Monday, February 20, 2012

Pictage and WPPI ... Changing Times

A lot of folks have asked why Pictage is not at WPPI this year. It's a fair question and it wasn't a decision that we made without a lot of thought. We've loved being a part of WPPI for many years. The team and the people we meet there are all great folks. Since taking over the reigns, George Varanakis has done an terrific job of connecting with the community and building anticipation for the show. I will especially miss seeing George do what he does so well - problem-solve!

In truth, we don't go to any of the national shows anymore. The reason is, bluntly, cost. This isn't WPPI's fault. It is the industry that has grown up around these events. The various costs for drayage (moving stuff in and out of the convention center) and electricity and booth construction, moving, setup and tear down. Costs for staffing; hotels, restaurants, getting to and from the convention, etc. And entertainment costs while we are at the event, the party, dinners, etc. all add up. Last year total costs for WPPI came close to $200,000. We tried hard last year to maximize every dollar spent. We tracked every lead and kept track of all purchases related to WPPI. We looked at these figures with the most aggressively positive eye we could and even then we found that there was simply no way we could justify the expense.

A lot of people have said we could be there anyway. We could have a hospitality suite, etc. It's a personal thing but frankly I think that's kind of sleazy. WPPI has spent an enormous amount of money promoting the conference. They've created the event and built the excitement, so to 'piggyback' on the event in a way that doesn't benefit them feels disingenuous. It's just not something I wanted to do personally - or associate my company with. This is not to judge those who've done this (and many have done it for many years), although one would hope it might at least give them pause ... (Ha! I thought 'Paws' for sec and then had to shake that thought out of my head!)

If we could have we would have done the party. Studio54 at WPPI is a tradition we would like to repeat in the future. Since it's an official WPPI event, the organizers get credit from the hotel which defrays some of their expenses. This year the club was closed. There's always next year. We'll see, maybe we'll be back.

We're refocusing Pictage's regional marketing efforts on smaller shows and gatherings. Home grown efforts that attract groups of professional photographers from specific regions are very interesting to us. We find that the content value is high (people bring in what they want to hear) and the lower operating costs mean we can reach more people for dramatically less money.

I'm hoping that at some point in the future we'll be back at WPPI. I miss being there and I think Pictage should be there. I just haven't been smart enough yet to figure out how to make it happen. George and I keep talking about it. If we can figure it out, we will. In the meantime I'm hoping the folks who are there have a great time. Know we miss you and we look forward to seeing you around the country as the year moves along.



Gary Fong said...

yup! We didn't go either, and for many of the same reasons. The cost is high, and we've found that we get a much bigger, more lasting return by simply providing content on YouTube (and that's free). Going to trade shows is too unfocused to have a lasting impression. Just look inside your tradeshow bag with all of the zillions of brochures, etc. that you'll chuck without looking at them.

But more importantly, it's a tremendous amount of work for my team, time that we could devote to making our projects move. WPPI takes about four of our people a whole month of full-time work.

I personally think that tradeshows are a great place to get away from the monotony and solitude of the Lightroom editing window. But for a business to exhibit there, there is a very marginal return for the effort.

Anonymous said...

Although I see your point - costs can be prohibitive - tradeshows are more than just doing business. They are a time to connect with and retain your loyal customers while hopefully attracting newer ones as well. It is a time to network and bring new ideas and concepts back to the home office. It is a time to put a face with a name.
You will soon know whether you saved more money than the amount of customers you may have lost to your competitors - maybe it was a good move, maybe it was not...

Jim Collins said...

Yup ... That was the thing we were most worried about. But the early returns are already coming in. In February we added more clients than we did in February of the previous year and the majority of our new client adds are from client referrals. We also lost less clients than we ever have in any single month. (and our clients had their best revenue month for any February in the last three years.)

It is also important to point out that we're not leaving all of these events behind, just the largest and most cost prohibitive. We'll be at Inspire in March and we are planning a series of our own events through the summer and into the fall.

As you say, time will tell, but at least so far I'm not having any second thoughts.