The shift to smaller community, online marketing efforts is here to stay

By Kelly McCloskey
The Tree Frog Forestry News
January 11, 2021
Category: Special Feature
Region: Canada, United States

Remember the days when you spent untold dollars travelling to a convention, setting up your booth, and spending the majority of your time making small talk with the other exhibitors? And when finally enticed by free food and beverages, the delegates would arrive burnt out from information overload and your only engagement beyond a short discussion as they passed by, is when they use your booth as a place to leave their empty glass. In part, this is why the use of big industry events as the primary marketing tool has been in decline for several years, and sales reps surveyed by the Tree Frog News are increasingly discerning about which events they attend.

“Add in the deluge of online virtual events due to Covid-19 and the challenge is even greater”, says Paul Harder, US Commodity Sales Manager at Dakeryn Industries, a SPF lumber distributor and specialty wood products manufacturer based in North Vancouver, BC. “The virtual platform is key”, says Harder, “as is the opportunity to engage with potential customers before, during and after the event, and set up appointments in advance, sometimes with multiple reps from the same company”. Which is why Harder is particularly keen on the upcoming Global Buyers Mission (GBM)—the largest and most important wood show for international buyers and Canadian sellers of value-added wood products— which is set to kick-off January 25–29. 

Beginning today (Monday January 11), the GBM site becomes accessible for exhibitors to build their virtual booths and later in the week the site becomes accessible for the pre-qualified buyers to preview the promotional materials. Among Dakeryn’s online materials will be a “storytelling” video on the company and its products, created thanks to a video production workshop put on by BC Wood, the organization behind the GBM. Unique to the GBM, according to Harder, is that the trade show will remain open for 60 days after the event.

Although some may view the virtual trade show as a temporary solution to the current travel and other covid-related restrictions, Harder believes a shift to more “smaller-community, online marketing efforts like the GBM is here to stay”. He particularly likes the fact that in the online world, smaller companies like Dakeryn are on an equal footing with the industry giants on vast tradeshow floors, when it comes to booth location and promotion opportunity. 

Last week, the Tree Frog News featured the perspectives of three other high-profile GBM participants. This includes Murakami Lumber—one of Japan’s oldest and largest importers of lumber and value-added wood products; Daizen Joinery—a high end custom log home and timber frame manufacturer in Kamloops, BC; and Fraserwood Industries—an innovative provider of heavy timber products and timber fabrication services based in Squamish, BC.

Mr. Kenji Sahara, president of Murakami Lumber in Japan, confirmed his company’s intent to participate with the objective of “meeting with suppliers of interest”. Mr. Sahara noted his preference for face-to-face meetings, but based on his company’s experience at the Japan Home Show and several BC Wood-organized virtual events, he was confident of a positive outcome. According to Mr. Sahara, “to see and check the quality of the product is indispensable for us and the online meetings are easy to arrange compared to a business trip. We also think it is a good way to find proper suppliers, and online meetings give us the chance to think carefully before we actually meet.”

Johnny Matak, Business Development Manager at Daizen, a seasoned tradeshow partaker, has “run the gamut” when it comes to sales events in North America. “The key to success”, says Matak, “is building relationships and that’s hard to do in an online event”. But he believes the GBM can be successful, in that it pre-qualifies the attending buyers and specifiers and facilitates pre-scheduled meetings. And Matak plans to take full advantage of the advance notice provided of who’s participating, by inviting them, along with Daizen’s own contacts, to visit the event and his booth. “Nothing can replace the “captive perfection of the Whistler bubble when it comes to building relationships”, says Matak, “but the opportunity to remain consistent, make contact, and demonstrate product quality via creative approaches such as an online factory tour—is proving effective.”

When Covid-19 forced Fraserwood Industries’ Heavy Timber Specialist Kurt Westerlund to reinvent his sales and marketing model, his first (Google) search was in the direction of the gaming-world. “Who knows better how to stay connected while avoiding the all-too human temptation or distraction of email and twitter”, said Westerlund. “I downloaded some free Open Broadcaster Software, bought myself some inexpensive lighting, a camera and a green-screen facsimile, and moved into the garage.” What works best, “is a combination of a pre-recorded video presentation with picture-in-picture commentary. That is to say, your talking head is in the corner of the screen”. Although not a replacement for face-to-face meetings, Westerlund is sure these new video tools will improve the cost efficiency of lead generation and following up, and thus part of his tool kit going forward.

The GBM has only one focus, to put sellers of wood products in direct contact with prospective buyers. And if you take Messrs Harding, Sahara, Matak and Westerlund at their word, Canadian wood manufacturers should take advantage of the GBM to showcase their wares to hundreds of pre-qualified international buyers and specifiers. Canadian Trade Commissioners around world are currently promoting this unique opportunity “as a means to do business, sans the high-cost travel and time commitments”. For more information on the GBM, click here.

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