The more things change the more they stay the same. This is an adage I’ve heard my entire life without ever really giving it any serious thought. What does it even mean? Well, in the context of this article let’s take a closer look.
The concrete industry has long been one of not only who you know but what you know. As manufacturers or dealers/distributors, how do we get our products into the hands of potential customers or consumers? Back in the “olden days” it wasn’t uncommon to see the vacuum salesman going door to door to demonstrate his high-quality vacuum, hoping to make a sale to someone looking for a well-constructed machine that gets the job done.
In our industry, at least since the first World of Concrete in 1975 in Houston, Texas, we’ve attempted to bring customers to a single venue to meet with product manufacturers for the concrete construction industry. The World of Concrete was first held in Las Vegas in 1980 and this year the Vegas event was estimated to attract about 60,000 people and 1,500 exhibitors. WOC has proven to be an event where those seeking knowledge and information are able to meet with manufacturers, see ongoing demonstrations at exhibits such as Decorative Concrete LIVE! and participate in seminars with industry experts.
While some would argue with the viability of this “go to market” mentality in the 21st century, others still recognize it as a key marketing strategy for their company’s brand awareness. They also see it as a place where they can meet with many customers from across the world in a single location over a very short time.
Dealing with new products
In recent years, with the success of Amazon and other online retailers, a handful of concrete accessory dealers/distributors have tried, with varying degrees of success, to capture (if only for a few minutes) their audiences’ attention through social media marketing, company online stores and other digital marketing initiatives. Some have managed to hold their customers’ attention long enough for them to make a snap-decision purchase of an item or items that they regularly purchase.
What about “new” products though? If new products truly are the life blood of a company, then how do we ensure they get the needed exposure if things are trending toward an online experience?
Do we trust purchasing “new” products online when we’re seeing them for the first time or where we personally haven’t seen them demonstrated or been allowed to test ourselves? I totally get the notion of online shopping for products that have become commodities for us, staple products that have been around for many years with a proven track record.
Over the past number of years, I’ve seen a trend of bringing product manufacturers and experts back to the consumer. Thankfully, not quite as up close and personal as the Kirby salesman coming into your home to throw dirt on the floor so he can demonstrate his vacuum’s effectiveness, but up close nonetheless.
Vendor product shows
I believe Farrell Equipment & Supply Co. Inc. out of Eau Claire, Wisconsin, was the first to produce a vendor product show. For the past four years, Bobcat of the Rockies of Denver, Colorado, has held the Colorado Concrete Expo and, even more recently, Unicon Concrete Specialties in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, held its second vendor-direct sale.
These events take on a tradeshow-like atmosphere but with a local flavor all their own, as nearly all attendees are from the surrounding local market where the event is held.
Each of these events share many things in common — first and foremost, though, is that manufacturers and vendors have direct contact with the contractor/end user in the contractor’s home market.
I’ve had the opportunity to participate in several of these events including the Colorado Concrete Expo and the Unicon Vendor Direct Sale. Some of these events hold multiple product demonstrations put on by industry leaders to give contractors the opportunity to interact with manufacturers and vendors on a more personal level. It also allows them firsthand access to see new product offerings displayed or demonstrated.
And the winner is …
The real winner at these types of events, however, is the contractor. Vendors, as well as sponsoring dealers/distributors, typically come to these events armed with “Show-Stopper Specials” or products that are deeply discounted only on the day of the event.
Same-day discounts have been previously arranged and vendors are given a “sell” price by host dealers/distributors. Consequently, each of the many vendors present becomes a local salesperson for the day and not only promotes their products but also writes the sales order. Several days after the event, each contractor is contacted by the host where pick-up and/or delivery terms are worked out.
I believe this is a welcome change in the way our industry does things. It’s the best of both worlds. On one hand, it’s like buying online as the order is placed immediately but with the added benefit of being able to see the product firsthand, as well as talking to an actual expert about the product(s) you’re interested in buying. On the other hand, it’s also a throwback to the vendor coming directly to you without dirt being thrown all over your living room carpet.