The human touch in a digital world
Manchester-based Leighmans was set up 17 years ago with the concept of doing things differently. Founder Darren Leigh wanted to take advantage of the burgeoning digital world – but he still finds time to come to events such as The Big Promotional Trade Show.
“Without face-to-face interaction, you just can’t build relationships,” Darren said. “It’s very, very difficult.”
However, chances for that engagement are steadily diminishing, he admits. “The digital market has changed things, and customers themselves have changed.
“Clients with a demographic of maybe 40 or 50 years plus, they still want to see you and talk to you in face-to-face meetings.
“Below that age range, some of them don’t even want to talk to you on the telephone. They just want an email, a WhatsApp message or a live chat. Basically, the lesson is whatever mode of communication they want to use, you have to use it back.”
That’s why, for Darren, live events such as this can be a breath of fresh air.
“I try hard to support the Manchester shows because I feel that as a distributor, if you don’t support your suppliers they’re not going to support you and be there when you actually need them.
“I come to shows to speak to my supply chain partners and thank them for the fabulous service they provide.
“Some other exhibitors get upset that I don’t engage with them but I’m there to speak to our current suppliers, and we don’t change those unless we have a good reason to do so. All our suppliers are very good at what they do, and it’s very rare that there’s a problem.”
‘What’s new?’ is an inevitable conversation starter for many show-goers – but not Darren Leigh.
“I don’t really come to shows to find new products. My clients don’t want to buy promotional products from us – they want us to supply solutions to problems they’ve got, and if they can advertise and market at the same time, that’s all well and good.
“My clients want practical, functional tools that their staff will be using, whether it’s a promotional product or work wear. I would say we do fewer ‘giveaway’ products now than we ever used to in the past. It’s more about promotion within the business, with staff who essentially become walking advertisements.”
And, of course, the real value of those advertisements comes about, due largely to face-to-face engagement – which is where we came in, you might say…