A view of the industry through the
eyes of independent and chain retailers.
How To Optimize Your Success
at Trade Shows
Straightforward advice that can
increase the return on your trade show investment.
by Rich Kizer & Georganne Bender (June 6, 2011)
(Note: This column originally appeared
in CLN in January, 2009. It is being repeated, because the basics of
getting the greatest return on your trade show investment are
Rich and Georganne recently conducted a webinar
on the subject for CHA, which is still available. It's free to
members, $25 for non-members. Visit
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 success:
Do Your Homework Before Your Leave for the
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
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
5. Set an open-to-buy or budget,
detailing what you can spend at the show. Include basic and new
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-itฎ notes to flag important
pages and other information in your show book for future quick
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
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
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
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
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.
1. Ask each vendor how you can best take
advantage of show-only specials.
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
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
Take Advantage of Your Suppliers' Wealth of
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
1. What's the best way to sell this
product line? Alone or cross-merchandised with your, or another
2. Who else is selling this merchandise?
What are they doing to move it that's important for me to know as
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 you visit:
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
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 in-store displays?
7. Do you have people who can help with
store sets and departmental relays?
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 product line?
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
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.
KIZER & BENDER TO SPEAK AT THE CHA SUMMER
Rich and Georganne will conduct two seminars
at the CHA Summer Conference & Trade Show July 19-21 (with education
starting July 18) in Rosemont, IL.
1. "Advanced Social Media Strategies for
Retailers" (S110). It's Tues., July 19, 2:00 to 3:00 pm. Topics
include Tips To Improve Your Facebook Business Page ... How To
Create Tweets That Get Re-Tweeted ... Smart Ways To Promote Your
Business on Facebook and Twitter ... What -- and What Not -- To Say
to Encourage Customer Conversation ... How Much Time You Should
Invest Each Day in Social Media ... The Latest Tools Available To
Help You Evaluate Your On-line Effectiveness ... How To Measure Your
Marketing Success in Terms of Interaction and Sales ... Social Media
Sites You May Be Missing
2. "Time for a Change: Jump-Start Sales with Cross Over
Products -- for Paper and Scrapbook Retailers" (S117). It's Wed,
July 20, Noon to 1 pm. Topics to be covered include Things to Think
About When Selecting Your New Merchandise Mix ... How To Mine the
CHA Show Floor for New Ideas ... How and Where To Display Your New
Lines on Your Sales Floor ... How To Cross-Merchandise Your New
Additions with Your Current Categories ... Inventory Management
Must-dos ... How To Build a Buzz About Town
Online registration is now available at
(Note: Meetings & Conventions
magazine took a survey of meeting planners asking them to name their
favorite speakers/keynote presenters and Kizer & Bender make the
list, along with such luminaries as Dr. Stephen R. Covey, Mike Ditka,
Bill Gates, Rudy Giuliani, Doris Kearns Goodwin, Jay Leno, Colin
Powell, and others.
To read previous columns, click on the titles in the right-hand
KIZER & BENDER Speaking!
Keynotes | Seminars | Consulting | Store Design
103 North 11th Ave., Ste. 206,
St. Charles, Illinois 60174
Phone: 630-513-8020 | 24/7 Mobile: 708-347-2682 Fax: 630-513-8098
COPYRIGHT KIZER & BENDER 2009. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED