Buyers Still Looking for Solutions

The ASIS annual end-user trade show was held in Anaheim last month. Foot traffic was certainly down over years past. And when any one of us from Cygnus Security Media visited with vendors they’d ask--how much less traffic is there this year, do you know? I heard this and that percentage being bantered about although no real numbers had been released that I could find.

I got a different story when I asked vendors how “their” traffic was in the booth. Some said traffic and leads were up over last year and that the attendees they were seeing were the best quality and qualified leads ever. They were knowledgeable, asking buying questions and were “the” decision makers within their organizations. While others bemoaned that they had one-fifth the leads and traffic of last year! Ouch.

Few vendors or service providers went to this event expecting to see the traffic they did in 2007 or 2008 as it’s no secret about the recession. I think most folks felt that this event would be telltale in terms of what they could expect to see economically for the next few months or even next year. The question behind how slow the traffic was reflected their anxiety about what they can expect for sales in 2010.

The show was not dead by any means, although the folks with one-fifth the traffic leads would argue with me about this. What I saw was thick pockets of traffic around the floor. Some of this was because traffic jams up behind the slower movers and sometimes people all come in at the same time, first thing in the morning or right after lunch, traveling in packs for the rest of the day.

But I also observed that the people who came to the event knew what they wanted and who they wanted to see and went to the booths that mattered to them. In years past companies sent multiple employees and they wandered and looked at everything. This year, they sent one or two key decision makers with specific business agendas. These folks stayed for a day or two and returned home as quickly as possible spending the least amount of money they could on travel.

I will say that I saw trends in what products attendees were looking at. The IP video, video management systems, systems management, software operating systems or new technology vendors were generally busy, as were some of the larger integrators. This makes sense as people come to see their integrators or their partners and to learn about new product solutions. And this year, folks just couldn’t cost justify going to see technology that they already fully understood. Not that they won’t buy some of these products but shows are about learning.

Vendors said attendees were looking to buy and were planning and organizing their systems agendas. What their budgets look like, no one knows. But attendees were planning to buy.

Traffic was down, yes, but the show was far from dead. And I think the real question was not how many attendees were there but how many end-user companies were represented there as opposed to the past.