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Metal Marketing 101: It's All about Relationships

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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 industry.

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 products.

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.

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