Order of the Golden Rule (OGR) is a trade organization of independent funeral homes.  Here’s how they describe themselves:

Founded in 1928, OGR’s mission is to make independent funeral homes exceptional. We do this by building and supporting member interaction, information exchange and encourating professional business development through a wide range of programs, services and resources.

OGR also negotiates discounts for their members with various industry suppliers.  I recently received an email from a company that is a Golden Services Group supplier (OGR’s designation for companies that participate in their discount program).  This email was sent to many GSG suppliers, including our company, because we currently offer a discount through the program.  Here’s the text:

Has anyone else read the last sentence of the paragraph that I’ve copied from the OGR’s email?  I’ve written Connie and Diane an email as I think this goes against the commitment that we’ve made over the years to OGR as being a representative in our respective product offerings.  If all competitors are allowed to attend, the distinction as a GSG Supplier is gone.
EXCERPT FROM OGR’S EMAIL:  “As a GSG Member, you have the first option to select a tabletop in this year’s showcase. Please make your reservation using the Supplier Showcase Registration Form. Also included is a floor plan to make your choices, preliminary conference schedule and other details about the showcase. After February 26, OGR will open this year’s showcase to all prospective industry suppliers.”

In effect, the writer is concerned that opening the show to competitors hurts the GSG supplier that has faithfully supplied a great discount to members for several years.  I tend to agree with the writer and voiced as much in a reply.

Then, OGR wrote eveyone to clarify the issue.  Here’s a snippet from their email:

The practice of opening up the Supplier Showcase to non-GSG suppliers was started last year at OGR’s Annual Conference in Nashville. Last year GSG suppliers had first option to purchase a tabletop. We had 5 new companies exhibit who were not in the GSG group because they paid to exhibit in the space that GSG suppliers did not purchase. Again this year, GSG suppliers will be given preferred placement, along with special signage recognizing their company as a member of GSG.
There are 60 GSG supplier members to fill the 35 tabletop exhibits at this year’s conference.  Your commitment to participate in the showcase and provide options for the products and services our members ask for and need is essential. Providing the space and related events for a Supplier Showcase is a costly and involved endeavor on the part of any association, but it is one that allows OGR members the opportunity to explore new products that will help them be better at what they do as funeral professionals. Our role is to help make them and their businesses exceptional. Your support of the Supplier Showcase is also toward that end.

So here’s my response:
Ms. Haymes:

It is unfortunate that you are unable to get even 35 of the 60 suppliers to exhibit at the show and, therefore, need to open the expo to outside companies.

 Perhaps you’d find it beneficial to have the perspective of one of GSG suppliers about this situation?  If so, here’s my take.
Our company gives a great discount (15%) to your members.  I’m also required to pay a percentage to GSG for the pleasure of selling to your members. 
In return, you occasionally mention my products to your members through the magazine, your annual resource book and in faxes and emails.
I’m glad that this has been a percentage arrangement, because if I were required to pay you a flat fee every year, I’d have ended our relationship after the first year.
How much business do I get from OGR members?  Less than 1% of my annual sales come from your group. 
As a marketing plan, being active in OGR has done little for my business.  Your magazine ad rates are comparable to other trade publications, but your distribution is MUCH, MUCH less.  I can’t offer a “hurry, sale ends soon!” call to action in your magazine because your members already get a substantial discount.
We plan our trade show attendance by factoring things like cost, location and attendance.  Frankly, even a simple review of your show tells me that I can’t make my money back.  Consider, first, the cost of travel.  Two of us attending will cost $850 for travel (air, hotel, car) if we stay in the cheapest place and drive the economy car.  Then, we’ll have to pay $749 for the first person and $450 for the second to attend the show.  Factor in meals ($100 if we stick with fast food and IHOP) and we’re over $2000 without putting gas in the rental or other incidental costs.
All that to reach a few hundred OGR members from behind a 6′ table for less than 1 hour of uninterrupted time on Friday and during a 90 minute lunch on Saturday.
To contrast, I recently spent half that amount to get five hours of uninterrupted time with over 400 funeral directors in South Carolina.  And I had a real 10’x10′ booth.  The booth itself costs me less than $600.  And the show planners quickly filled every space.
I don’t mind paying for high-quality leads.  I spend thousands to exhibit at the NFDA show each year.  But I expect value for my dollar, which means space, uninterrupted time and adequate foot traffic.
Right now, your show’s numbers don’t cut it, so I won’t be exhibiting.
But I like OGR.  I have good friends who are members.  I think you are trying to do good work.  It’s just not beneficial to your suppliers (at least this one) right now.
Best of luck in the future.
I’ve got issues with a few suggestions they make in their email.  In the second paragraph, there’s an attempt to shift blame with the line “your commitment…is essential.”  Then, an explanation of their inflated prices by claiming that “Providing the space and related events for a Supplier Showcase is a costly and involved endeavor,” while ignoring the basic math involved here.
They’re charging a minimum of $749 for one person to exhibit at a 6-foot table.  Multiply that by 35 spaces and you have over $26,000 in fees.  Imagine, then, if half the exhibitors bring a second person.  At $450 for an additional attendee, there’s an additional $8000.
I’m sure they’ve reserved a nice room for the showcase, but did it cost between $26,000 and $34,000 for three days?
The number one reason we’re not attending?  It’s extremely overpriced.  Like, ridiculously overpriced.
But surely there’s a great opportunity to interact with OGR members and sell lots of product, right?  Here’s what the online schedule shows:
Friday, April 23rd
1:55 – 2:55 pm   Diversity Panel
2:55 – 3:45 pm   Break/Supplier Showcase
3:45 – 4:45 pm   Concurrent Sessions
5:00 – 6:00 pm  Happy Hour/Scholarship Drive
Saturday, April 24th
11:15 – 12:30 pm  OGR Annual Meeting and Officer Installation
12:30 – 2:00 pm   Lunch/Supplier Showcase
2:00 – 3:00 pm  Concurrent Sessions
2:30 pm  Supplier Showcase Closes
That’s 50 minutes of scheduled time on Friday and 90 minutes on Saturday.
A good expo adds content and value to the attendees.  A minimal entry fee, in the form of conference fees for funeral directors and exhibit fees for vendors, pays for the space and services required.  In a perfect world, the showcase charges just enough to suppliers to break even.   
I feel that the amount OGR is charging to vendors is far too much.  As a supplier, I don’t mind paying my fair share.  But I will not attend shows that require me to pay everyone elses share, as well.