USSC Report: Communication in a Technological Age

I was talking to my sixteen-year-old granddaughter the other day. She’s a pretty levelheaded kid and as we were talking somehow we got on the subject of Facebook, Twitter, and all of those things that consume the time of most young people today.

As I said, she’s pretty levelheaded so I shouldn’t have been surprised, but I was, when she told me that she doesn’t like Facebook. She has a page—because all of her friends have a page—but as she put it, “I just saw them a few hours ago in school, so why do I need to look at their Facebook page or they look at mine? Most of the stuff on there is just plain made up or trash talk anyway.”

Did I mention that she’s pretty levelheaded?

Then she went on to talk about Twitter. She does not have a twitter account. She says that it is just plain stupid. She even mentioned that some of the friends in school think that the celebrities with twitter accounts actually post the tweets themselves. She said, “Like that’s actually going to happen.”

Did I mention that she’s pretty levelheaded?

But then, she is my granddaughter, and I am just a little bit prejudiced—or you might say not levelheaded, when talking about her.

So what’s all the point of this???

Well it got me to thinking about how we communicate in our business lives. Almost everyone uses e-mail and the Internet these days and we still use the regular postal service (come on! I like my mail person and they need the work). Some of us have Facebook pages and LinkedIn pages and a whole host of other social media outlets.

But let’s be real. We can’t possibly keep up with all these media outlets and still get actual work done during the day. And the philosophical question here is whether or not this is actual communication or just bragging.

If you want to buy something you can do a search on the Internet for it where you can find all sorts of prices and things to buy. If it’s a stock item like paper for your copier, pens, or ordinary office items, it’s easy to make your purchase and have it delivered right to your door.

But what about all those purchases that aren’t everyday sundries?

Sometimes you just have to touch and feel and ask questions and experience how it all works in order to make an intelligent buying decision. That’s where old-fashioned face-to-face communication comes in. You can find out all sorts of things when you talk to another human being, just like I found out about my granddaughter’s thoughts on social media by talking to her one-on-one. In many cases (and for many products), nothing can beat talking to an actual person and seeing the actual product. It’s like the difference between seeing a photograph of the Eiffel Tower and actually standing smack dab in front of the Eiffel Tower. It’s gigantic! It’s the “wow!” factor that you won’t soon forget.

USSC Report Oct BAnd it’s the same at a tradeshow. You can look at the photos of the latest and greatest printers and cutters and computers, etc. in the magazines and on the Internet. You can read all the specs and gather all the intelligence. All of this preliminary work is important when buying something.

But until you actually see the product, look at how it works, view the output, and determine if the darn thing will fit into the space you have in your shop, you just can’t make an intelligent buying decision.

At a tradeshow, you can talk to a knowledgeable sales or tech person—not just an answering machine asking you to press “one” for yes or “two” for no. You can ask all the questions that come into your mind. You can look at the actual workings of the product or machine. And probably most importantly, you can get a feel for the company selling the product by talking to the people staffing their booth. Are they friendly? Honest? Helpful? Knowledgeable?

At a tradeshow, you can not only do this with one company but you can compare and contrast similar products being offered by many different companies. They are all there and you can go from one booth to the other and back again until you have everything set in your mind as to which product, machine or service will best suit your needs.

At a tradeshow, you can also talk to other sign people who have bought the product or maybe have bought a competitor’s product. You can find out what they like or don’t like about it. That’s real world experience you can only get by talking one-on-one with another sign person.

And here’s another thing I have learned over the years—I’m a firm believer that when it comes to making a purchasing decision, often we’re buying our confidence in the company and the sales or tech person rather than the actual product. And there’s only one way to develop that confidence—by standing here, face-to-face and talking.

A number of years ago, I was in the market for a new copy machine for the office. All I needed was something basic—one that actually makes copies! Imagine that! I didn’t want it to collate, staple, bind, or do any of those other things.

So I called a few different companies listed in the Yellow Pages® and set up appointments. To make a long story short, I finally bought the copier because of the sales person. Once she found out that I wasn’t looking for the Maserati of copier machines, she showed me what I was looking for and did not pressure me into buying features that I did not want nor would I use. The other two sales people kept trying to “sell me up,” and consequently, they lost the sale.

All to often in this technological age we live in we forget about the human factor and that’s what real communication is all about. Posting on Facebook or LinkedIn won’t do it, tweeting won’t do it, e-mailing won’t do it, and even a phone conversation doesn’t even come close to doing it. There is just no substitute for personal communication.

Just as it is important to build a relationship with my granddaughter by talking to her face-to-face about what is important to her, it is important to build a relationship with a company/product by talking to the sales and tech people face-to-face.

Good business and good business decisions all come down to one word—Communication.

Now here’s the sales pitch. Sign World International will take place in Atlantic

City, NJ November 29, 30 & December 1. You can find out all about it by clicking HERE.

And when you get to the convention center, let’s spend some time chatting because here at USSC we really and truly do want to know what you’re thinking!

—Nancy Maren

Nancy Maren is executive director of the United States Sign Council. For more information, visit



2015 Winter/Spring Buyer's Guide


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