Here’s a phrase that reminds me of the importance of attending alcohol trade shows: This Little Piggy Goes to Market.
That is a line from a children’s poem. However, the market/trade show we are talking about is anything but child’s play. Attending a trade show, or conference (like the 2021 Beverage Alcohol Retailers Conference), can be one of the best investments you can make for your business.
Of course, with more than a year of no trade shows, there is a great value in getting to see vendors and fellow retailers again.
From our years of experience in attending trade shows, we offer our preparation list:
As we had an annual advertising plan, we also kept a detailed list of the items, and when we advertised them, throughout the year. Visiting with vendors, we ask about their advertising plans for the year, as we want to see how our plans coincide with theirs. Also: What new products are they going to be promoting in the coming year? We want to adapt our advertising plans to include these.
We also look at our order history. How many times should we have ordered a larger quantity? Perhaps there were deals and quantity discounts we should plan on taking advantage of in the coming year. Likewise, our order history should show us items where our inventory turn was low and our ROI would improve by ordering small quantities.
When we wrote orders at the show, we made sure to write the name of the individual taking our order in the event there is some sort of dispute. With vendors who are going to provide a display or advertising support material, it is important to denote that on the order, as well as take a picture of the display we are going to receive.
It is invaluable to see things you did not plan to see, as well as the products and vendors you do plan to check out. We found that to be a business that is aware of the “latest and greatest,” we need to walk the entire show floor. Visiting with potential new lines for our business is often more important than seeing, and saying hello, to our existing vendors.
An important addition we made to all trade shows was that of having a “partner.” Someone from a different community who is willing to share what they find at the show with us. With our partner, we made a point to have our meals together, as well as take a couple of breaks during the day together to exchange ideas. It is so easy to miss seeing something at a sizable trade show.
Another piece we found valuable was creating a chart that detailed what we expected to receive including when, quantities and sizes of display, so that our sales floor would be ready when the inventory arrived. Many of us have tight limitations on how much we can hold in storage.
Finally, look at the educational session schedule for the trade show. You would not want to go to a doctor, dentist or use a lawyer that did not stay updated. As the manager or owner, you should also want to hear updates and new ideas that are applicable to your position in the business.
Planned properly, a trade show can be a great investment of time, effort and money. Without planning, it unfortunately is just another expense.
Tom Shay is a lifelong small-business owner and manager. He has authored 12 books on small business management; a college textbook on small business financial management and co-authored a book on retailer/vendor relations. Tom has written over 400 articles that have appeared in over 70 international trade magazines.