Ask the editorial director: Vendor visits

Now don’t get me wrong: when vendors come to our office, it’s much appreciated. It’s a chance to add to our knowledge without costing us valuable time involved traveling back and forth to press events, trade shows and the like.

That said, a lot of these visits don’t seem to make

the best use of the time available despite the best of intentions of those involved. Many of these visits end up being less than satisfying.

Here then are a few things that come to mind that could make these meetings more worthwhile for both parties:

  1. Start slowly. Do allow for proper introductions, and more importantly, allow editors/writers to describe their publication and its audience. This should help to focus your comments and guide your presentation. Too many companies — or more specifically, overzealous product managers — want to jump right into their presentation.
  2. Make it two-way. While most companies do encourage questions, they seem to resist getting into a good discussion about some real issues. These chats are often cut short, and then it’s back to the formal presentation. There is nothing more frustrating than a vendor who dominates the entire meeting.
  3. Don’t be overly technical. The IT journalists who you are meeting with are generalists; they need to know a little about a lot of different things. You risk losing them by being too detailed. The exception is, of course, if you are meeting with one of our product reviewers or columnists.
  4. Look at it both ways. Talk about the products and the market, not just one or the other. It’s too easy to get focused on a single product and get bogged down into a discussion of all its features. Meanwhile, another vendor may be so focused on the market it fails to discuss exactly how its products or services fit into the picture.
  5. Keep it to one hour. Call it the law of diminishing returns, but knowledge gained versus time spent goes way down after the first 60 minutes. If you’re in PR and organizing such a visit, feel free to check us for any visible signs of fatigue and/or general boredom,
  6. Soft sell. Vendors generally know well enough to steer clear of doing a sales pitch (although it does happen) but seem less aware of how much time they spend on their marketing message. Just the other day, I hosted a vendor who spent 45 minutes on their presentation, which left about 15 minutes for questions, follow-up, or any other discussion.
  7. Where’s the beef? Vendors are obviously well-versed when it comes to products and technology, they don’t do nearly as well when it comes to how the technology can be used. At these meetings, bring along lots of anecdotes, case studies and even ideas, this is, after all, where the stories come from.
  8. Don’t expect a story. This exercise, especially when an editor is involved, is about relationship-building and adding to each other’s knowledge. If a story comes out of a session, as can happen, consider it a bonus.
  9. Canadianize. Many vendors lack the most basic information when it comes to presence in Canada including location of offices, number of employees in Canada, pricing, key customers and channels/partners used. Better yet, write it up for us a backgrounder and stick it in the press kit.
  10. Follow-up if you like. Admittedly, I get some disagreement from colleagues about this point, including one who adamantly says ‘You get one chance only.’ But I think it’s fine when the PR contact follows up and asks us how I thought the meeting went. That feedback you get may help to make the next visit even better.

mslofstra@itbusiness.ca

Martin Slofstra is the editorial director of the IT Business Group.

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