Changing times, changing marketing (but the basics remain the same)

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CSC national executive director Nick Franjic, Clafton Fiola, programs and events manager and Brad Noble, membership and client services manager at the CSC Toronto chapter no-frills trade show

I’ve been attending the Construction Specifications Canada Toronto chapter No-frills Trade Show for dozens of years. When I first learned about the event, and sought to attend, in the late 90s, I received a shocking response: “We are sold out,” the show organizers said. “You’ll have to try again next year.”

There’s an old marketing rule of scarcity — if something isn’t available (or is likely not to be available soon) people will rush out and buy whatever they can. Sometimes the scarcity is artificial. In other cases it is deliberate  I suppose in a few fortunate situations, it is strategic. The CSC chapter had, indeed, sold out its space in the Constitution Hall at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. It could have expanded or found another venue, but wisely decided that the extra effort would not be worth the return. Scarcity and a consistently sold-out event, of course, is a lot easier to administer than struggling to fill extra exhibitor space.

(We see some similarities to this in our publishing business. Magazines, especially, economically need to be increased in 16 page increments. This means, a point arises where you can’t fit any more ads into the planned page volume, and you are faced with a choice — do you ease up on your selling efforts (or even decline advertisers who want to be “in”), or do you add the extra pages, and costs, and discover that the additional revenue arises at the expense of profitability.)

Unfortunately, times changed, and a couple of years ago, the CSC chapter discovered they weren’t selling out any more. There are a number of reasons for the change: Competition for attention with other events and opportunities, and perhaps most painfully, a consolidation in the number of field manufacturers representatives, who would want to exhibit and promote their services. Many specifications writers can gather information online, and field reps appreciate they have more effective influence when they can co-ordinate Lunch and Learn and similar direct initiatives with individual AEC practices.

However, the show organizers have adapted. They’ve accepted the show can still be extremely profitable for the chapter with fewer exhibitors, and they’ve hustled up the business they need to maintain viability. The show is still a great networking event, as well.

Meanwhile, my relationships with the chapter, show and organization have evolved, as I now have Ottawa CSC chapter chair responsibilities, and so have gotten to know many of the people in the organization on a provincial and national level.

Things change, but relationships and growth continue when you elect to involve yourself in relevant associations and attend/visit and exhibit in industry-appropriate shows.  I’ll be returning next year.

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