By Paul Deffenbaugh
I have been in my position as editorial director for Metal
Construction News for nearly four months now. During that time,
I've had the opportunity to meet a number of people in the industry
and compare my experiences to those I've garnered in the last 20
years of construction. Interestingly, in the course of one week, I
encountered both the best and the less than best in the
The experiences were interesting for how they reveal our
industry's approach to marketing.
As a representative of Modern Trade Communications, I attended
the recent Metal Building Manufacturers Association's Spring
Meeting in San Antonio. When I walked into the welcome reception, I
only knew one person in the room, and that only through phone
conversations. You all know how uncomfortable that situation can
be, and how hard it is to put on your big personality and introduce
yourself to strangers. I was, understandably, nervous.
Here's what I encountered, though. In that room, I met a group
of people who went out of their way to invite me into
conversations, introduce me to other people, inquire
conscientiously about my background and interests, and remembered
my name the next day.
In the course of my career, I have had to walk cold into a room
of strangers dozens of times. I have never met a group so open and
accepting and helpful. I really was taken by surprise.
Now, contrast that with the experience I had at a trade show one
week later. Before trade shows, editors make appointments at
manufacturer's booths to see the new products, talk to the
marketing people, and learn more about the company. It is the rare
instance when we can really connect with the people in the industry
we cover. On one of my booth appointments, I was greeted by the
marketing staff and we all introduced ourselves. Almost
immediately, they went back to their personal conversation, with
one of the staffers turning away from me. I stood there awkwardly
waiting, then approached technical people on my own, and eventually
had several good conversations about the industry and the company's
Not surprising to you? Consider this. These were marketing
people who had the editor of two journals that reach nearly 60,000
buyers of their product. They let that person stand there for
several minutes until he initiated his own conversations. After our
initial greeting, they never spoke to me again. When I was done, I
just walked away from the booth, shaking my head. In 20 years of
covering trade shows and doing hundreds of booth visits, I had
never seen such disconnection from the importance of marketing and
the essential nature of relationships in marketing.
I guess it would be okay if we all had so much work that we
didn't know what to do with it, and we could turn down the
opportunity for the free publicity that a trade journal editor
represents. But we all know that was not the case.
I won't speculate on the reasons for this incident. I can
imagine several scenarios, but I imagine you can as well.