Monday, June 1, 2009
topic du jour: Trade Shows
Okay, everyone, it's time to gather your thoughts. There's been so much interest in the last blog post that it seems that perhaps retailers and manufacturers alike are clamoring for an opportunity to hear more from each other on some of the hot topics and issues in our industry.
With that in mind, we'd like to devote each day this week to a new topic. We're going to start with one that our company has thought about, struggled with and thought about some more, but we're hopeful that you'll all give us some suggestions on questions you have. The questions can be issues our industry as a whole faces, or they can be things retailers would like to hear from a broad spectrum of manufacturers (or vise versa).
The discussions won't be meaningful without comments from all of you, and we're going to start out not moderating comments so that everyone who comments is heard. That said, we're trusting everyone to play nice: no naming names, please. Points can certainly be made by speaking in general terms, and remember we're all in this together.
Here goes: the topic du jour is Trade Shows. Let us start by saying that we loved attending the National Stationery Show and have met many fabulous people there and at other markets, some of whom have become dear friends and trusted colleagues. But, our experience has been that trade shows have changed in recent years from sales vehicles to marketing vehicles, and this fundamental shift makes the cost of attending prohibitive sometimes. And while we worry that we're missing our retailers and they us when we don't attend, the majority of our current customers don't seem to attend any shows regularly.
So, a few questions:
- If you attended any trade shows this year, as a retailer or a manufacturer, we ask you: Why?
- If you didn't, why didn't you?
- Retailers, manufacturers so often hear that not attending a trade show, particularly NSS, will instantly make you a pariah in the industry. Is this really a dealbreaker for retailers?
- Retailers, if you use sources other than trade shows for placing orders and finding new lines, what are those sources? Sales reps? Internet search? Sites like Etsy?
For our part, we attended both the Atlanta Gift Market and NSS this year. This was feasible this year because we were part of collective booths that significantly reduced our show costs, thereby enabling us to focus on the marketing opportunities aspects of the shows rather than stressing about covering our booth expenses via sales. In years past, before these group booth opportunities presented themselves, we did skip some shows, deciding to use the money not spent on trade shows on developing new products. Our business still grew during this time, primarily with the help of sales reps, and our experience was that retailers understood our having a limited budget as long as we were still developing new products. All that said, we plan to return to both Atlanta and NSS next year, definitely part of collective booths. The group booths allow us to be there, have a presence, and connect face to face with retailers and new reps. Even if we don't write one order, it's still money well spent. We would not, however, have the luxury of having that attitude if we had our own booths at the shows.
What about all of you? Tell us what your thoughts on trade shows are.