For growth, think small

I wish I could say my recent participation in the annual conference of the American Society of Business Publications Editors’ (ASBPE) at St. Petersburg was enlightening, but it was not. It was more like truth-confirming. 

The presenter immediately before me was a sales/publisher type, and he explained how he had moved into a very well-known magazine and started spamming its readership on a daily basis. The editors raised their voices and said that their readers did not like the daily “updates,” and that they were putting the magazine on their twit filters. The presenter’s response, he said, was that I told them to double the spam. It’s money, he said, and the advertisers never know who has blocked a URL. 

Kerry Knudsen

As advertisers, you don’t have to go far to find sales/publisher types that will assure you that they have clean lists, have been doing this for a long time, know what they are doing and can give you a deal. It’s as common as a Nigerian inheritance. 

Unfortunately for ASBPE, they don’t have a significant income stream from editor/members, so, like other associations, they go to “associate” members for funding. And, as has been true since the beginning of time, he who pays the piper gets to call the tune. Even if they are tone-deaf and ignorant of the rules and forms of music. 

As we approach the next few months, we are looking at several important trade shows. We have noted many times before that a growing industry will show energy in three areas of communication, those being trade shows, magazines and trade associations.  

As I noted in my ASBPE presentation, journalism is trudging and dying in its shows, its magazines and its associations. So, I proposed, what would an industry look like if everything we think we know is wrong? I proposed for magazines it would follow that, if everything we know is wrong, that we would see declining revenues, declining readers, declining customers, declining political influence and declining response. 

It can be argued that the wood industry is growing, but it is certainly not growing in pace with the overall economy and it is not growing in influence or communication. With respect, the associations are struggling, often with no fresher an idea than to offer prospective members a golf game and a fancy hotel stay. The condition of the magazines speaks for itself, and the shows are under increasing pressure to consolidate or yield to agglomerated competitors. 

One of the persistent drumbeats we have heard over the years has been that of automation and technology. I am fine with automation and technology, but it has become dominant-to-overbearing. 

The fact is, there is limited room at the top for high-speed production. There is plenty of draw, since the “big boys” get lots of attention and they get access to lots of money to influence trade shows, magazines and associations. But the fact remains, after the “big boys” have sent off their 80th golf photo to their handlers at the home office or showed off the 93rd “free” product notice or in-content profile, the home office is bumfuzzled at the lack of ROI and has nowhere to go for answers. 

High-speed, mass-production, high-tech gear is sexy, it brings big ad and “support” dollars and commands huge square footage at shows. It is also very competitive, relatively low-margin and, as noted, of limited value to small- to medium-sized enterprises. For those of you that remember, the 2007 timeframe saw virtually all of Canada’s “big boys” bite dirt and die or become resurrections under employee leadership. 

The vast majority of Wood Industry’s readers are owners and managers of shops employing 20 workers or fewer. In addition, they and also some of the “big boys” have relatively short runs and their markets are small and regional. As we have noted before, our industry is not Colgate Palmolive, and we need to quit thinking we are. Humility is being right-sized, and humility is a trait history has proved valuable. For that matter, using the war cry of technology and “big boys” is not new or innovative. I am not trying to evoke an emotional response, here, but half of Europe heeded that Siren’s Call in 1939, and it did not work out for them, long-term, and cause a bit of collateral damage. It’s almost as if everything they knew was wrong. And they hired an American PR idiot, Edward Bernays, to justify themselves. In 1939, Homag, like Hitler, followed the muses of tech and allies. 

Back to the market, your future likely still remains in long-term relationships with hard-working, small businesses. To reach them, I think you should still present your biggest/fastest/sexiest/best, but put your energy behind start-up programs and efficiency for regional markets. 

Self-serving or not, you should marry your show space and show ads with magazines and associations that actually serve their constituents instead of serving them up with “out” sauce for their “big-boy” idols. At the moment, that means Wood Industry. I have asked my competitors to debate me, I have asked them to endorse ANY set of recognized and published standards, as we do on our web home page, or to just quit with the commercial patronization.  

No luck, although I have been told they are “disappointed” that I point out plain facts. I hate to disappoint competitors, but better they should be disappointed than the market. 

As suppliers to the wood industry, you have a remarkable opportunity to help consolidate your customers with the supply side and the three communications divisions and take advantage of the near- and intermediate-term economic booms. Either that, or we can all continue to play the same old scratchy 78s and Great Depression Blues. 

There is a right way and a wrong way to do things. Sometimes the wrong way is not cataclysmic. It just slowly bleeds you dry. 

Let us know if we can help. WMS is just around the corner, the last e-letters before AWFS are coming fast and the July issue of Wood Industry closes on Monday. 

Communication, Knowledge, Power

My May 9 speech to the American Society of Business Publication Editors was well received. If you’re interested, you can see the whole presentation here. A few weeks later I was rewarded to see the speech mentioned on ASBPE pages at Facebook and LinkedIn.  

The story started out, “Kerry Knudsen did not mince words….” For those of you that know me well, it must seem as if that should go without saying. I mean, what are the chances a lead would say Kerry Knudsen minced words. That would be my worst nightmare – the thought of me, walking down the aisle at some trade show or other, mincing away…. 

Kerry Knudsen

The topic of the ASBPE speech was what we speak of here, often: that media, shows and associations have lost sight of their job. In this case I mentioned one of my personal heroes, U.S. Revolutionary War pamphleteer Tom Paine. In his seminal work Common Sense, Paine points out there are, “the two grand principles of business, KNOWLEDGE and POWER.” (Emphasis Tom Paine) Note, he did not say two of the main principles…. He said there are two main principles, and those are knowledge and power. If you have knowledge and power, money is the return. 

An abundance of money has flipped Paine’s maxim, resulting in people with enough money, irrespective of how remarkably unbrilliant, having power over information. 

In the realm of business publications, this has led to the demise of titles, the loss of jobs, the redirection of resources and the commoditization of news. The reader (market) has become secondary to the pomposity of the few biggest advertisers, and content has become basically what they used to supply on door hangers. 

It is rare to find an original thought in contemporary business magazines. This is because fools with money are aversive to original thought. For example, this week’s issue of Ad Age leads off with the story “How to be a cultural leader instead of a cultural follower.” Excuse me? If you need a 30-something web writer to tell you how to be a leader, you aren’t one. You are mincing. 

This is the reason the ASBPE asked me to speak to the trade-magazine industry. Mincing sycophants and a few dishonorable-but-loaded suppliers have taken trade magazines from leadership to stenographership in one, weak generation. 

To be clear, they have done the same with trade shows and trade associations. Coincidentally, one of the audience members that came up to me after the presentation was a former editorial staffer for the now-demised Wood Digest. Her first question to me was whether I remember the debacle of the AWFS show in Las Vegas in 2009. 

I do. That was the show where a few of the top, bloated louts decided to try and kill the show or control it by pulling out their “support.” Interesting word, support. It comes from dependence – the chronic state of children and slaves. We were so disturbed by that course of events and what it led to that we published Our Own Worst Enemy as a monograph insert in the September (post AWFS) issue in 2013. You can read it here.

W.I. Media stood up to an all-out effort on the parts of those few advertisers to kill our magazine and our company, and it worked. They haven’t advertised to our readers since, and we are still free. Importantly, it worked to show that Wood Industry does not need that cartel, and neither did AWFS, but the industry needs Wood Industry. You can see that in the responses of the market.  

I am happy to start naming names, again, but I am cautious that I don’t want to leave anybody out. The important thing is that, while Wood Industry and AWFS both survived the vicious ministrations of the cartel, it is not debatable that the industry lost. It lost money, for sure, but it lost energy, and it lost its ability to communicate. It lost knowledge and power. 

This lesson is critical to the minds of the ASBPE, since fear has become a main driver in the continued downslide of the trade-magazine sector at large, and ASBPE saw it desirable for me to address the issue directly, without mincing words. 

Paine said the two GRAND PRINCIPLES of business (my emphasis) are knowledge and power. Power requires knowledge for its application. Lacking knowledge, you get what you see – underperforming, undersized tyrants using somebody else’s money to push around markets and see if they can find a vulnerability.  

The proper application of power requires not only knowledge, but the strength that comes from knowledge in knowing what is needed, in what measure and at what point. That is the proper position of an independent media. And don’t even get me started on the special-interest bullied consumer press. 

We have two major trade shows coming up in North America this year – AWFS in Las Vegas next month, and WMS in Ontario in October. 

As friends and associates of W.I. Media and Wood Industry, each of you knows that we are not attacking advertisers, but defending them from the ministries of some very unsophisticated agents of some very minor corporations, viewed on the world stage. The only place they have stature is in the mirror and in their control of industry media, shows and associations. 

The message that American business publications is taking is that you either stand together or die – a message that hearkens all the way back to Tom Paine. The agents that are threatening you are mincing tigers. W.I. Media stood up to them and stands up to them, your customers know it and they approve. So does the international business press. 

As always, I invite any of the unnamed characters that feel slighted in our reports to come out here in the light and have a chat. I will provide that Golden Fleece of the gilded fleecers: free editorial space. Right here, or in Wood Industry magazine, or in any or all of our national and international e-letters. Or all of the above. It’s yours. Just drop me a line. They say clear writing is a sign of clear thinking, so here is your big chance. Say something inspiring. Or at least have your pet publication do it for you. 

For those legitimate suppliers that are paying too much for your ads and booth space so that the much-vaunted “big boys” can pay less, take a look at that stain running down the inside of their pants and give some consideration to a new way of business. Your customers are waiting. 

An industry’s KNOWLEDGE and POWER are in its COMMUNICATION – its media, its shows and its associations – not in which international HQ has the biggest PURSE. 

The wood industry in North America is not dead or dying. We can move forward and do it well. But we need to communicate, we need to exchange knowledge, and we need to be free of the exhausting foolishness that is dragging the whole sector down. It is true in manufacturing, and it is true in magazines.

Sustainability by the spread

It is hard to imagine that it was 10 years ago that we were suffering under the lash of the housing market crash and subsequent stock-market collapse.

A big part of those effects hit us in the sector I refer to as “occupied space,” that sector comprising secondary wood products, floor coverings, kitchens and baths, lighting, wall coverings and others. For us, a dive in housing investment yields a dive in revenues in a directly correlated, objective, measurable manner.

Kerry Knudsen

One area of huge change was the dissolution of most of the trade magazines in North America. Not just in our area. They all got hit. In wood, FDM and Cabinetmaker reorganized under new ownership, as did Canada’s Woodworking magazine. Wood and Wood Products, Custom Woodworking Business, Wood Digest, Modern Woodworking and others simply died. In fact, the only publication I know that survived under its original ownership was this one: Wood Industry.

I haven’t heard how our competitors address that fact, but the reasons are basically education, experience, track record and, importantly, a direct, close and personal trust relationship with our readers, which yields ROI. This has captured the imagination of the American Society of Business Publications Editors (ASBPE), and I am addressing this topic at their annual convention Thursday of this week in St. Petersburg, Fla.

Ten years ago, most of you were having headaches splitting your marketing budget between multiple print and digital resources. And, while the budgets crashed when the markets did, the fact remains that most of you had multiple exposures to the market each month in print, and more often in digital.

For the most part, marketing budgets have not returned to their pre-crash levels. After all, why should they? There are fewer little magazine birds squawking with their mouths open. In addition, there are not as many of your own competitors still breathing. The crash took its toll there, as well, with such hardware megaliths as Blum operating in a reduced profile, Homag under still another reorganization and many smaller machinery suppliers either out of business or significantly diversified into other areas.

On the other hand, the industry is not operating at capacity and, for reasons explained before, North America’s primary competition from the Far East is under pressure from political, economic and social issues, within and without.

Most of you learned in school that successful marketing relies on name recognition and on being top-of-mind when the idea hits a customer that he or she should upgrade to meet market demands or potentials. If so, you also learned that repetition is the mother of education, and your job is to out-educate your competitors.

Yet, we have established that you are not getting the numbers of impressions today that you did before the crash, and we have established that we are in an environment of unrealized demand.

Now, it is reasonable to argue that there are fewer magazines than then, yielding fewer opportunities to get those impressions. You can no longer hit five magazines a month.

Well, yes and no. There are certainly fewer magazines. Further, Wood Industry is only a six-times-annual publication, so it only counts half of an annual in terms of frequency and you have to hit each issue twice to get 12 impressions.

The advertisers in our flooring magazine, Coverings, have addressed this matter on their side by increasing their exposure in each issue, and they are benefitting. Such internationally recognized brands as Proma, Ardex, Schluter and Custom Building Products are buying double-page spreads or are buying sequential or serial ads to increase their reader response. Mapei pays a premium each issue to be positioned in the most-read position in the magazine, that being the page across from my frank, sometimes blunt, editorials. And it has been working for them for nine years. Importantly, each of these companies started with us small, recorded an ROI and increased their spend, sometimes by a factor of four.

You have a choice to make. We are presenting a loyal, responsive, energized market that trusts us and we are pointing at education, experience on both sides of the border and volumes of successes in helping trade, consumer and association magazines. If you like you can read about it on LinkedIn. Our readers get original, focused, professional editorial copy, as opposed to the advertiser-controlled, part-of-the-deal, “value-added” stuff the readers tell us they dislike more than anything.

For now, it is sufficient to note that we are on your side. By holding our position, we have preserved the marketplace as a viable and approachable exchange. With help, we can expand it. Our readers in the United States and Canada have named me, personally, as the most-recognizable personality in our industry in all of North America, and people on the supply side and the readers side believe us when we speak.

In The Art of War, 2,500 years ago, Chinese General Sun Tzu pointed out that generals will kill for information. They will also kill bad messengers for bad information. We should take this to heart when our readers tell us they think advertisers are controlling content, and that they think journalists are nothing but stenographers for suppliers and special interests.

Sun Tzu was right. Each of our magazine’s recipients is a general officer in the command of his company, and each reads Wood Industry for independent information. This is why the ASBPE is asking me to address them on the issue of business plans for trade magazine survival, as well. It may surprise some, but if magazines don’t assure the survival of their readers, there is an ash pit right down the road just waiting. Assuring survival demands that you know what you’re doing.

We are running a special this spring, designed to help you get your message out to your market in support of your participation in the AWFS and WMS shows this year in Las Vegas and Toronto. Buy two ads at your program rate, get a three-month web ad, Supply Side and either Canada or US e-letter for half price.

In addition, and in conjunction with the above special, we are offering special rates on high-impact programs featuring double-page spreads, serial or consecutive ads in each issue.

Finally, one of the most-influential ad presentations is the half-page spread. Available in vertical, horizontal or island formats, the half-page spread is particularly powerful since it dominates the spread so no other ads can compete with it, and it is inherently adjacent along all inside edges with Wood Industry’s famous editorial content. We are offering a spectacular rate on half-page spreads through the rest of 2019 to help you optimize and energize your new ad program.

Here’s the deal: if you buy an ad program of three full pages or more in consecutive issues, and are committed to expanding your influence and reach, we will provide that number of half-page spreads at the full-page rate in the same issues for the price of a full page, a savings of 27 percent. In addition, each half of the spread will count as a single ad in determining frequency discounts. However, half-page spreads cannot be separated to use as two singles.

Contact Steve King via email, or phone 416-802-1225. While ad sales for this issue are closed, I am travelling this week so you can likely still get in.

The joy of selling

Here’s a tough one. Are sales driven by thinking or by rote? (Rote is mechanical or unthinking routine or repetition, a joyless sense of order.) I’m sure we want to claim deep thought processes, but that does not account for such sales memes as “it takes X number of calls to make a sale.” I mentioned once before that I sold cars during a sabbatical before starting a consumer magazine in Michigan. The salesmen there all thought sales is a “numbers game.” So why did I smoke them in total numbers of sales, highest average margin and the largest profit margin on a single sale in the history of the company? I doubt it was rote, since I did not have the time or interest to learn a mechanical, repetitious, joyless sense of order. I was just passin’ through.

This thought has been bothering me all week, since I had occasion to review our Readers’ Survey from 2013. In that survey, we asked our readers — your customers — whether they wanted people hitting them with e-blasts and at what frequency.

Kerry Knudsen

Not surprisingly, when we asked, “Based on your experience of e-promotions, do you want magazine companies to ‘push’ daily digital content to your mailbox?,” 88.14 percent said flat-out No.

I hope this question is purely rhetorical, but if 88 percent of your customers said they don’t want something, would you stuff it up their noses, anyway?

Of course, the “rote” sector would immediately discredit the methodology of the survey. The reason for this is easy. If it’s true, they are in a quandary, that being, what do you do if you don’t know anything else? My car-selling comrades showed me the answer. They keep doing what they were doing, hope I eat dirt and die, and they start sucking pond water.

That is why methodologies are so important, as are professional standards in surveying, level of training and record of production. And that is why we always write out our methodologies.

I was asked years ago to cooperate in a “survey” that a salesman needed to complete his rote sales program. When I said we should review the survey company offering the service, he said, “It doesn’t matter. The surveys tell you what you want them to.”

That’s cold. That means there is no credibility in surveys; it’s just another lie. And that means the information is worthless. And that means when you present it, your customers think you are lying to them.

So in the November/December 2013 issue of Wood Industry, page 25, you can find: “Our random sample this year was 725 e-surveys that were delivered and opened., and 149 responses, for a response rate of 20.6 percent….” In addition, we ask our advertisers and potential advertisers not to respond to the survey, as it skews the results away from the market. The survey is linked right here, along with 70 comments from your customers.

Another recent survey in our industry by another company had a different result — a response rate of less-than 1/10 of one percent. We need to ask ourselves why this is. More importantly, we need to assess our risk and benefit if we implement the conclusions suggested by each response set.

This becomes critical in a small industry when a few of the bullies get frustrated by their flat-line-thinking, can’t raise a lead to save their souls and start demanding that their “message” gets stuffed down their prospects’ throats. That leads to every sort of industry medium, from associations (a medium) to shows (a medium) to magazines and newsletters being turned into a stenographer for the bullies or face a boycott, threat letters and exile.

Isn’t that odd? That a few rather slow and big competitors, to include Blum, Homag and Biesse, would gang up as a cartel to attack the best-liked magazine of their customers? That looks like an opportunity for the rest, to me. I mean, if you look at it, you have a cartel of wanna-be world dominators that want to eliminate one magazine so they can control information. Yet, the North American wood industry could live well and easily without them, while NO industry can live well and easily without credible, original, independent information. If Wood Industry goes away, so goes the independent reporting, yet if Blum, Biesse and Homag go away, there is a larger market share for people that play by the rules, and a more honest supply side for the manufacturers.

Worse, because deep, original thinking on the parts of the associations, shows and magazines has not been part of the process, nobody has the knowledge, confidence and resources to stand up and name them, as I have named Blum, Homag and Biesse. I have not done as I was told, I am happy to show you the lawyer letters and threats, and my readers absolutely love it. That is, your customers love it. Somebody is standing up for the industry against a cartel of ultimatum-directing group-think committees from Europe.

The problem with independent-thinking, educated and successful organizations is when they are ordered to eat dirt and die, they don’t. Instead, they serve their readers, create original content, operate by published standards and create value.

One cannot really blame the captains and lieutenants of the bullies. They were taught that way. Besides, they see other, larger, corporations act that way and get away with it. Except they don’t, really, but that’s another story. In essence, the “larger corporations” phrase is operable. Instead of reasoning out what will make an industry better, they flip open the latest self-help manual from the latest self-helper and see if they can find a rote program to overcome their problems. The problem is, nobody in our sphere is on the level of Procter and Gamble, Chevrolet, Kraft or Nike, and nobody is going to be.

This issue of consumer versus trade is very interesting and requires thought. In a nutshell, the broad consumer market demands that marketers address the lowest common denominator. This is why boutique restaurants always pop up in a forest of franchises, and it’s why stimulating books and movies can rise up out of a sea of pabulum.

As a supplier to manufacturers, are your customers stupid, lowest-common-denominator types? You may have found a few that work in wood because they can’t find a “real job,” but they are not the rule. In my experience, successful manufacturers are often very bright, very energized and very curious, which makes them a good prospect for sales. On the other hand, they have been burned a time or two, can’t watch all sides and are thankful for a credible, trustworthy information perspective on their industry.

I have profiled ex government workers, ex university employees, ex financiers and ex bureaucrats. In each case, the future proprietor came to an “aha” moment, when he or she decided that the rat race was not for him or her, and decided to quit and build something, sometimes on a shoestring.

I empathize with that thinking, because it is consistent with my own experience. I have been a teacher, a salesman and a bureaucrat, and I have been an expert consultant on consumer magazines, and one day it became clear to me that I wanted to work with family owned, independent businesses.

The story goes on, but the point is short: if your sales team is approaching its contacts as lowest-common-denominator consumers that can be tricked, cajoled or pressured, they are sort of right. However, those contacts are looking for aids to their future and associates that can be trusted. We will all do better if we under-promise and over-deliver, rather than catch a signature and bolt for the door.

We have spent considerable time pointing out the overwhelming deficiencies of the current, anti-intellectual, anti-reason and anti-population schemes of Google, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, etc. In a nutshell, if the bullies can hold join the cyberward and hold their corner, they “think” they can survive by killing off the competition — the “they have to buy junk if it’s the only junk” school of sales philosophy. But you can tell they don’t “think” it, because they keep saying it over and over again as if repetition will make it true.

The fact is, in sales you need to distinguish your brand based on value. Value can mean cheap, or it can mean cheapest under the circumstances, or it can mean not cheap but great service, and so on. But you are viewed in terms of value.

Communication is also dependent on value. Honesty is the absence of any intent to deceive, and if your customers trust you, every sale is fun. People actually can work together.

If you have time to think, take a copy of Wood Industry and place it on a table beside another magazine. It doesn’t have to be a competitor. The problem of submissive stenography has become endemic. You could use a camera magazine or a boat magazine. But flip the pages together and see for yourself. You are looking for original content, reader focus, solid information and the Holy Grail – credibility.

We live in an “anything-goes” world of shadows and submission. Most magazines have decided they will do anything to survive. They give away ads, they sell editorial and they try to misreport the wishes of their readers. Advertisers see magazines as ink and pages; publishers see dollars and expense. Nobody seems to see the readers.

So the question becomes simple: will potential customers react differently to supporters of one magazine that they have learned to trust than they do to a magazine whose every “profile” is controlled by commercial interests behind the curtain?

There are two answers to that question. One is rote.

The point, here, is not to bash others. However, you cannot think without facts. Right now may be the best shot in a decade to capitalize on your sales. The economies of both the U.S. and Canada are growing well. The political garrote of the Mueller probe is over. Trump appears ready to restrict illegal workers from the south, China is working hard with the States to come to some kind of agreement that will certainly allow less bullying than before but will offer a lifeline.

We are in a position to optimize our industry against years of undertow. But there are only two ways to do that. Either we keep on doing what we’re doing, or we think.

When bleach is not enough

I have been an avid swimmer all my life, from swim team during middle school to community centre swims instead of office lunches. Typically, I would leave the office, drive to the pool, change, shower in, swim a mile, shower out and be back at the office in less than 90 minutes. Sometimes before and sometimes during a swim, the guards would clear and close the pool. The reason, they said, was that, “There has been a fouling,” intoned in the manner of, “Houston, we have a problem.”

Sure enough, you could sometimes see where some kid had failed to make it to the washroom and there were … foulings in the pool. Chlorine can erase the physical traces of that kind of problem, but it can’t erase the indelible impression and aversion reaction that builds against public pools.

Kerry Knudsen

Well, there has been a fouling. I am a life-long subscriber to Consumer Reports magazine. I don’t buy into every “value proposition” they present, but the product testing is sometimes helpful, and the value discussions are part of my job. So yesterday I got what may be the fifth demand that I complete their winter survey. I sometimes complete surveys if they interest me, but I never feel I am under any obligation to fill out a survey just because I bought a bird feeder on Amazon or a magazine.

The thing is, the digital world has become survey-drunk. They can’t get enough. They are data gluttons, and I am their refrigerator.

We spent a bit of time again this year in Costa Rica. It has become my favourite destination. This time we stayed for a series of days at two separate residences under the AirBnB protocol, and each time we were hit with a “survey” before we were reasonably gone. In one case, I was asked to review my Costa Rica trip when I was languishing on the patio during the second phase of my Costa Rica trip. In the other, I got the survey as soon as we were wheels-down in Canada and not yet at the gate.

To the point, we are quitting our popular November Readers’ Surveys. As with photography, Fakebook, desktop publishing, music, videography and news, the digital rebellion has made every profession into Amateur Night and polluted the environment with foulings of every description.

Our readers have been absolutely fantastic about responding to our questions, giving us the highest response rates I have ever heard of, and the highest praise. However, you can feel the energy going away, and I am not about to badger them for responses until the last dog dies. They have treated me with respect, and I will do the same for them. Besides, I am tired of hearing that our competitors are calling our respondents liars and claiming they could get the same results if they tried. It’s just more fouling.

Our readers have told us time after time that they love ads and new product releases, but they don’t want the advertisers to control their magazines. The competition delivers a fouling. Our readers have told us they don’t want spam in their in-boxes. The competition delivers a fouling. Et cetera. So, we quit. The market is what it is, and there is no point destroying our relationship trying to prove the obvious while the jackanapes scream from the bushes, fouling the environment at every turn.

For our suppliers, the art of sales is not getting easier in the digital world. It is getting harder. It is harder to identify and attract a market, harder to get a response and harder to track return on investment, which has never been easy in advertising.

I see Weight Watchers (now WW) took a deep dive in January, losing 36 percent at one point. The Street’s take is, as usual, multi-faceted, some citing Weight Watchers as being an “old-school” brand, and others citing emotional overreaction from the “stockholders,” now properly known as algorithms. There is scarcely a value buyer left in the market.

There are a couple of other items, too, that may have an impact.

First, WW decided to try that fair-haired child of marketing geniuses, celebrity appeal, so they brought in Oprah Winfrey with a package that gave her eight percent of the company. Now, of course, that means she owns her share of a multi-million-dollar loss, but that’s a different topic.

The question is, even if celebrity marketing works, does that make Oprah the poster kid? They thought so, but Oprah’s audience may not be the actual market they are seeking. I’m not saying there are no fat ladies watching Oprah. However, recent research had discovered, amazingly, that, “there are many reasons to suspect that body image in adult women both may differ from and possibly be more complex than that of younger women. Adult women face myriad factors influencing body image beyond those delineated in the body image literature on adolescents and young adult women. For instance, aging-related physiological changes shift the female body further away from the thin-young-ideal, which is the societal standard of female beauty.”

In English, people tend to become more accepting of reality as they mature. So, in the case of Oprah’s audience, maybe the critical mass of viewers has focused away from body image ideals and toward family and life issues.

Another matter is advertising. I confess to never having watched the Oprah Winfrey Show. I know what she looked like and looks like, and I know that the show made her one of the richest people on the planet. But on the media I watch, and it’s quite a bit because of my job, I see either no or almost no ads for WW. I see South Beach Diet, I see Nutrisystem, I see Jenny Craig and I see a smattering of allusions to keto, low-carb, paleo, etc., but no WW.

I tend to watch quite a bit of media aimed at younger viewers, largely because I think we need to try to figure out what they are thinking. On that note, I think they are all thinking Artificial Intelligence will come along and save them, which is the opposite of thinking, but I watch and wait, and nobody is asking.

Anyway, dollars are flowing in torrents for body image stuff, including more perfume for men, and they are not flowing to WW. Is it Oprah? Is it AI? Is it mis-targeting? Is it wrong messaging?

Or is it just a fouling?

You may notice I did not mention original, valuable content in this note. Not even once. That has to be a record.

We have a several shows coming up soon. As an added value to our advertisers, we are offering a special promo opportunity: Buy two print ads at earned-frequency rates, and get 50% off a great promo package including Supply Side exposure, a three-month web ad and your choice of a Wood Industry or Wood Industry US e-letter sponsorship. Steve King can reserve your space.

Wood Industry: Complete, focused, attentive, responsive and energized.

On target

Let’s face it. Targeted marketing is not getting any easier. The broad, “something-for-nothing” promises of the internet have failed to materialize, and the thundering herd moves from fad to fad as though there really is a pot of gold at the end of the internet rainbow.

If you are inclined to be on the bleeding edge, the next big thing is interruptive voice ads where you can commandeer time on somebody’s Alexa or Siri function, and blast.

Kerry Knudsen

Not so long ago, distributors of wood industry products had no media access in Canada. In the mid-՚80s, there was nothing targeted at your market, so marketers had to spend time and resources in broader, not-so-targeted media. Largely, this meant machinery shows that were designed for metalworkers, and the would-be sellers of wood industry machines would exhibit and hope a forlorn group of searching wood-products manufacturers would wander by.

Things got so desperate that a group of suppliers, to include Bruce Akhurst, of Akhurst; Peter Feindel, of Taurus Craco; Richard Bluteau, of Cooper and Horton (SCM); André Normand, of Normand; Horst Petermann, of Homag and Claude Arsenault of Holz-Her approached a salesman for the metalworking magazine owned by Markham, Ont.,-based Action Communications and literally begged him to approach Action about starting a magazine for wood.

Action agreed, and Woodworking was born, which magazine I took over editorially in the ՚90s and created a reader-focused, original-content publication that has seen drastic changes of its own along the way since I left in 2005 to found Wood Industry.

I was watching the internet for opportunities all along, having had a continually active e-mail account since 1983. The provider back then was CompuServe, and I can still remember my old e-address: Media, after all, is my business. I remarked then, and I maintain now, about the only thing the internet does well is archive and search. Little did I know how right I would be, when the internet can archive the most mundane details and reveal them to the darkest searchers. Even such seemingly benign activities as on-line retail have recently taken on a more sinister hue as they become the world’s most powerful economic engines.

Unfortunately, many marketers and many media still think buying an ad is buying the medium. The object, they think, is to buy ink or pixels and a list. They think advertising is a product. It is not. Advertising is a service, and what media sell is not ink or pixels, but access to a responsive market.

The basis for a response in advertising, is, as in the rest of life, credibility. People have to trust what you are saying. Imagine a rocket-engineering firm where the assemblers could not trust the blueprint. It would be chaos.

Yet, contemporary media is still chewing the old bone of “it’s a numbers game,” and the more people you can hit the more sales you will make, accountability and trust be damned. This results in such irritations as your getting dozens of e-propositions a week, simply for allowing somebody to “notify” you. And if you think your customers are not irked, think again. We have surveyed them, and they don’t like being used as a bowery-pub dart board.

Magazines Canada – often a strong proponent of digital advertising – came out with its survey of media consumers recently, again reporting resounding responses by the public for print. Steve King has the data for you.

So, why print? Maybe the question is not print versus digital, but rather, “who do you trust?”

If that’s the issue, then a quick review of Wood Industry on your part might be in order. We have been around. We know the business. We are unique and offer original content. We are not a stenographer for “the big guys.” In fact, your competitors, Homag and Biesse, won’t even advertise with us because we won’t do as we are told. It is not “sour grapes” to point out that by disrespecting our readers, they are asking to be treated as they treat others. Producing bigger, newer or faster machines will not create quality or trust. Trust is what it is, and it is not gained by force or bribe.

In all, it’s for the good. The metrics are basic. The fewer energized and loyal potential customers their ads reach, the better for the rest of us.

Trust does not come from glad-handing and classy shenanigans. Trust comes from trial by fire. And trust begets trust. So when your customers look for answers, they look to Wood Industry and our associates.

Wood Industry is once again sponsoring Canada Night at AWFS in Las Vegas this July. This popular event is designed to show the world that Canadians are a viable and energized market by stepping out of the crowd at the show and having our own event. We are accepting sponsorships, and, as always, Steve has the answers to all your questions.

Product or service?

Suppliers in one industry are always consumers in another. It’s the way things work. Predictably, the way things are marketed from supplier to consumer transfers between and among industries, leading to a kind of plain-vanilla, monkey-see/monkey-do approach. So what’s it going to be this week? Webinars? Facebook pages? Tweeties? Or do you throw your hands up, declare you’ve “been there; done that” and quit?

Going back to basics, the “event” is the gold standard in today’s marketing leaders. And it has been for millennia. Some of my associates overseas are charging sponsorship rates that equate to $10,000 per qualified attendee. This goes back to the whole idea of market focus. If you are selling 10 karat diamonds, the local unemployment recipient list is of no value. Conversely, an attendee list that identifies people with a net worth over $10 million would be of interest.

Kerry Knudsen

Events are fascinating as a study. This week we saw over 1 million people gather in Times Square to herald in the new year. Quite the event. Yet, if you think about it, there was no offering of a product or service, and there was no unpredictability in the outcome. People showed up to participate, interact and react to the event as it unfolded.

Magazines and other media may or may not participate in an event, but it is mandatory for the health of the event that somebody report on it if it is to be recognized. An event with no report is a non-event. As far as the world is concerned, it never happened. This is true for everything from murder to a space walk.

Properly conducted, an event can raise awareness, energize a market, create loyalty and generate a mass response. A marketer’s dream.

Trade shows are an obvious example of an event, but it is also an example of an event that has been manufactured to create a specific response – that being to bring sellers to buyers in a business-friendly environment. However, that business-friendly part sometimes gets lost in the mist as trade-show providers lose track of the goose and focus on the golden egg. “Monetize” is the current jingo. They try to monetize the attendees, monetize the exhibitors, monetize the parking, monetize the drinking fountains, monetize the chairs and monetize the electrical outlets and phone service. If you are a trade-show supplier and see yourself in that list, and if you have not read The Goose that Laid the Golden Egg, here is a link. It is a fable of Aesop, it is short, and I created and checked that link.

So, what happens? In a nutshell, some trade-show suppliers have switched from providing a service, that being to bring buyers and sellers together, to providing a product, and losing the “business-friendly” criterion altogether. Then, the “big guys” exhibitors, taking a page from the idea that killed the shopping mall concept, start using their size as a threat to claw back money from their competitors through the offices of the show, and demand kick-backs and concessions, ultimately pulling out to punish and renegotiate. This causes a loss of energy and business-friendliness in the show, overall, that is passed on to the attendees and, unless a transfusion is offered, the event is in jeopardy.

The same is true of the media. The media should be offering a service: to provide access to an energized, loyal and responsive audience, or market. Along life’s way, most of the media have lost the service idea and, like shows, have defaulted to presenting a product that some “big guys” advertisers see as an opportunity to negotiate, blackmail and engage in any other sort of skullduggery that will help them put the rest of you out of business. We have covered this topic before, and we have invited our competitors in Canada and the U.S. to cooperate with us in publishing and complying with any one of several codes of professional ethics already recognized by international public relations, advertising, marketing and editorial associations. So far, no takers. However, we comply voluntarily, and we publish the list of codes on our home page at

Back to events.

Most of our larger events spin off smaller, supporting events. These can be annual general meetings of associations, seminars, demonstrations, finance lectures and just-plain-old entertainment. The idea, as with the parent event, is to provide a service, not a product, and each subordinate event is more or less successful, depending on the market’s response.

Wood Industry is supplying such an event. Canada Night is back, thanks to our friends at the AWFS show coming up in July at Las Vegas.

For those that are not aware, the first two Canada Night events in the wood industry were smashing successes, generating a feeding frenzy among some show managers and an effort to steal the event for themselves. We put a law dog on the tree, and kept our brand, but the “other” show went on under a new “international” banner that I call Mexicans with Sweaters to illustrate the elementary principle that “international” is not a market, and a product called International Night is not a service.

Despite that the waters have been muddied by interlopers and usurpers, our friends at AWFS are once again offering us the space and time to recognize Canadians at the show. The idea is simple – Canadians are a strong market, yet it is difficult to focus on that market at a trade show. We simply do not stand out. So we offer Canadians a chance to get off the show floor at closing time, have a few free brews and some canapes on us, say “hi” to other Canadians and, importantly, to show the suppliers (you) the strength, energy and responsiveness of Canada’s wood industry.

If you like, sponsorships are available. We will begin promoting the event in this month’s issue of Wood Industry magazine and in our web and e-letter services between now and the show. That means if you want to be associated with the event from the beginning, you have only a few days to contact Stephen King, our associate publisher, or phone him at (416) 802-1225. We have continued to offer Canada Night to the audience and suppliers of our “other” publication, Coverings, for Canada’s floor covering sector, and it continues to be a smash value for the attendees, for the suppliers and for the show, The International Surfaces Event (TISE), also in Las Vegas, and occurring at the end of this month.

In fact, if any of you will be in Vegas looking at stone, countertops or other design ideas, Canada Night is at the Border Grill, just outside the show venue at the Mandalay Bay, at 5:00 p.m. on Jan. 23. It is always sold out, so contact us immediately to get on the list.

We have a good wood-products industry here in Canada. Despite some unfair burdens being placed on it, both externally and internally, we can make it work if we work together.

Until then, ad sales are also closing for the January issue of Wood Industry. It will be another good one. If you don’t want to miss out, contact Stephen King by Monday at 5:00, wherever 5:00 is to you. Shanghai, for all I care. Steve always looks better when he’s lost a night’s sleep, and he’s most vulnerable on deadline.

Importantly, space on this letter is available for $250 per ad. If you are a supplier to suppliers, or if you have a message to send to every important supplier to the wood industry worldwide, this is the space for you. It’s cheap; it’s read by everybody; it’s an event.

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