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Trade Shows & Member Benefits

The discussion continues.

By a Scrapbook Manufacturer and CHA's Steve Berger (November 21, 2005)

Note: The "Business-Wise" column of Oct. 17 contained a letter from a mid-sized scrapbook manufacturer complaining about the excessive number of trade shows and the apparent lack of benefits for belonging to a trade association. To read the original letter, click on "Tough Trade Show Questions" in the right-hand column.

The November 7 "Business-Wise" column included a number of responses to the original letter. To read those, click on "Too Many Trade Shows?" in the right-hand column.

Now the original author has responded to the readers' comments. Since much of the new letter related to the upcoming Craft & Hobby Association show in Las Vegas, CLN sent it to Steve Berger, CEO of CHA, and asked him to respond. What follows is the manufacturer's letter and Steve's response.

The manufacturer speaks out again.

As the author of the piece being referred to, I thought I would take a few minutes to respond to the responses thus far. First, wow, I am a little flabbergasted at the responses and misunderstandings/assumptions about my company, as well as the lack of real understanding of my points.

My article was in no way a "whine"; we happen to be in pretty good financial shape at the present time, advertise in several consumer magazines and trade-only pubs, direct market to retailers, as well as exhibiting at trade shows. (We’ve exhibited at both summer and winter shows for the last three years).

Further, we have no ordering minimums, I am selective about which shows we exhibit at, and I do know what ‘benefits’ I am eligible for as a card-carrying CHA member. The point to writing this piece was merely a means of expressing my observations, as well as those of others who have shared similar thoughts with me regarding product saturation and trade show overload.

I think it is very telling that the two industry people who responded to this article either themselves choose to sit out certain shows, or know other manufacturers who have chosen to do so. WHY? Shouldn’t this say something to the validity of my point that it is just too much for manufacturers to exhibit at shows where the number of qualified buyers has decreased to the point of not making fiscal sense to exhibit anymore?

My answers to the questions I posed: What benefit am I really getting from my CHA membership? The benefit I receive from CHA is simply the ability to exhibit. I do receive a discount on Fed Ex shipping, but beyond that, the benefit of being a member doesn’t do a whole lot for my company.

I can only imagine what a massive undertaking it is to put on a show like CHA; however, I do think there could be a few more concessions made to its members (things that benefit everyone, not just the top tier). Again, I have exhibited for the past three years, and have nothing but good things to say about the way the show staff has treated us.

Another issue: Why are MemoryTrends and CHA Winter in the SAME convention center only 12 weeks apart? What are they both doing to make sure that a good number of qualified buyers are making the trek to Vegas twice in a short amount of time?

I understand that the situation of having two in the same location in a short amount of time may not have been preventable; however, I do think that they (the show management) do bear some responsibility in helping to draw qualified buyers to the show(s). (See below for where I think my responsibility lies.)

As for the question, what are manufacturers doing to help themselves in terms of bringing good, qualified buyers to the shows? Many, many retailers have decided that it is just too expensive to attend shows. I can’t say that I blame them since most scrap manufacturers give show specials and sneak previews well in advance of the show; why bother spending the money and time to travel when you can sit at home in front of your computer screen, see new product, and get a discount at the same time?

All I can do on this front is speak for myself and what efforts we are making to help draw our customers to the show: pre-show mailings to both retailers and magazines' editorial staffs; unique incentives/rewards for retailers who come to the show and place orders; and well placed advertising in print, on the web, and with direct mail. It does ultimately end with me and how we promote the show. I know that we can’t sit back and hope that the show staff will do enough to draw traffic to my booth.

So, for those who took the time to respond I just want to say thank you. I appreciate you making the effort to share your feelings, thoughts, and responses. As I stated previously, we need trade shows. They are a wonderful place to gather, to invigorate the industry, and to allow professionals a chance to share with one another. – Name Withheld, mid-sized scrapbook manufacturer

CHA's Response.

"CHA could make a few more concessions to its members, things that benefit everyone, not just the top tier." Here are some features of the show; I wouldn't call these "concessions," but rather benefits that help companies of all sizes.

A. Innovations Showcase – still free, and CHA absorbs the cost of the construction and illumination of the exhibit case. It's free because we firmly believe in the significant impact of showcasing innovation – the lifeblood of our industry – and we want to encourage widespread participation including among smaller manufacturers.

B. Workshop sponsorships cost only $250, because they are being subsidized by CHA – covering 50% or more of the cost. The average meeting room and logistics expense is $500+, and participant fees don’t absorb difference. CHA makes up the difference.

C. Free education at the CHA Theater, including eight intensive education modules designed to build business knowledge and skills around retail efficiency, effectiveness, and manufacturer/retailer partnerships.

D. Invitations to the annual business meeting, to provide the opportunity to learn and share input related to association activities.

E. Free meeting room facilities and refreshments (at CHA cost) to encourage sharing among individual interest sections (e.g. manufacturer, publisher, designer, international members).

F. In addition, at the 2006 winter show our members will receive a) a complimentary autographed copy of keynote speaker Tim Sanders book, The Likeability Factor, included in your fee; b) complimentary keynote cocktail reception; complimentary receptions for International members and Design Faire participants and visitors; and c) a complimentary CHA theater event, "Meet the First Family of Crafting."

I agree that it is critical that manufacturers step up to attract qualified buyers to the shows. Exhibitors are concerned with retailers’ perception of the show – many think, "What’s the benefit to going to the show when retailers can see new products on the computer and get the show discounts without being there?" It all ultimately ends with the manufacturers and how they promote the show (on their own).

At CHA, we’re big proponents of individual exhibitors reaching out to their individual VIP buyers to communicate what’s happening at their booth at the show. There’s tremendous power in personal connection and invitation to draw buyers in. It’s relationship building at its best.

One key way for exhibitors to differentiate themselves in the crowd is to call attention to their unique portfolio and news, so their booth becomes a destination and gets on the buyer’s "Must See" list. There’s no substitute for personal demos and that one-on-one conversation to meet buyers’ needs. Build news into your booth that doesn’t exist elsewhere, then tell buyers about it! Make it easy to find you and seek you out. And do it in the context of the one-stop shop 2006 Winter CHA Trade & Convention Show.

What can manufacturers do to help themselves by bringing good, qualified buyers to the shows?

1. Make personal calls.

2. Take advantage of the cost-affordable Buyer’s Action Pack to communicate your booth number and special products/offers. Build in a traffic driver (i.e., the buyer brings the card to your booth for a special benefit).

3. Pre-show mailings to both retailers and editorial staffs.

4. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to talk to the press. More than 400 individual press members are expected. Put together a press kit that’s simple, but fact oriented. Get in front of them with your materials conveniently located in the press room where they go to prepare their route for the day.

"We need trade shows. They invigorate the industry."

CHA agrees, and we personally take on the challenge to continually improve the show to even better address member interests and needs. Our vision is to showcase innovation and provide business-building information and tools to stimulate fresh thinking. For example, to help members identify emerging trends, lifestyle interests, and demographic opportunity, the show will have a Digital Imaging Pavilion and the CHA SMART Store, plus an update on CHA sponsored industry-wide research.

"Wonderful place to invigorate the industry and share with one another."

Yes, CHA facilitates networking by providing venues for any and all sections. We offer an impact-full keynote and three general session speakers with hard-hitting business-building content to serve as idea incubators.

We will also provide significant, action-oriented information regarding the new CHA "Usage & Attitude" industry research which includes data regarding craft household segmentation and trends, and will provide stimulus for seeing new business opportunities.

"What is CHA doing for the exhibitors?"

We have pre-show promotional items for the exhibitors to help attract more buyers. We also provide post-show follow up opportunities, sponsorships and other items to support the exhibitors' own marketing plans.

CHA is increasing our expenditures to attract more buyers and to provide a more informative, productive experience for buyers and sellers alike. Furthermore, since CHA is a not-for-profit organization, we put our resources back into the industry rather than to simply make a profit from a show, such as MemoryTrends.

Regarding dates and venues, we book our venues years ahead and decide where it is best for our customers. Las Vegas is a good option based on our attendee numbers analysis. We have moved our show around to serve the industry better and to satisfy the customer's wishes. Now that we have both shows (Winter/Summer), we will be settled in Anaheim and the Midwest to serve the industry even better.

We cover not just scrapbooking but all aspects of the industry, and we will try to expand other areas such as beading and yarn.

We offer the international exposure that will become increasingly important as we go forward.

We agree there is trade show overload and our goal in joining ACCI and HIA together is to create a unified voice, be the leader of the industry, and to channel the industry's trade show needs into two shows a year which are coordinated and work in unison, but are somewhat different to ensure people have a reason to exhibit and attend both shows.

We aim to satisfy the needs of the big buyers AND the small retailers and by having the two shows work together we can accommodate the different buying patterns of both groups.

That's just the trade shows. Regarding additional, year-round benefits to CHA membership, visit www.craftandhobby.org/members_benefits.html. – Steve Berger, CEO of the Craft & Hobby Association.

(Note: Any thoughts on trade shows and/or trade association benefits? Email them to CLN at mike@clnonline.com. Also, when you attend the CHA show, stop by the CHA booth; it's your chance to talk directly to the members of the CHA board of directors and the CHA staff. To read previous "Business-Wise" columns, click on the titles in the right-hand column.)



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