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It’s Actually a Buyer’s Market

Is it actually a buyer’s market?

Stay with me until the end on this one.

It’s the time of year in the United States that many associations have figured out that favorable rates for hotels, event spaces, and catering options experience what is similarly known as a shoulder season in Europe. The period of the couple of weeks immediately after Thanksgiving in the United States fills with some meaningful trade shows and professional experiences.

As is my method of engaging with any association or trade event, I never attend the entire event. NEVER. Those that do are wasting time and money. If you go into the event with a thoughtful plan and allow for the possibility that there will be pop-up encounters (not scheduling yourself so full that you run from meeting to meeting), you will develop and cement business.

International WorkBoat Show

I recently attended the International WorkBoat Show in New Orleans. After coming out of the COVID hibernation last year, the show’s vibrancy has returned despite the downturn of the oil market in the Gulf of Mexico. WorkBoat is a 3-day event targeting the marine industry that primarily supports maritime activities, oil & gas, and offshore wind. Things like offshore support vessels, barges, colliers, all manner of vessel equipage, training, and policy issues relevant to that (very large) segment of our maritime industries. I committed to one of three days, wherein I knew I would meet clients, attend a couple of short seminars, walk the show floor to explore and immerse, share a couple of meals with clients, AND THEN LEAVE. People who are NOT exhibiting, but who spend long days walking the aisles of shows, are simply doing it wrong. My point here is that robust show schedules are back and people are flocking to trade shows. How much of your company’s talent is wrapped up in these shows?

Reagan National Defense Forum

I flew from New Orleans to Los Angeles to attend the Reagan National Defense Forum (RNDF).

Every year, this is a gathering of the senior-most officials of our national security decision-making apparatus. Capped at roughly 600 attendees, the event attracts senior officials of the executive branch, service chiefs, secretaries, chairs, and ranking members of congressional policy, appropriations, intelligence committees, senior leaders, and C-suite executives of the most successful defense companies. Collectively, our brightest thought leaders in national security come together to candidly discuss challenges. It is an uncommonly strong mix of what I identify as the 3-Ring® Circus of Federal Sales – Industry, Agency, and Congress!

Thank you to one of my longest-standing clients, Austal USA, for again inviting me to ride along and assist with relevant interactions. In one full day of two-track programming, attendees come away with a very sound understanding of where the defense industry opportunities and challenges will be for the coming year. I’ll be reporting on these trends with clients in the coming weeks. While an incredibly expensive event to sponsor and participate in, the ROI gleaned from the most-relevant information is nearly incalculable.

Is the ROI Clear?

These are only two events of the nearly dozen or so defense-oriented trade shows taking place in the post-Thanksgiving shoulder season. For my client base, they are the most relevant. How many shows did you support in 2022? Is the ROI clear? Do you know how to capture the loaded cost of your participation? That metric might alarm you if you take the time to unravel it.

At this point in the year, your plan for FY24 should be coming together. There should be a clear sense of what challenge or boost your program(s) will face. If you have an unsettled feeling about what your next year looks like, that’s a clear indicator—trust your gut that you may need help. Do you have the right team on the field? Have they adapted as conditions have changed? Or are you carrying people? Are they just out there lifting rocks?

I’ve written previously that too many companies will feel their way through and hope to figure things out as they go. This reliance on one’s own instincts and resilience can actually hold you back. Learning as you go is the most expensive form of education—who pays that tuition? Unlike President Biden’s plan to absolve student loan debt, the cost of your OJT can’t be erased.

It is a sunk cost, and the tuition bleeds out slowly.

The Help You Need

Do you have the help you need in position? If not, where can you get it? As with most major economic shifts, the defense industry feels it last. The economic implosion of 2008 didn’t really rock the defense industry until 2011 and 2012, and then it was under the threat of the bogeyman of sequestration. We are experiencing economic and national security fragility that we have not seen in some time, perhaps decades. In the macro, we continue to grow but not all companies are experiencing growth nor is there a guarantee that they will.

Look around at the massive layoffs taking place throughout the tech world. Some of the “best companies to work at” are shedding people, their supposed most valued resource, at an alarming rate. If you don’t have the talent you need in place, this is a time to make some strategic hires. Do you need to bring talent in-house? Or might it be smarter to use some third-party support to help you identify the truly best talent you might bring in-house?

What’s my point in all of this?

Are you asking relevant questions of why you are:

  • Doing what you are doing?
  • Feeling what you are feeling?
  • Uncertain about what 2024 might look like for your company?

I’m happy to hold the mirror up for you. It’s a safe bet you don’t have someone doing that for you.

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