A view of the industry through the
eyes of independent and chain retailers.
How To Optimize Your Success at
Straightforward advice that can
increase the return on your trade show investment.
by Rich Kizer & Georganne Bender (January 5,
(Note: Professional speakers, authors, and consultants,
Rich Kizer & Georganne Bender are nationally recognized experts
on customer diversity, marketing & promotion, and everything
that affects and interacts with consumers in the retail environment.
Each year Kizer & Bender speak to thousands through their
"Retail Adventures in the REAL World™" keynotes and
seminars. Their unique consumer insights are widely featured in the
media, including the ABC National News special report, "How
Stores Hook You." Their book, Champagne Strategies on a Beer
Budget!, has helped thousands of retailers improve their bottom
line, and their "Retail Adventures™" Blog is visited by
tens of thousands of readers each month. In 2004 they were named two
of the "Most Influential People in Retail Today," and
their popular magazine column, "Georganne & Rich on the
Road," won the American Society of Business Publication Editors
(ASBPE) Award of Excellence in 2004 and again in 2006.)
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 some of their best secrets of
Do Your Homework Before Your Leave for the Show
1. 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.
2. Review all pre-show materials sent by the association
hosting the show, and all pre-show materials sent to you by vendors.
3. 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.
4. 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.
5. Set an open-to-buy or budget, detailing what you can spend
at the show. Include basic and new merchandise categories.
6. 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
1. 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.
2. Use Post-it® notes to flag important pages and other
information in your show book for future quick reference.
3. 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 time with the vendors you need to see.
4. 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.
5. 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 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
1. Ask each vendor how you can best take advantage of
2. Inquire about unpublished merchandise deals on items that
are not on display at the show.
3. 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 on which the vendor is offering show discounts.
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
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 all of 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.
Take Advantage of Your Suppliers' Wealth of Sales-Building
Companies spend millions of dollars each year designing ways to
make their product fly off of your store shelves. Take advantage of
this important research! Questions to ask each vendor:
1. What's the best way to sell this product line? Alone or
cross-merchandised with your, or another vendor's, product?
2. Who else is selling this merchandise? What are they doing
to move it that's important for me to know as well?
3. Where should this product be displayed in my store?
Many vendors have a host of extras to help you display and sell
their products; sometimes they are readily available, but sometimes
you have to ask. Bring this list of questions with you to each booth
1. Do you have presentation and display tips for his product
or product line?
2. Are there racks available to better show and inventory the
product in my store?
3. Do you have signing or other point-of-purchase materials
available such as project sheets or brochures?
4. Do you have videos I can uses for associate training and
for in-store play?
5. Do you offer merchandise planograms?
6. Do you offer made-up samples for model boards and other
7. Do you have people who can help with store sets and
8. Do you have people who can train my staff on how to best
use your product?
9. Can you recommended designers I can bring in to help
during special events?
10. Can you recommend an in-store event or other idea I can
use to promote your product and build foot traffic in my store?
11. Do you have items I can have to use as giveaways and as
door prizes during my special events?
12. Are there co-op dollars available to help pay for bag
stuffers and other advertising mediums used in promoting your
13. Are there co-op dollars available to pay for part of my
Yellow Pages ad if I list your product line in the ad copy or
feature your logo?
14. Do you have articles or photographs I can use to promote
your line in my e-mail blasts, newsletter and on my website?
Network, Network, Network!
Whether you are a single store owner, member of a buying group,
or part of a big chain, trade shows provide you with the opportunity
to meet other retailers who are likely to be facing the same
challenges that you face every day – what a wonderful networking
1. At classes and seminars, luncheons, association business
meetings, and social gatherings, look for other retailers to compare
notes with. Introduce yourself. Say, "You've got challenges and
I do, too. How can we help each other?" Set a goal to meet
least five new retailers each day. You'll find this network of
non-competing retailers will become an outstanding resource to you
throughout the year.
2. Agree to meet with your networking group at a specified
time at the end of each day to discuss the best things you've each
found at the show. Together, set a goal for each member of the
group: find the best vendor for _____________, look for the best
price on ________________, which vendors will provide help with
upcoming promotional events, etc.
3. Keep your group together after the show and agree to get
together at all future shows. You can also set up monthly meetings
with your network. You be the one to take charge and make it happen.
Choose one morning every month for all be on a conference call.
Share what's new, hot, and happening in your stores. You can even
chose a "Challenge of the month" to be discussed at the
next teleconference meeting.
4. Bring a camera and take photos of yourself with every
vendor and VIP you can find. Hang them in your store to increase
visibility and credibility – customers will enjoy seeing you rub
shoulders with other movers and shakers in their favorite industry!
5. When you return home, send out press releases to go along
with the photos you took at the show. Newspapers are hungry for
news, but they're starving for pictures. Did you know that almost
80% of news that appears on a local level comes from a one-page
press release sent in by someone like you? Beware! The media can
sniff out bold attempts to get free publicity; you have to know how
to do it right. If you'd like specific instructions on how to write
press releases that get noticed, drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
for your free copy.
More Trade Show Success Tips
1. Sign-up on every mailing list you can find - to stay one
step ahead of your competition, you need to know about new product
releases, applications, and industry goings-on before they do.
2. Bring plenty of business cards; you don't want to run out
during a big networking opportunity.
3. Just before you leave for the show, take a fresh batch
store photos, both inside and out. These will come in handy during
discussions with vendors, seminar leaders, and with your networking
4. Review your trade show experience on the plane ride home.
Did you meet the goals you set before you left town? Note anything
you will need to follow up on at a later date.
5. Immediately schedule a store meeting to discuss what you
saw while it's still fresh in your mind. Brainstorm ideas to display
and sell all the new goods that will begin to arrive shortly.
Trade shows are a solid investment in your future if you approach
them correctly. They take you out of your daily routine and
stimulate your thinking process. You are exposed to new products and
applications and you get to meet new people – all good things that
are destined to help make even more successful than you already are.
(COPYRIGHT KIZER & BENDER 2002 - 2008 . ALL RIGHTS RESERVED)
About Rich KIZER & Georganne BENDER
(Note: KIZER & BENDER are also well-known for their
unique and intensive consumer research. In addition to focus groups,
one-on-one interviews, and intensive in-store studies, KIZER &
BENDER scour the marketplace each year posing as every kind of
customer you can imagine. The result of their research is literally
"straight from the customers' mouth" – solid,
ground-level intelligence that you can use today to better capture
and serve your customers.
Rich Kizer & Georganne Bender. KIZER & BENDER Speaking!
103 N. 11th Ave., Ste. 206, St. Charles, Illinois 60174. Phone
888.215.1839 or 630.513.8020; Fax 630.513.8098; E-mail email@example.com;
Retail Adventures in the REAL World™ Blog: http://www.kizerandbender.blogspot.com.)
They are conducting two seminars at the CHA Winter Show. 1.
The Inside Secrets of Fast Track Retailers: Real-life Strategies
That Create Success! (S119), Mon. Jan. 26, 12:00-1:00 pm. 2. How
To Kill Your Retail Business Without Even Trying: 10 Fatal Mistakes
and How To Avoid Them (S122), Mon., Jan. 26, 2:00-3:00 pm. For more
information and to register, visit www.chashow.org.