Promotional Products Day, End-Buyers/Customers at the 2013 PSI Trade Show

It was a just over a year ago that the PPAI Board of Directors voted to include a hosted end-buyer (customer) day on the final day of The PPAI Expo. It was a year ago this week that the Board voted to rescind that decision based on feedback from concerned members.

Right now, approximately 16 out of 27 U.S. regional associations host some form of end-buyer event in conjunction with one of their tradeshows. Based on what I learned this past week at the RAC Leadership Development Workshop (LDW) a few more are likely to take the plunge and it appears their respective memberships welcome the opportunities.

Nevertheless, the debate surrounding end-buyer shows continues on the national and international level—witness the ‘clarification’ Q&A from our colleagues at the PSI Trade Show in Dusseldorf, Germany (which is produced by Reed Exhibitions, a for-profit media company).

As covered by PPB Newslink and other industry media, PSI recently announced that they would be initiating an end-buyer Promotional Products Day on the final day of PSI Trade Show beginning in 2013. They obviously met resistance from their customers and have responded with the following letter and Q&A.

While I agree that there is a stronger case for hosting end-buyer events at the regional level as opposed to national events, I believe PSI makes a strong case in favor of Promotional Products Day at their event. I am supportive of their aim to “develop the PSI Trade Show in a way that responds to the requirements of the present and makes it fit for the future” and have their industry think in terms of ‘opportunities’ rather than ‘risks.’

If you have any thoughts you’d like to share publicly, feel free to post a comment. Or, you can reach me directly at paulb@ppai.org or 972-258-3050.

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Facts about the “Promotional Products Day” at the PSI Trade Show

Dear PSI members,

In the light of recent events we would like to clarify a number of points regarding the matter of the “Promotional Products Day” at the PSI Trade Show. We very much regret that this has given rise to some irritations which may also have led to some uncertainty on your part. Our communication in this matter may not have been ideal. This must, however, not lead to a situation where individual members intentionally publicise false information and at the end of the day cause damage to all of us by absurd allegations. Let me therefore point out the following facts:

1. Fundamental points: PSI aims at developing the Trade Show and the market. The market research organisation that has accompanied our industry for many years informs us that a sales potential of approximately 1 billion euros from small and medium-sized companies is not being realised. These are your sales which we would like to activate for you, for distributors, manufacturers and importers.

2. Promotional Products Day: We would like to develop a “Promotional Products Day” for the PSI Trade Show to take place on the Friday. It is to generate new opportunities for promotional products on many levels. On this day, we will take a large variety of measures to publicise promotional products and their impact. One means of doing so is to launch a targeted and very limited trial to demonstrate the world of promotional products to industrial customers. The idea is to allow 50 wholesalers to each bring along one of their top customers with the aim of consolidating this customer relationship and, and at the same time, to demonstrate to this customer the importance competent consulting has in view of this immense variety. These companies are also to permanently monitor this trial. Furthermore, we will enlist the advisory services of a marketing research organisation that has accompanied the industry for a long time in order to ensure representative and objective selection and results.

3. Trial: This trial to open the way to a broader acceptance of promotional products will have an open-outcome design. After PSI 2013, the monitoring companies and the market research organisation will exchange their experiences with PSI. We also invite all associations to join in this monitoring process. If this limited trial does not yield any convincingly positive result for the market participants, and particularly the wholesalers, it will be terminated at this point.

4. Consequences: If this accompanied trial does yield a positive result, PSI will discuss with members and the association how to proceed from there. The objective can, at most, be a limited opening up which is attended by distributors. In no way does the PSI aim at a general opening up of the Trade Show; to do so would run counter to all wishes within the industry and to the core idea of the membership system. So why should PSI do such a thing?

5. Tickets: There have been premature and public allegations from individual market participants that PSI is looking for new fields of business and planning to generate more income from admissions by opening up the Trade Show. We assure you that admission is entirely free of charge for the accompanied industrial customers. To believe that the PSI could enrich itself on ticket revenue generated by an opening up of whatever type is to entirely misjudge the situation. This is not the level to conduct a fair and constructive discussion. One look at the pocket calculator should make matters clear.

6. Objective: PSI’s only aim is to develop the PSI Trade Show in a way that responds to the requirements of the present and makes it fit for the future. This is what we want to work on in your interest and on your behalf, to prevent the show from losing its attractiveness and thus becoming redundant. We will not be able to progress into the future without to some extent involving those people who decide on the budgets. Other industries have already paid dearly for making that mistake. This is why we are looking for ways to increasingly convince these industry decision-makers of the value of promotional products. The trial with a limited opening up to accompanied industrial customers – and anything else would also be inconceivable to the PSI – is to provide us with important insights for the further development of the Trade Show. And I repeat: we invite the associations and members to join in this process, to accompany it in a critical and constructive spirit.

7. Risk: The PSI also feels it is its duty to take the PSI Trade Show into a future that yields the greatest possible benefit for all its members. It is a fact that already at this point many industrial customers are increasingly visiting trade shows abroad for direct information. More than 50 company shows in Germany alone also generate an informal contact between suppliers and industrial customers. There has also been a controlled and successful opening up of road shows. A large number of “Hannover Messe” marketing specialists have had direct and even uncontrolled access to Promotion World. And even at the PSI Trade Show, industrial customers are being repeatedly “smuggled” in. The “Promotional Products Day” is to provide us with clues about how to control and channel these processes. Let’s not forget the Internet. We must find answers to the question of how to involve and win over those people who decide on our budgets. The point is to actively strengthen existing structures instead of weakening them. The latter has usually been achieved by keeping one’s sights on the past. What we need is the positive view ahead.

8. Opportunities: We want to motivate all our members to think in terms of “opportunities” rather than always in terms of “risks”, as some people do. The world does not stand still. And that is why we quite intentionally expose ourselves to this discussion. We saw it coming and yet we tackled the issue, because our objective is nothing less than the development of the industry. We also understand that there are members who take a critical view of this trial. However, what we do not understand is why an open-outcome trial involving 50 accompanied industrial customers should prompt some members to proclaim a “holy war”.

9. Concept: On the “Promotional Products Day”, the industrial customers (50) will be clearly identified by a special name badge. In a separate dialogue, the PSI will point out this fact to the exhibiting companies and issue agreed instructions. A concept for the practical procedures is currently being developed. Familiar schemes are being investigated and again, the associations are invited to participate in this process. Let’s not forget the fact that each industrial customer will be accompanied by a distributor. And obviously distributors will only invite customers they trust. These industrial customers in turn will respond with an increased trust in their distributors.

10. Summing up: The PSI has launched a trial to find out whether granting limited and accompanied access to industrial customers for one day is a measure that generates stronger acceptance, recognition and, as a result, a higher budget for the industry. The PSI will not profit financially from this measure. On the contrary, it will face considerably higher costs caused by the supporting measures. The outcome of this trial is entirely open. We are only doing what any company does these days to optimise decisions and put them on a sound basis. The PSI invites all associations and members to constructively accompany this interesting trial, together with a market research organisation. Wholesalers can apply to participate in the trial and to help shape the process. If more than 50 members apply, the market research organisation will select a suitable sample.

11. Individual perspective: As a wholesaler, I would be happy to participate in this trial. The customer I would invite for a visit to Düsseldorf would either be one who is just discovering promotional products as a great advertising tool. Or one whom I have wanted to give a treat for a long time. I would take him around the Trade Show, take him to meet good and trustworthy suppliers and also demonstrate to him my capabilities in the technical field, i.e. printing. A tour around the halls would convince him more than ever of the huge variety of advertising possibilities our advertising medium offers. I am also certain that this tour of the show would generate fresh motivation in my customer. And I am confident that he will have an even higher opinion of my capabilities than he did already. I would also take him to visit interesting workshops and take advantage of other measures on the “Promotional Products Day”. Then I would take him out for a nice dinner. A great day for him, for us and, in the final analysis, for the industry. Let’s think in terms of opportunities – that’s precisely why we have been discussing this trial so openly.

12. Just a final word: If you would like to express agreement, misgivings or even pronounced criticism regarding this trial please talk to us directly. We look forward to a detailed, sincere and open dialogue.

2 responses to “Promotional Products Day, End-Buyers/Customers at the 2013 PSI Trade Show

  1. I believe that if our industry association would take on the roll of protecting our industry (not just end users and suppliers, but distributors as well) by providing some sort of best practices, or another layer of your “Code of Conduct” then the distributors within the industry wouldn’t be so paranoid and concerned about these changes.

    Members of SellPromos (previously DistributorTalk.com) have voiced their concerns on this issue now for YEARS and PPAI has yet to get involved. No one is asking PPAI to restrict free trade — but a simple code of conduct where suppliers agree to not go around the distributor, contact the distributors customers, etc could be put into place. Not all suppliers will sign up, but those who do should be rewarded for their efforts with the additional business they will receive.

    I believe that only PPAI can do this successfully. Furthermore, I believe this is the only way to cut down on paranoia among distributors in our industry. Otherwise the association’s efforts end up looking like selfish attempts to bring end users and suppliers together – in the same way ASI has been doing for years. I understand their position because they are a for profit corporation, but PPAI is our non-profit industry association. I believe its time to take a stand… no matter how small.

    With respect,

    Chris Miller

  2. John M. Hudicka, CAS

    Along the lines of Mr. Miller’s comments, I believe the perceived value of PPAI by distributor members, is weak, because this association has done little if anything, to encourage and preserve the distribution channels of the industry. While it’s true the association cannot restrict trade, they can certainly acknowledge/reward those supplier & distributor members who encourage/preserve a collaborative approach to business development, rather than an “everyone for themselves” mindset.
    Agreed… PPAI needs to take on a bold, supportive stand, to preserve their value as a trade association, not just “lip service,” not just “the biggest expo,” not just focused on being a step ahead of competing organizations.
    I’m not suggesting PPAI bury its head in the sand, and ignore competitive intelligence. But I agree, it’s long overdue for PPAI to stand tall and strong, in support of all its members, involved in the promotional products industry (and they can, if they choose to make it their #1 mission).

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