Q:  I’m considering attending GIFA 2015, but is it really worth the effort?  What would I be missing if I didn’t attend?  I’ve always questioned the value of these events.   

A:  The purpose of this column — ASK the Expert — is to provide professional insight to foundry-related topics.  Is a marketing-related query appropriate in this regard?  Our panel was ultimately convinced it is because our industry places such a high priority on the value of exhibitions (i.e. trade-shows):  Customers and suppliers alike spend exorbitant sums of money here — it’s really no wonder we received this question.  In fact, it’s surprising that it has not come sooner. 

Manufacturing-based exhibitions are widely scrutinized for lacking value transparency.  Obviously, ascertaining monetary value within this realm is albeit impossible.  Nevertheless, our industry deserves a clearer value-proposition.

Early 20th century global exhibitions (e.g. World’s Fair) were received with enthusiasm.  Today, though, the mood is cooler.  What exactly has changed?  The original intent of these communication platforms was to showcase innovations collectively and allow for consumer trials.  Physical attendance was essential, naturally, given the time period.  This accentuated the importance of the venue, as well as its perceived value as an information hub.  Surprisingly, the link between attendance and value still exists, despite a growing sense of diminished returns.

Considering our mostly virtual business landscape, it is astonishing that trade shows have survived.  They should’ve been destroyed by modern technology:  Within seconds one can access a corporation’s product information, videos/demonstrations and images.  What benefit is realistically obtained by attending an expo? 

This question begs an answer from the exhibitors, as they’re meant to supply the value.  For most, their participation seems poorly rationalized as a “cost of doing business.”  Such a pessimistic rationale will never result in value for the exhibitor, or patron.  Surely, though, there must be some exhibitors offering real value … right?  Otherwise, 48,000 GIFA patrons will be bitterly disappointed.

Exhibitors are at a crossroads.  Too many present mere physical representations of their corporate websites.  This does favor to no one... including the exhibitors.  As you may imagine, this group consists mostly of commodity suppliers.  Just imagine visiting a show where Wal-Mart was exhibiting: “No way, I had no idea you sold electronics and baby diapers!”  Humor aside, this addresses a real problem we’re facing.  Yet, who is actually providing value that cannot be obtained through a simple internet search?  We must understand this and adjust our expectations. 

Fortunately, several enterprises in our industry are indeed making a fresh approach, led by solutions-based businesses. They’ve discovered exhibitions are ideal places to showcase their “value-adding” business models.  A truly collaborative effort, value-adding models leverage knowledge in order to enhance process efficiencies.  Also called “solution selling” the supplier works hand-in-hand with the customer to address their specific needs. 

How, though, does this add value to the trade show?  Well, it’s essentially a return to the value-proposition established more than a century ago, during the heyday of fairs.  These few exhibitors are offering an experience for which one must be physically present.  Otherwise, collaboration cannot take place.  You may think this sounds no different than a sales meeting, and while that may be true it’s the job of the exhibitor to facilitate questions and challenge its guests in unimagined ways.  Novel exhibits are being designed specifically to leverage this point.

So, as exhibition patrons now you must be on the lookout for this value.  It will not reside everywhere.  How will you know where to find it?  Ask yourself a simple question: is the exhibitor offering me something beyond what’s attainable online.  If so, then you’ve arrived.  Now, you just have to participate in the collaboration effort.

ASK Chemicals will be presenting its “value selling approach” at GIFA 2015.  Their premium foundry consumable products and value-adding services will be on display.  In addition, the theme will address the key challenges facing our industry/customers: productivity & process, innovation & technology, global solution and joint development & services.  Customers will be able to identify these stations by viewing clearly marked signage.  Moreover, “ASK-Experts” will be on-hand to assist patrons with questions, as well as to collaborate on their process challenges.

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