There’s an oft-quoted exchange between Winston Churchill and some socialite at a dinner (which may well be apocryphal):
Churchill: Madam, would you sleep with me for five million pounds?
Socialite: My goodness, Mr. Churchill… Well, I suppose… we would have to discuss terms, of course…
Churchill: Would you sleep with me for five pounds?
Socialite: Mr. Churchill, what kind of woman do you think I am?!
Churchill: Madam, we’ve already established that. Now we are haggling about the price.
Where am I going with this, you ask? Our industry’s trade group recently sent out a survey to shop owners which attempted to determine just how much bribery it would take to get them to come to their tradeshow. The possible incentives offered ranged from predictable (free hotel room, free flight) to just plain outrageous (scratch tickets? seriously?).
I’m in a unique position here — I co-own a retail store, I design, I teach, I publish and I edit a magazine. Maybe this is just me seeing this from a big-picture perspective, but I don’t think so. I can’t imagine that no one thought through what I like to call the…
OUROBOROS OF SUCK!
(this is an ouroboros…representing a neverending, never-changing cycle)
What is the Ouroboros of Suck, you ask? Ok, here’s the cycle at work:
- Event does not offer what you want or need. For example, you, as a shop owner, like to go take classes, and look at new products on offer.
- Class selection isn’t good, because teachers aren’t pleased with the organization’s policies and aren’t submitting classes.
- Without classes you want to take, it’s hard to justify spending money in this economy on what is, essentially, a yarn company rep visit in a much bigger room.
- As a vendor, you see attendance is down. You decide against doing a booth, or you do a smaller booth.
- When attendance goes down, show organizers attempt to bribe shop owners into coming; vendors realize attendance must really be down, and decide against coming altogether, or at the very least, to stop as soon as their contracts run out.
- Now there are no good classes and fewer vendors than usual. Shop owners don’t have an incentive to attend (believe me, your value proposition is seriously skewed if you think that offering up freebies is a way to get someone to attend your show — you are just saying out loud “We don’t have anything worth your time at the show that would make you attend on your own.” Trust me, I’m sure Oprah didn’t have a hard time filling out her show audience even before she started giving away stuff).
- Meanwhile, back at the Independent Designer and Teacher Ranch, for those who did submit class proposals, they get cancelled for lack of attendance, leaving those teachers high and dry with airline tickets and day-before-show hotel reservations, etc of their own
See where I’m going with this? It’s a self-defeating situation. If people aren’t coming to your show, bribes are not the best way to get them there. It comes down to content management.
How many of you have canceled a magazine subscription because the articles/etc in it were no longer relevant to your interests? The company sent you about a zillion “OH, BUT IF YOU RENEW NOW IT WILL ONLY BE $9.99” letters, right? Ok, did you resubscribe? If you were really on the fence about it, maybe. But are they going to get you back if you well and truly believe they don’t have anything to offer you?
Should they pay the people who write articles for the magazine less in order to free up more money to bribe you? They can’t afford to turn the tables and pay YOU $9.99 to subscribe in order to drive up their numbers, not without cutting into the budget they have to pay freelance writers (as in my example here, or independent teachers/designers/etc).
They probably shouldn’t use existing subscribers money in order to pay people to come back. What they should do is work on making the most kickass magazine ever — the magazine you absolutely have to read because all your friends are talking about it and it’s a must.
Sadly, the Ouroboros of Suck does not lead to creating a must-go
show…I mean magazine. Ahem.