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How To Optimize Your Success at Trade Shows

Make sure you optimize your return on your trade show investment.

by Rich Kizer & Georganne Bender (January 2, 2012)

Are you prepared to hit the trade show trail? You've registered, and 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 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 with the vendors you need to see.

4. Carry a small voice recorder and a 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 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.

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 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.

Take Advantage of Your Suppliers Wealth of Sales-Building Knowledge

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 I display this product in my store?

Many vendors have a host of extras to help you display and sell their products; sometimes they are readily available and 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 QR codes, project sheets, or brochures?

4. Do you have videos I can use for associate training and for in-store play?

5. Do you offer merchandise plan-o-grams?

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 medias 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 email blasts, newsletter and on my website?

15. Do you have information, photographs and retailer-friendly links I can use to promote your line on my social mediums?

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 opportunity!

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 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. Introduce yourself to the people at the trade publications booths. When you stop to pick up the latest copy, introduce yourself to the editors and other staff members. They are an invaluable source of industry information and they want to help you succeed.

5.  Bring a camera and take photos of yourself with every vendor and VIP you can find. Post them on Facebook, Twitter, and your website. Frame and hang the photos in your store to increase visibility and credibility -- customers enjoy seeing you rub shoulders with other movers and shakers in their favorite industry.

(Editor's note: for example, CLN has learned that Tori Spelling will attend the CHA show to promote her jewelry line from Darice. Would your customers be impressed to see a photo of you and Tori?)

6. 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? But beware! The medias can sniff out bold attempts to get free publicity so 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 info@kizerandbender.com for your free copy.

More Trade Show Success Tips

1. Sign-up on every email and 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 group.

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 – 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.

Kizer & Bender Seminars at the Winter CHA Show

1. "Generations of Customers – A Guide to the Shopping Behavior of Generations X, Y, and Z" (Seminar S111, Sun., Jan. 29, 2:00 – 3:00 pm)

Welcome to the age of the NEW consumer! A younger consumer who demands to be taken seriously; a consumer who knows his/her way around the Internet and social medias and is not afraid to use them. It's a whole new ball game and it's all about the ustomer – any business with customers will be forced to keep up.

2. "Advanced Social Media Marketing – For Retailers" (Seminar 119, Mon., Jan. 30, 12 noon – 1:30 pm.)

Social Media Marketing is a game-changer; it gives you the ability to run circles around your competition – if you know how to use it. You may be up and running on Facebok, Twitter, and other social media sites, but are you doing all you can to get the most out of your social media platform?

3. "Cause Marketing for Retailers: Promotions That Grow Your Community and Sales" (Seminar S129, Tues., Jan. 31, 2:00 – 3:00 pm)

As retailers, you used to merely compete for the customers' wallet; that's why you host one to three in-store events each month. The goal of each event is to build traffic and sell more stuff. Today, you not only compete for the customers' wallet, but for their hearts as well. That's why some of events on your promotional calendar need to focus on Cause Marketing.

To register, visit www.craftandhorry.org.

About Rich KIZER & Georganne BENDER

Rich Kizer & Georganne Bender are professional speakers, authors and consultants whose client list reads like a "Who's Who" in business. Companies internationally depend upon them for timely advice on consumers and the changing retail market place.

KIZER & BENDER made Meetings & Conventions magazine's list of "Meeting Planners Favorite Keynote Speakers"; they've also been named "Two of Retailing's Most Influential People." And with good reason: Rich and Georganne are experts on generational diversity, consumer trends, marketing and promotion, and everything retail. They are widely referred to as consumer anthropologists because they stalk and study that most elusive of mammals: today's consumer.

KIZER & BENDER are well known for their unique and intensive consumer research. Any speaker can talk about customers, but Georganne and Rich actually become them. In addition to yearly focus groups, one-on-one interviews, and intensive on-site studies, their research includes posing as every kind of customer you can imagine. And maybe even a few that you can't. The result of their research is literally straight from the customers' mouth: solid ground level intelligence you can use to better serve your own customers.

KIZER & BENDER's observations are widely featured in the medias, including the ABC News special report "How Stores Hook You." Their books Champagne Strategies on a Beer Budget! and Jingle Bells... Christmas Sells" have helped thousands of retailers improve their bottom line, and their by- lined column, Georganne & Rich on the Road was twice honored with The American Society of Business Publication Editors Award of Excellence (ASBPE).

Since 1989, KIZER & BENDER's presentations have blended brilliant content with colorful examples, humor and insight. You'll learn while you laugh! And you'll come away with inspiration, strategies, tactics, tips and techniques you can use the second you return to your business!

Where to find KIZER & BENDER:


103 North 11th Ave., Ste. 206, St. Charles, Illinois 60174
Phone: 630-513-8020 | 24/7 Mobile: 708-347-2682 Fax: 630-513-8098




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