Friday, April 24, 2009

Trade Show Focus

I went to a sports trade show last weekend and saw some booths that it was obvious weren't going to succeed. Basically, a trade show booth needs to have a specific goal, and then take steps towards reaching that goal.

This booth in particular was a Japanese firm who had a line of lights for bicycles (bicycles and Japan - both interests of mine, so definitely caught my eye). Guy came out and told me about the products, which looked like an Ok product. Not sure they were that different than the other products on the market, but perhaps it was good enough to make a go.

But what was not clear was whether they were making sales of lights at the booth, or trying to sign up dealers (how most products are sold in the bike industry). If they were selling lights there, they should have had some sort of offer very obvious. Many booths have "show specials" listed, usually at a discount of of standard retail. The guy never mentioned anything when we talked.

If signing up dealers, they were at the wrong place, as this particular trade show was a consumer show (the industry has a different show in the fall). And truthfully, a product like this would be best sold through one of the big bike industry wholesalers (BTI, QBP, etc.), as bike shops buy most small goods from them (and only go direct for major manufacturers).

trade show booth of my clientI have seen this many times before, including with a client I work with. This client went to an industry show the first year they were in business, but to save costs did everything themselves and also brought friends (who lived in the area where the show was, but weren't really knowledgeable on the products) to man the booth. They were just launching their product in the US. The booth was beautiful, so no problems there. But the only goal they did meet was to see if there was interest in their product, which there definitely was. But the number of customers they gained out of it was not what they hoped for. They assumed that if they just showed the product, the sales would follow. Unfortunately, it doesn't work this way. That was a $50k lesson.

The second year, I was involved and made sure we talked about goals up front, then put some processes in place to meet those goals. The main goal was setting up showrooms, so we set up a process to really work with showrooms who showed interest, including signing up some right at the show if they were open to it. This proved to be much more effective for them.


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