Bad economy, good news

Friday, May 1, 2009

It sounds horrible, but I was a little bummed when I saw some news that the economy might be picking back up while I was at ISC West last month. It had been, at that point, the most productive ISC West I’d ever had and I attribute that directly to the difficult economic times. Declining numbers and hurting dealers have forced manufacturers to focus their businesses on helping integrators make sales and run their businesses.

The conversations I had at the various booths during the show were the most pointed and interesting I’ve ever had. (Of course, every manufacturer told me they were primed for a very strong year. Definitions of “very strong” may vary.)

Further, while the traffic might have been down at the show, and appearances helped by consolidation from two floors of traffic to one, the universal sentiment was: good riddance to the people that were only coming to Vegas to party and pick up trinkets at the booths (or to ogle the scantily clad women employed as dealer attractors in some booths). Everyone told me that they’re having the same productive conversations with the attendees as they’re having with me. The people at the show, in very large part, were serious about doing business, were committed to the industry and security, and were ready to be aggressive in tough times.

Elan Moriah, president at Verint, told me: “The people that came here are people who are looking to make buying decisions, not so much of the visitors who come just for the gifts, which we’ve seen the last couple of years. It’s definitely different this year.”

Craig Johnson, new division head at AverMedia, spoke for many when he broke out that old adage about quality being more important than quantity.

Manufacturer messages were about ROI, total cost of ownership, value propositions, making the business case for security, and at the same time providing more training for dealers, more marketing and sales tools.

I can’t tell you how many times I heard that it’s not about the newest technology, it’s about supporting the technology that exists, innovating to meet needs that actually exist, being smarter about selling into specific verticals and understanding the real-world security problems that exist in each individual business and operation.

Two years ago, it was about which party you were going to and all the cool things the widget could do. The biggest party I went to this yeas was a “Tweet Up” (feel free to Google that term) in the hotel bar.

Hopefully this kind of business focus can be replicated even in the good times.