SLM Solutions announced a major change in marketing strategy, skipping a major trade show and focusing on an all-digital approach.
The metal 3D printer manufacturer issued this statement:
“Additive manufacturing giant SLM Solutions has announced that it will not be attending Formnext this year, citing a successful year of digital communications as its primary reason. That said, it will stay in favor of releasing its coming news and releases digitally. In addition to this, it will invest more into its customer experience and infrastructure and incentives for its team. And, to foster the next generation of additive experts, it will distribute funds to education programs to help facilitate the next generation of additive experts.”
SLM Solutions CEO Sam O’Leary said:
“Despite restrictions related to the pandemic, we’ve had one of our best years yet — and this has been in part due to going digital about our products, our people, and our culture. Our decision to not attend Formnext is not about saving money, and it’s for sure not about having none: it’s about sticking to our digital path while concentrating even harder on our three most important groups: Our customers, team, and the global community.
This is a significant move by one of the leading companies in the space, as SLM Solutions always occupied prime space at Formnext, now by far the largest single 3D printing event on Planet Earth.
Having attended multiple events in the past, I can tell you that SLM Solutions was always among the most elaborate exhibitors at Formnext. Many times I mistook their stand to be a fancy restaurant, right in the middle of the show floor.
Here you can see a small portion of their stand from a few years ago, where they had built, as always, a bar. But that year they were pursuing the aerospace market and outfitted the scene appropriately, including airline-style costumes for the workers. That’s the degree of investment SLM Solutions put out for this event each and every year.
One might ponder whether it was worthwhile to spend such enormous resources on a single event, but for SLM Solutions it was worthwhile. The restaurant-style layouts provided space to negotiate deals with prospects and they often made many huge sales at their stand. One year they proclaimed they’d made over a dozen unit sales, which would most certainly pay off their event investment.
That’s how many deals go down; discussions at a table to finalize an agreement.
However, during the pandemic Formnext shifted to a digital format, and most other standard trade show events were simply cancelled. This cut off SLM Solutions — and everyone else — from a major marketing approach. SLM Solutions was forced into a digital pattern.
It turns out they did exceptionally well during this period, as O’Leary explained above. Apparently so well that they appear to be shifting their strategy towards a digital approach going forward.
I have a number of thoughts about this.
For Formnext, this hopefully won’t set a precedent followed by other companies who do intend on participating physically. It’s a risk because attendance at events often follows a kind of herd mentality: “if my competitor is there, I have to be there, too.”
It will be quite interesting to see how SLM Solutions’ decision affects — or does not affect — other companies in the space.
For SLM Solutions, they obviously feel they are doing the right thing. They have been able to make sales, perhaps more effectively, than they had been doing when physically attending the event.
However, there are more things happening at a major event than simply sales.
Very often at events I see company representatives peeking at their competitor’s offerings. This might seem unimportant, but in fact it is critical because people within company are rarely exposed to other concepts and approaches. By skipping the event, SLM Solutions could be missing out on a great deal of valuable intelligence.
Another factor at major events is a clustering of media. Swarms of reporters flow into the major events and collect stories from vendors, witness key product announcements and much more. For media it’s an incredibly efficient method of gathering information, but if SLM Solutions is not attending, they risk being missed by media.
Finally, there’s the networking. Major events are one of the few times clients, prospects, staff, competitors and media interact. This is a major opportunity to exchange ideas, recruit new staff and find out the latest trends. By skipping the event, SLM Solutions could be missing out on all those benefits.
While it seems for the immediate future SLM Solutions will not be seen at events, it’s entirely possible they may reverse this decision in the future.
[UPDATE] SLM Solutions spokesperson Emily Kozacek told us:
“SLM Solutions will continue to have presence at major trade shows whether we are exhibiting or not. We are excited to continue our strong presence digitally.”
Via SLM Solutions