to look again at the products and services they are prepared to provide, and see if they match what is required now by their clients. And while we’re at it, it would probably be good to look at who that client now is.

Most likely, the person that you are now talking with at your client company is going to be a Millennial, and the approach to doing business that has given you success for decades may just need to change. As in everything from what you sell, to how you sell it, to how you market yourself.

It also means that new companies – and those that are nimble enough to change quickly – that are prepared to do business in this new era and have a handle on what clients need now will do well.

For many long standing companies, it might mean a move away from tradition…from the way it has always been. It might mean restructuring or refocusing parts of their business to meet changing needs of clients.

It goes to that whole idea of being a partner with your client rather than a vendor. A vendor is someone you buy a hotdog from at the ballpark.  A partner is someone who understands your business, your marketing strategy, and is a consultant to you in creating and executing your trade show plan.  And getting results.

That may include building an exhibit. But it is most likely going to include a whole lot more.  Like participating in the creative process, recommending marketing solutions, finding resources, managing logistics, tracking results.  And it may also include sourcing a Cirque de Soleil act for an event or figuring out how to do a 30-foot tall wall of fire in a convention center.

The bottom line is that you become a trusted source of value-added service to your client; someone they turn to when they need solutions of all kinds…a partner. And that’s a lot better place to be than waiting for someone to buy a hotdog.

See you on the show floor.

Jim Obermeyer has been in the tradeshow industry 35 years, both as a corporate trade show manager and exhibit house owner. He is currently a Vice President at Hamilton Exhibits and can be reached at jobermeyer@hamilton-exhibits.com.

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