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MHEDA 55th Annual Convention – The Rules Have Changed

In attending MHEDA’s 55th Annual Convention (May 1st – 5th, 2010) at the Marriott Marco Island Resort and Spa on beautiful Marco Island, Florida, we learned that indeed the rules have changed; and if we want to not only survive but thrive as well, we all need to keep up with the changing climate.

The theme of the show was ‘Change’ and the keynote speaker, a leading economist – Dr. Lowell Catlet talked about better understanding the current marketplace including the buying habits of purchasers. Other speakers reinforced the need to network with peers who have remained profitable even during rough economic times, and learn from them while uncovering new ways of conducting successful business.

Being in such a great location with beautiful weather were added bonus points to the information we gathered and networking opportunities presented. Bluff Manufacturing not only exhibited at this show, but we also enjoyed many opportunities to speak with partners we have been working with for years and made some new acquaintances who we hope to do business with. Bluff’s partnerships in going-to-market are an instrumental part of our success. Our goal for the convention was to learn how we could better partner with our distribution channel to grow the manufacturing and distribution businesses. We arrived at the show not only with sunscreen in hand but products in tow. We brought photos of our production process and product from beginning stages to completion, had demo pieces of our CrashGuard line and samples of the six standard colors we have in our powder coat line up. We took advantage of every opportunity to display products, meet with channel partners, and attend workshops to better understand how we can best work with our distributive network to be solution providers and dream sellers to the end user.

We thoroughly enjoyed all the traffic that came through our booth. On display was our SL Plate (Spring Loaded Dock Plate – stores vertically, mounts to the top of the dock) this product demonstrates that innovation can be accomplished even with the oldest and simplest of products. Bluff counts problem solving as one of our core strengths and the SL Plate™ solved a problem for a major snack manufacturer who uses them in multiple facilities. We were also able to spread the word about Speedy Board™, a product that increases efficiency and safety. We were able to create some awareness about safety issues like how 95% of accidents occur when forklift drivers are out of the cage and the Speedy Board™ enables them to stay inside the cage and increases safety and productivity while also saving significant time.

I loved Dr. Catlet’s discussion on how The Rules Have Changed. His funny and poignant comparison of the thought process and values of the Depression Generation and the current Generation Y had most of us laughing out loud. The Depression Generation operated in sustenance mode and had a completely different set of needs when measured using Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Marketing and selling to this generation is very different from marketing and selling to baby boomers and the current Generation Y. Today, despite our economic woes, the current generation that heads the business world has for the most part achieved the basic and intermediate levels of needs – from essential needs to social and emotional needs. Right now, they are in between emotional and self-actualization phase. This means, we sell the dream to this generation; not features and benefits of products and services, but dreams.

At Bluff, we are selling the dream through our distributors. From every marketing angle, we have to reach out emotionally to our end-users and our dealers. Our end-users shouldn’t want the cheapest product available. Instead, they should ask for Bluff products by name because of the emotional attachment to our brand and our ability to enable them to realize their dreams. Ultimately, our goal in attending this show was to learn as much as possible, so we are in a good position to meet the needs of any end user…. even the self actualized Gen Y.

Tow Bar in Use on Yardramp

Tow Bar in Use on Yardramp

Tow Bar in Use on Yardramp