Observations from OFA Short Course

By Bob West

The OFA Short Course is THE annual conference and trade show for the horticulture industry, bringing together thousands of greenhouse growers, retailers and allied professionals. It is also one of the 100 largest trade shows every year in the United States, so it is a good place to see how companies are using digital technology in the trade show activities, particularly within the horticultural industry.

The most immediate observation I made during my recent visit to this show deals with marketing more broadly than just digital: Despite all the talk of their demise, healthy, vibrant trade shows are out there, thereby reinforcing the need for broad marketing programs that give companies multiple opportunities to reach prospective customers. The need for multi-media efforts is greater now than ever before given the abundance of options out there for growers to consume content.

Second, there was noticeably less video to be seen in exhibitors’ booths this year than the last year or two, and I am at a loss to explain why. Video cameras continue showing up on the trade show floor with increasing frequency, although most of them are in the hands of trade media.

Companies I talked to that featured video in their booth in the past offered various reasons for why none was to be found this year, including:

  • They didn’t have any new videos and didn’t want to just show the same video from last year;
  • They showed video on a large TV last year and didn’t think it was worth the hassle of shipping and setting up the display again this year; and
  • They are not sure of the benefit of showing the video.

Ultimately, one key benefit of producing video is then having a marketing asset that can be used over and over again in multiple venues (online, by sales reps, and, of course, in trade show booths), so I expect to see more video in 2014 than we saw in 2013 – I am chalking this year’s dropoff up as a one-year blip in the evolution.

Lastly, there were many more conversations about – and much more interest from marketers in – how their print catalogs can and should be extended into the digital realm. Some companies have taken first steps already – creating a Flipbook-type PDF file of the print catalog, ensuring all product catalog information is presented on the website in a catalog section, etc.

But these companies seem to know they can do more and produce something of even greater value, particularly those companies investing in larger, more polished catalogs. Some went so far as to wonder whether an app makes sense for them, and they’re clearly looking at developing a sales tool that can be used in an offline environment, such as a greenhouse.

Ultimately, signs of the greenhouse industry’s increasing adoption of digital marketing were abundant at the 2013 OFA Short Course, but so were reminders that this progression will not necessarily be a simple straight line.

The author is the Director of Interactive Sales at Meister Media Worldwide. To discuss how Meister Media’s custom digital division can help your company with its digital marketing efforts, including producing video or digital catalogs, contact him at 440-602-9129 or bwwest@meistermedia.com.

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