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What if there were no or few exhibitors at a trade show?

Discussion in 'Picture Framing Business Issues' started by Rob Markoff, Jul 17, 2010.

  1. janetj1968

    janetj1968 PFG, Picture Framing God

    Please haunt RMD, Jim. No one is coming to my Virginia suppliers.
  2. framelady64

    framelady64 SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer

    No one comes to mine either Janet.I have been in business 23 years and have never been to a trade show.I am so busy at my one woman shop that it is hard for me to get away.I would love to go if they came to my suppliers as that would only be a couple hours drive.
  3. Jim Miller

    Jim Miller SPFG, Supreme Picture Framing God

    Retail Merchants Delivery probably wouldn't want to offer framing classes.

    Oh, wait -- is there another business named RMD?
  4. Jim Miller

    Jim Miller SPFG, Supreme Picture Framing God

    How often do you tell that to your suppliers?

    If your local and regional suppliers do not offer professional framing education at their events, perhaps it is because you're not asking for it. Nearly all of our suppliers are privately owned distributors, who earn business by providing what their customers want. Tell them what you want.

    Personally, I love teaching at supplier events. A number of them offer lectures and workshops at their annual events, and most framing educators are delighted to cooperate. Manufacturers sponsor certain seminars, but economic factors have forced cut backs. The distributors who recognize the value of educating their customers proceed anyway.

    Some distributors do not understand the benefits of educating their customers, but the benefits are real. For example, a distributor offering a professional seminar on stacking mouldings might earn enough extra moulding business to pay the expenses of it several times over. And of course, there are less obvious benefits, even when the topic is not about framing techniques. Sessions on frame design, selling & customer service, or business-operation topics would help the supplier's customers run more profitable businesses. It has to be a win-win situation.

    If you want local or regional framing education, suggest it to your suppliers. Tell them what seminar topics would attract you to attend an annual warehouse sale, open house, or customer-appreciation cookout. Suggest that they contact manufacturers about full or partial sponsorship. Give them my phone number. :D

    If your distributor also invites your PPFA chapter to participate, they might be able to draw a larger crowd and add to the value of the event for all concerned.
  5. Jim Miller

    Jim Miller SPFG, Supreme Picture Framing God

    Seriously, one request from you would be more effective than ten suggestions from me or any other educator.
  6. Paul N

    Paul N In Corner

    Well said Chickie!!!!

    And therein lies the sad truth as well.
  7. Paul Cascio

    Paul Cascio SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer

    Jim, Baer, Pat K. and I would welcome an invite from your local suppliers or local PPFA chapters. Sponsoring an educational event is a win-win situation for a supplier and its customers. It's also an investment that can offer an immediate and impressive return, both in profit, and also goodwill.

    If I can help you and your employees sell more effectively, it means more sales for your supplier. Same thing when Baer teaches his fabric wrapping techniques, or Jim Miller his shadow box methods. What's good for you is good for your suppliers; always has and always will be.

    Another thing that benefits a supplier is that these events can be held as an alternative to regular advertising. It's a good way to give back to their regular customers, and a way to attract new customers.

    These gatherings, including PPFA Chapter meetings and supplier sponsored seminars, also build loyalty for the sponsor and promote comraderie amongst fellow framers. Everyone benefits.

    Talk to us and discover what we have to offer.
  8. janetj1968

    janetj1968 PFG, Picture Framing God

    Hmmmm. Well here's a question. I'm clarifying "hosting".

    I'm envisioning that registration fees from the framers would pay for educational seminars, right? So all the supplier would be doing is physically supplying a meeting place? Is that how it works?

    Because honestly, asking my suppliers to foot a bill in this economy...it would never work.

    And if these are "informational" seminars by major suppliers like Bainbridge...certainly they wouldn't expect our suppliers to pay them? The bang would be getting everyone updates so they can order more board.

    Approaching my suppliers would be a totally blind poke. Sure, I can ask for it... but to me it would make more sense if those providing seminars would let my suppliers know what's available. After all, no one knows what you do, better than you do.

    I can just hear myself now saying "I'd love to hear Jim Miller do a workshop on Formed Rod Mounts (I WOULD SERIOUSLY LOVE IT)" except I have no idea how much it costs, what he needs to be available resource-wise or what his schedule is or answer any questions whatsoever about it other than knowing its "out there"." My suppliers wouldn't continue that thought for three seconds after they hung up the phone with me.

    We're familiar with one another through here...so yes, in this case I could give him your phone number. But how would you get those framers to ask that don't???? It doesn't seem like an effective method...waiting for the customer to ask for it. Many framers have no clue what's available.

    It's really easy for you to obtain listings of major distributors of framing products to know who to contact. You know what you're selling. If nothing else, ask them to hand out a ream of flyers during deliveries about what you're doing to their customers to see if there's an interest. It won't cost them anything other than the labor to stick it in the bag. And for them...it would be about making a decision based on feedback from many customers vs the small call from one without adequate information.

    While we certainly gain the education, you wind up making the money. Do some legwork. ;) One phone call. $5 in paper. Think of the possibilities.

    And Jim...RMD stands for Roanoke Moulding Design. They're a pretty big supplier in Virginia.
  9. Paul Cascio

    Paul Cascio SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer

    Point taken. Thanks.
  10. Jim Miller

    Jim Miller SPFG, Supreme Picture Framing God

    Yes, seminars that focus on a specific type of product or brand are generally sponsored by the manufacturer/importer/reseller that would benefit. But these days, most of those classes have morphed into infomercials presented by company sales reps, not independent framers who can present the information in terms applicable to your frame shop. If you want an infomercial, look for a class presented by an employee or sales representative of the sponsor. They are usually free.

    Framing distributors usually know what is available, because educators communicate with them and send them course descriptions. My course descriptions are in the hands of at least 30 distributors, and I send them to anyone who requests them. I'm sure all educators do that. Personally, I have not contacted your supplier, RMD, but I'm sure some other educators have. In any case, that information is available to them with a phone call or email.

    That said, the typical response from a regional distributor goes something like, "Our customers aren't interested in that", or "We have a guy in the warehouse who knows how to stack mouldings, so we'll have him do the class."

    Maybe that's the key point. It really doesn't matter to your supplier "what's available". All he cares about is what his customers want. If your supplier knows that a particular educator offers two dozen lectures and a dozen workshops on technical framing topics, it would not matter. But it would matter if you ask for a locally-offered class on using your CMC to make mat decoration, or how to make fabric-covered debossed mats, or how to develop a web site, or whatever. Then your supplier would know what you want.

    Paul Cascio, Chris Paschke, and a few others who don't have to unlock the front door of a shop every morning probably already do that, but I have a frame shop to run, thankyouverymuch. If I ever decide to retire from being an active framer and shop owner, then I probably wouuld have time to contact more distributors. One phone call? No, but one hundred phone calls might be productive.
  11. janetj1968

    janetj1968 PFG, Picture Framing God

    :) I understand that. That's why I said the thing earlier about scheduling. I'm not beating you for it. Shop has to come first.

    I have never had one announcement from my distributors about a seminar...and I am doubting if even they know what's available.

    And even if 30 distributors have your info....how many are there in the United States? How many other educators are targeting our distributors? I bet it's slim to none.
  12. Grey Owl

    Grey Owl SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer

    Our local distributor, Colorado Moulding offered a seminar via the PPFA chapter. CM had the open house while the PPFA chapter had the seminar. It was small but there were several vendors there.
  13. Pat Kotnour

    Pat Kotnour SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer

    I just did one of those same type of PPFA gigs combined with Palmetto Moulding's open house in Columbia SC. From what I could tell, it was pretty successful for the chapter as well as Palmetto. We had a pretty good crowd both days. It really works well for the chapters too, because they don't have the expence for meeting location and from what I have seen, most distributors are really good about working with PPFA.
  14. janetj1968

    janetj1968 PFG, Picture Framing God

    I'm not in an area with a local PPFA chapter (closest one is DC or Northern Virginia, I think)...too far away to be practical.

    I'm starting to feel like the geographic anomaly like on "Oh Brother Where Art Thou"...except we're two weeks from nowhere.
  15. Meghan MacMillan

    Meghan MacMillan SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer

    Our chapter includes all of Virginia, Maryland, DC, and a small bit of Pennsylvania. We do try and move events around to make them accessible to the largest numbers. As you know it's a challenge geographically.

    When we host events in conjunction with a supplier there sometimes (definitely not always) arises the problem of the host supplier not wanting educational content that promotes one particular product or line.

    My answer to Rob's original question is that In a robust economy I'd eagerly travel as often as opportunities came up for new classes. My current reality doesn't allow it. My own thought on expo/trade shows is that unless I'm actively shopping for a piece of equipment (including software) and need to "test drive" it my need for that sort of show is limited. I like to see what's going on and to schmooze, but every other year is plenty for that.
  16. Jim Miller

    Jim Miller SPFG, Supreme Picture Framing God

    If your distributors do not offer any seminars, they probably do not consider them important to their business. That may be short-sighted, but it's highly unlikely they are unaware of what's available. It would be almost impossible for any supply company actively involved with small independent framers to remain ignorant of what's available in framing education. It's not like framing education is a secret. If nothing else, a call to our industry's trade association, or either of our trade magazines, or any major manufacturer would reveal plenty of information.

    Distributors are driven by customer demand, not suppliers' suggestions. For example, for a long time KoolTack has advertised in national publications and offered their low temperature dry mounting boards to framing suppliers. But since framers began requesting those products, their local & regional distributors have begun to stock them. Were the distributors unaware that those products were available? No, they were only unaware that their customers wanted them.

    I repeat:
  17. Paul Cascio

    Paul Cascio SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer

    These type events can benefit suppliers in many ways.

    Also, as I'm sure most everyone who's attended a webinar will agree, live training just works so much better.

    Webinars tend to be poorly produced, have bad sound, a terrible picture, and a presenter who's not comfortable or experienced speaking to a lens. I've viewed several in various industries, including framing, and most are so bad they can cure insomnia.
  18. pwalters

    pwalters SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer

    I think that it depends on the topic. While it's true that some things don't translate, others can and do.
  19. Jim Miller

    Jim Miller SPFG, Supreme Picture Framing God

    I agree that live training works best. But like you, Paul, I have a personal investment in that form of framing education. Generally, the producers of live education are reluctant to dive into internet-based education, because it would siphon off part of their established revenue stream.

    When framers stay home for a while the educational opportunities diminish, as the educators and their sponsors move on to more fruitful endeavors. That's what's happening now, unfortunately.

    Maybe most framers would rather attend live lectures & workshops, but the ones who can't afford to do that are looking for less-costly options now. Local/regional distributor events and PPFA chapter meetings will never attract the 2,000 to 4,000 classroom "seats" fund at a major trade show, but even without the economies of scale, the smaller venues may become more popular.

    The quality of webinars is steadily improving, but so long as they are produced and/or presented by real people in real time, they will lack the glossy presentation of most other screen presentations we see.

    Webcasts are a step in the right direction, I believe, because that format removes the problems of a live presentation. So far, the evaluations of yesterday's PPFA webcast look pretty good. We'll be doing more of them, and the quality is sure to improve with practice. We're still on the "bleeding edge" of that technology.
  20. Paul Cascio

    Paul Cascio SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer

    I certainly agree. Businesss topics, and lectures in general are a lot easier than technical demonstrations. The former can get by with good audio and maybe some supportive visual material, where technical demonstrations mostly demand solid visual presentation. Good lighting, multiple angle views and high production values can make a huge difference in the learning experience.

    As Jim alluded to, there's a need for all types of learning as there are many different people, learning styles and needs.
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