If Sigmund Freud was alive today, you might just find him at a sourcing trade show avidly observing some unique quirks of human nature.
And when considering his conclusions, you'd likely find him deep in discussion with HfS contributor and part-time behavioral psychologist from SourcingChange, Deb Kops.
Over to you Debs, for your evaluation...
Goin’ to the trade show, and I’m gonna get bu-i-i-is-ness
All weekend a parody of the 60’s song, “Going to the Chapel and I’m going to get married,” was tripping through my head as a result of spending a few days at an industry meeting complete with the proverbial “exhibit hall.” With so much time and resource spent in order to get the seller’s name out. I can tell you what I took away—dishwater coffee and a few logo’d pens, rubber ducks and thumb drives. What did they get?
Think of a trade show in any industry and the same elements come to mind—booths chock a block with graphically glowing descriptors, a great array of giveaways, a tray of chocolate, the proverbial “drop in your business card and win a Kindle,” bowl, and even in this day and age of online collateral, a few brochures declaiming leadership.
As it’s high season for expos, weeks, summits and what have you, it’s clear that the outsourcing and shared services industry hasn’t veered away from this recipe. With exhibitors keen to get prime booth real estate while sponsors happily take their money, it’s a good time to ponder whether spending all that dosh really moves the dial on brand.
Some of us trip through the hall only to register, while others religiously show up during breaks for muffins and popcorn. Some use the hall as a meeting point, while others traipse around each booth for the giveaways which go down so well with the kids we left at home. And perhaps even a few of us are sincerely interested in finding out more about Outsourcing-R-Us, or the advantages of locating a center in Trans-Mesopotamia or even the latest and greatest software that depreciates widgets automatically. But do exhibitors gain brand by setting up? And do we give them the attention they expect to get?
Walk into any exhibit hall and you’ll see a similar cast of characters:
Software vendors. These folks, generally mature guys, selling both platforms and apps to the sourcing industry, are always in their booths and seem to run in packs. Savvy enough to secure the 100 percent corners in the layout—or the spot directly across from the bar, they conscientiously man their booths both during exhibit hours and sessions. You’ll always see two or more together, proudly wearing their logo golf shirts or button-downs. A crowd is always around—is it the sexy set up, the great giveaways or are the folks in attendance already clients who are stopping by?
Niche providers whose delight at having the marketing money to show up for the first time at a conference is palpably written in their smiles. The shiny new booth is equipped with a backdrop that lists about every service they deliver from any location that any end-user could conceivably want to buy—if they had the inclination to stand there and read the fine print on the list. For the young men who represent these firms, getting a pile of business cards and being able to talk about ‘why they are different’ seems to be the name of the game.
Eco-developers The lady from Latvia or the man from Mauritius, sitting in a small booth, often seems uncomfortable when you stop by to mention that your grandmother grew up on a farm outside Riga, or that you once enjoyed a great holiday on the beach. Unsure of his or her English, and not wanting to let on that s/he did not fully understand, s/he thrusts a brochure extolling the virtues of locating a delivery center in said region/city.
Consultants Exhibit booths can perform like Venus fly catchers for consultants. Every once in a while some guy who is looking for a sourcing advisor just happens to stroll by, making the effort to set up a booth totally worthwhile. And when there are no buyers in site, the booth will serve as a meeting place for team mates who rarely have the opportunity to see each other.
Established providers put up a booth for brand enforcement, generally manning it with the marketing “gal” or guy whose main job seems to be playing go-fer for the brass who show up on Day Two to deliver the plenary speech. Often the booth is unmanned, perhaps under the assumption that the name in lights speaks enough about brand.
Now I’m the last person to say that building brand is not important. Indicating that an organization is part of the sourcing industry by showing up is a good thing. Walking through an exhibit hall is a quick way to see the latest and greatest in apps, new providers, which countries want your business, and, as importantly, meet old friends. And even the coffee is drinkable when it’s free. But do exhibitors get real business? You tell me.