I first came up with the idea of a product to help my daughter sleep when we were out at naptime - never in a million years did I think that in a couple of years time I would be leaving her to attend a trade show in Las Vegas!
On Monday I head off to the bright lights of Vegas (and home to my favourite CSI show) to attend the ABC Spring Conference 2012.
The Spring Conference is a smaller event than the huge ABC Expo I attended in Louisville last October. There will only be just over a hundred exhibitors and the attendees are bricks and mortar retailers. I am really excited to be able to meet retailers and learn more about the US retail industry.
I'm a huge believer that you need to be out there to meet people. I'm still very new to this industry and, whilst I plan to take orders from interested retailers, what I mainly hope to get out of attending the show is more knowledge and understanding of what retailers need from us the manufacturers.
I am often asked by those new to business what should they do to make the most of attending a trade show. So here are my top six tip:
Don't expect people to come to you - I am often stunned at the number of people I see at shows who have paid a huge sum to attend (what with travel and stand costs plus time away from your business) yet sit in their booth and make no effort to interact with show visitors. At the very least stand up, hand out information about your business and SMILE!
Talk to everyone - this is easy for me as I am a natural chatterbox. When at a show I chat to everyone who walks past my stand. It's easier than it sounds - say hello, smile, ask them how their day is and whether they are finding the show useful. This sometimes seems to stun people as they expect just to get hard sell. I often strike up conversations with people who have ended up being a useful contact in other ways than I originally expected.
Don't sell to everyone - when I first started out I expected everyone in the world to want to buy my product. Well why wouldn't they? It's so wonderful ;-) I was quickly brought down to reality when many people just walked past, looked and moved on. Nowadays, I wait until someone has stopped and looked for a short while and then I'll ask them where they're from and take it from there. Sometimes this starts a conversation which could end in a sale, but if they admit they're just browsing then I let them wander off. You can't force people to buy if they're not in that mindset. I have seen many exhibitors forcing show visitors to listen to their sales pitch in its entirety and hand them volumes of literature and you can see eyes glaze over. Just try and judge whether it's worth expending your time and energy on each person on a case by case basis.
Be careful who you talk to - don't forget trade shows can be useful hunting grounds for companies who may not have your best interests at heart. Particularly other manufacturers who may be looking for new ideas. At one of my first shows, I gave a very detailed pitch to the product development director of a leading stroller company. I've since learned to ask where people are from before I give away too much detail.
Talk to other exhibitors - if a show has a quiet period use it as an opportunity to get out and meet other people in the industry. Some of my worst performing shows on sales have been the best performing in terms of making new contacts and friends.
Enjoy yourself - in my book nothing is going to sell your business better than you looking like you're having a good time at the show. Every show is a new experience and even if you never do it again you'll hopefully have gained something of use out of it.
I hope you find these tips helpful - and if you have any questions just ask.
Hopefully I'll be posting about a successful week in Vegas next week.. if not maybe I can try and get to see the Cirque de Soleil show 'O' ;-)
Bye for now