Canadian Rental Service

Features Business Intelligence
Editorial: December 2013

The rental industry is one sector that is not ready for purely digital communications.


November 26, 2013
By Patrick Flannery


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The rental industry is one sector that is not ready for purely digital communications.

Chris Wilson, a partner in A World of Rentals in Kingston, Ont., recently sent us an e-mail to explain why he had unsubscribed from our e-news notifications. I am deeply grateful that he took the time to do this, as his comments were pure gold in terms of customer feedback.

“I have recently unsubscribed from the e-version, and would like to share my thoughts with you,” he wrote. “Prior to the e-version, we received the magazine format, which I read monthly. Both Colin [Chris’ brother and business partner] and I received copies, and we shared them with our employees. I always enjoyed the articles, biographies, and found great information. Personally, I don’t read the e-version (nor do I read any other publication online), and find it a waste of time. Also, it doesn’t get to our employees, as we prefer them to be working and they don’t have access to the internet.”

Let’s read that last line again: “It doesn’t get to our employees, as we prefer them to be working and they don’t have access to the internet.” That, right there, is why print publications are still the most powerful communication channel for B2B markets, and will never be supplanted as long as people work with their hands for a living. It may seem like a simple comment, but there are two huge points here.

First, trade publications are for working people. Busy people. Very busy people. In this, they are different from general news or interest channels that are read at leisure, in the place and time of the reader’s choosing. Trade magazines are read in the workplace, whenever and wherever the reader has a few moments. Because of this, the medium must be portable, transferrable, durable and easily navigable. As good as mobile devices are becoming on all these fronts, they still can’t beat a magazine in the rough-and-tumble environment of a rental store shop or construction job site.

Secondly, our magazine is not for people who are peering at a computer screen all day. As Chris points out, there is really no reason for rental shop employees to be on the Internet at work, except for when performing very specific tasks such as looking for a part. Idle browsing is not happening in shops that want to make money. A lot of rental stores (maybe more than is good) still do not use the Internet at all. One of my early lessons in how this industry works came when I was promoting the 2012 Canadian Rental Mart. I had posted the news that registration was open on the website and sent out e-mails to all readers, but registrations were slow coming in. Ed Cosman, our sales manager, who has been in this industry for more than 20 years, said he knew how to get things moving. He got into his time machine, travelled back to 1995 and sent out a fax blast. The registrations started pouring in. I knew then that this business is not exactly “plugged in.” Which is fine with me, since print advertising still pays the lion’s share of my salary.

Chris’ story has a happy ending. It turns out that World of Rentals was receiving the print edition all along (two copies, in fact), but Colin was hoarding them. Maybe it is possible to like the print edition of Canadian Rental Service too much. 


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