Product or service?

By | January 3, 2019

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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