December 2008
Tradeshows are the industry’s roadmap
Discover profitable ideas, meet old friends, and maybe score that next big job
With all the sources of information out there, do you ever wonder if there’s a point to going to trade shows? After all, there is tons of information on the Internet, or if you just ask any supplier for something, they will bury you in stuff. Nothing ever changes from one trade show to the next, right? Besides, you’re probably not looking to buy anything now, and you don’t have the time anyway. These are just some of the reasons I’ve heard for not going to industry trade shows.

If you haven’t been to a trade show recently, or have never been to one, here’s what you’re missing or what it’s costing you.

I probably go to three or four shows a year and I’m always amazed at the different things I see. On first look, many things look the same, but once you get beyond the surface, big changes become apparent. You start to see the trends emerging in the industry. And you start to notice ideas that could affect your customers down the road.

I find that taking a close look at some of the smaller booths can be very profitable. They will have unique ideas and approaches that can become mainstream in the future. I remember seeing UV coaters at a show in Miami about 10 years ago that could be hooked up to any press or could be run as offline units. Now, everyone is selling them.

Everything in the industry seems in constant flux. Prepress and digital imaging are obvious examples. Wide format seems to be changing almost on a monthly basis with prices going down and quality going up. Globalization is hitting the equipment market, with manufacturers from the far east entering the press and bindery equipment sectors. Used equipment is becoming an international market with European companies entering North America. Knowing what’s available for you and what your competitor is assessing makes the trip worthwhile. When your biggest customer asks for something new, knowing where or how to get the equipment can make the difference between him remaining your biggest customer or leaving you for another shop.

Getting information on the Internet only goes so far. If you know exactly what you’re looking for, great. But it’s not so good if you’re looking for new ideas or methods to apply to your shop. Try an online search for ‘new ideas to keep my biggest customer happy.’

Trade shows have always been the biggest meeting place of the industry. When you get 10,000 colleagues together, it’s amazing how a chance meeting can turn into a big deal down the road.

It’s no surprise that seminars at trade shows have grown in popularity over the last several years. It’s a lot easier to learn from industry veterans who have already learned how to do it right. Learning the hard way, by trial and error, is getting too expensive. Knowledge is what separates the winners from the losers in this industry. Anyone can put ink or toner on paper today. It’s your knowledge that customers want. Knowing the road map ahead is why you can't afford not to go to the next trade show.
Alexander Donald is the publisher of Graphic Monthly Canada.
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