Are prepared to hit the trade show trail? You’ve registered, booked your travel and hotel but are you really ready? Each year we ask successful retailers to share what they do to make each trade show trip profitable. Here are a few of their success secrets:
Do Your Homework Before Your Leave for the Show:
* Review all the show-related advertisements in your industry trade publications. Note new items, plus vendors you want to be sure and visit, and their respective booth numbers. Look also for not-to-be-missed technique classes and business seminars.
* Review all pre-show materials sent by the association hosting the show, and all pre-show materials sent to you by vendors.
* Hold a store meeting to discuss trends, hot items, new categories, and other things you found in your pre-show research. Ask your store associates for ideas as well – and maybe even key customers – they will offer a fresh perspective on what to look for at the show.
* Carefully examine product and vendor sales histories. Review both current and committed inventories, so that you don’t accidentally duplicate what is currently still on order.
* Set an open-to-buy or budget, detailing what you can spend at the show. Include basic and new merchandise categories.
* Review all of your homework before you leave for the show and adjust your goals if necessary.
Things to Do at the Show Before You Work Your First Booth:
* Go through the show book and list all of the vendors you want to see. List them by booth number, working your way through the show aisle by aisle. This plan of attack will prevent you from duplicating your steps, wasting precious time.
* Use Post-it® notes to flag important pages and other information in your show book for future quick reference.
* Arrive early on your first day so you can study the show floor layout. Before you visit your first vendor, make a quick pass through the entire floor, scanning each booth, noting which ones to come back and visit later.
Inside Tip! The first day of the show, and during the opening hours each day, the booths at the front of the show are generally mobbed with attendees. That’s because they are the first thing people see, so they stop and look around. If you begin at the back of the show floor, where traffic is generally lighter, you’ll enjoy more quality with the vendors you need to see.
* Carry a small cassette recorder and notebook. You’ll find it quick and easy to speak your thoughts into your recorder as you walk the show floor. Review your spoken notes at your convenience, recording them in your notebook for future reference.
* Take note of each item, or line of merchandise, that catches your eye, adding important details about each one. If the product still looks good after you review your notes, you can go back and place your order. This will you prevent placing “emotions of the moment” orders.
Set Appointments with Vendors
Now you are ready to set appointments with vendors. Set your appointments in this order:
1. Current vendors. You will want to see these vendors first to ensure that any, and all, important and on-going merchandise issues are being properly taken care of.
2. Vendors you work with occasionally. These are the lines that are building in your store, becoming more important to the growth of your business.
3. New vendors. Look for new vendors based on your current and future merchandise needs. Your pre-show homework, plus your on-site research, will be an invaluable help here.
Inside Tip: The best time of the day to do meet with vendors is during the slowest hours of the show – early in the morning and late in the day. Many shows also allow you to set appointments during non-show hours, either before or after normal show hours. Meet with your most important vendors, and those that will require the most time, during these hours. This tactic will ensure that you will receive the vendor’s undivided time and attention.
Building Partnerships with Your Vendors
Trade show booths are not much different than retail stores. How do you feel when a new customer walks in your front door? Do you feel like you have to sell them something? Do you watch them like a hawk? Of course not, you’re glad to see them – vendors feel are the same way. It’s easy to feel intimidated when entering a new vendor’s booth, but don’t be. Look at it as an opportunity to meet new people who can help you grow your business. You’re not getting a root canal or buying a used car – it’s okay to be friendly, and it’s okay to look. Even if you don’t make a purchase today, you might down the road. A partnership relationship with your vendors can reap big rewards.
* Ask each vendor how you can best take advantage of show-only specials.
* Inquire about unpublished merchandise deals on items that are not on display at the show.
* Ask for show special pricing even if you place your order after the show.
Inside Tip: Request staggered delivery dates throughout the year on basic goods the vendor is offering show discounts on. This will allow you to take advantage of the price break without having to receive, warehouse, and pay for, a year’s supply of merchandise, in advance of sales. You can pre-write these orders before you get to the show to save time, and drop them off at your convenience.
Trade shows are also more than just a place to buy product. They provide the perfect opportunity to meet the very people who can help insure your lasting success. Take time to attend the all the cocktail parties, open houses, and gala events the association has to offer. When you meet your vendors socially, you strengthen your relationship, creating a win/win situation for you both.
Click on January 2008 on the list of posts located at the left side of this blog to read "How to Optimize Your Success at Trade Shows Parts 2 & 3".