Why and How to Attend a Trade Show
Trade shows can be valuable, and they can also be expensive and provide little in the way of tangible results. Be very careful in selecting which trade shows you go to, making sure the show aligns with the primary mission of your business and its products.
Here’s an interview with Cindy Henry, VP of Buyer Service at IMC, discussing the best ways a buyer or seller can prepare for and make the most of a trade show experience.
Why Attend a Trade Show?
“Trade shows are the best way to hear from and interact with experts in the industry, while also providing an opportunity to network with retailers,” Henry shared.
While online may be a great tool for learning, trade shows have the added bonus of at-market seminars which enable retailers to interact with one another. The shared interaction and communication is a unique market experience, as markets offer face-to-face conversations with others, allowing participants to share ideas and what’s working in terms of subjects like product, systems, hiring and merchandising.
“There is a larger sense of community at market, and often the best finds are overheard in an elevator or while picking up a cup of coffee,” Henry said. “Keep your ears open, strike up conversations, ask questions … conversations and sharing happen organically and often at market. That excitement and experience is fun and can be so productive.”
At IMC’s Atlanta and Las Vegas markets, Henry said that programming is carefully curated with the input of numerous industry experts, including retailers. “Once we know what retailers would like to see and hear about, we seek out the experts to provide the content,” she said. “Our markets also offer opportunities to see – and sometimes meet – celebrities.”
“Do not be intimidated by a market, and all the tools show management will offer to help make it great for you,” she added. “If you are not getting what you want, ask someone for help. Go to larger markets to meet the principals of your vendor companies. Let them get to know you and your store. Ask them their stories, tell them yours. Take their ideas and use them in your store,” she continued. “The creativity at market is inspiring. Come and be inspired.”
Before & After To-Do’s
Henry also offered some additional advice:
- Buyers and sellers should have a budget and plan which includes mapping out companies, appointments with important vendors and the designation of time to discover new products and suppliers
- Pre-market articles, market websites and publications give buyers insight into new products and vendors before they even get to a show. Take advantage!
- Online planning tools such as event schedules, maps, floor plans and videos are a plus. There are apps that help with navigation, event notification and budget tracking once at the show
- Determine the length of time you’ll be staying at a show. How long a buyer usually stays depends on the show and the retailer. Smaller regional shows can be done in a day, while larger shows that attract national and international buyers take several days
- All markets offer travel assistance through their websites; many feature hotel blocks with preferred rates and availability. Retailers should plan ahead as hotels may sell out quickly or have early reservation cut-off dates
- Vendors put their best feet forward in terms of merchandising at market, with fabulous displays. Take photos
- Pre-register to cut down on wait times and retain exemption from being required to provide additional business credentials on-site
- Attend different shows. Larger markets offer a different experience every time because of the variety of new exhibitors
Trade shows have changed over time in the face of rapidly-evolving technology. Attendees use apps to find their way around campus, with direction navigation and options to browse products and categories, as well as vendor directories, notifications and food and drink vendors. There are even apps that will track a retailer’s budget and spending. Henry said people should make use of such perks.
“Many vendors use sophisticated technology to aid repeat customers with tracking inventory levels and sell-through information as well as placing re-orders,” she said. “Stay in the loop and keep up-to-date with advances in technology that can only help your business.”
(featured photo courtesy of RES/NCAIED)