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Editor’s blog: Extron pulls out of ISE and InfoComm

Paddy Baker 2 March 2012
Editor's blog: Extron pulls out of ISE and InfoComm

One of the pitfalls of writing comment pieces is that what you write often gets overtaken by events. Luckily for me, the announcement of Extron’s withdrawal from the main InfoComm and ISE shows happened just before we passed the March issue for press – so I was able to amend my assertion that ISE had become a show it was virtually impossible to stay away from.   It’s certainly a surprising announcement. Extron has exhibited at InfoComm since the 1980s, and at ISE since – well, since before it was ISE. Extron’s stand location at the entrance to Hall 2 at the RAI is one of the navigational landmarks of the Amsterdam show, and so Extron’s absence will leave a gap – metaphorically at least.   Extron is something of a special case as far as tradeshow presence is concerned: it has a massive product range, and its show stands have long resembled a real-life version of its catalogue, with hundreds of products on view and numerous people on hand to talk you through them. It also spends an enormous amount on its free parties at both events, and it organises its show activity to an inordinate amount of detail.   Coincidentally, just a few days before the announcement I was chatting to another manufacturer about the Extron party at ISE. We were wondering exactly how Extron quantifies the benefit it gets from these massive events – they clearly help consolidate customer loyalty, but how do you count it? – and we wondered whether the company had got into the situation where it felt unable to scale back its show parties for fear of sending out the wrong message.   Tradeshows – like publications or websites – work because they bring together people with a common interest who want to do business with each other. The better you know your customer base, the less need you have of using tradeshows as a fishing expedition. (Although, of course, if you know that a large number of your customers will be attending a show, that on its own is a good reason to exhibit.) And if you are close enough to your customers – and that means more than knowing who they are and how to contact them – then you are in a better position to interact with them away from the tradeshow arena. That has a number of advantages, which mostly boil down to having more control over the who, where, what, how – and, crucially, when ­– of the interaction. Rather than distilling months of work into a three-day event, you can balance things out over whatever timescale you want.   With its strong focus on product and technology training, Extron has a well-established framework for interacting with new and established customers – and it will divert its expenditure of time and money away from InfoComm and ISE into developing this further.   So I believe ­– and this is nothing more than my gut feeling – that Extron has simply done whatever cost-benefit analysis it uses and decided that it can do better off its own bat. It’s worth noting that the company is still going to exhibit at smaller, more regional shows, in territories where it presumably doesn’t know its customer base so well.   There have been precedents, of course. Sony returned to ISE this year after a few years’ absence, and Barco is another big name that has dropped out and come back again in recent years. Of course, ISE’s stand rebooking procedure rewards loyalty as well as expenditure, so a company that returns after a break is unlikely to get its old location back again.   I’ll miss Extron’s presence at ISE and InfoComm – not least the parties. (Which gives me another opportunity to draw your attention to the IE team’s performance on Beatles Rock Band at the Extron party a month ago.) But, as InfoComm’s Randy Lemke said, the space the company has left will be filled by others. And I don’t think that there is any wider significance for the industry in this.   Though, of course, it’s always possible to be overtaken by events…   Paddy Baker

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