Anyone who has attended one of the large trade shows knows the scene well: A long aisle of carpet covering a concrete floor; booths flooded with distributors and suffering a drought of people to answer questions; and little hand carts, blocking every turn and tripping attendees. The “beeping” sound of scanners creates a strange techno-music soundtrack on the show floor as distributors are scanned at each booth for catalogs to be mailed later. These are the trials and tribulations of trade shows in the promotional products industry.
In a recent e-mail newsletter, the editors of Promotional Marketing addressed a concern voiced by some suppliers. Many felt aggravated. The feeling stemmed from having to pay a great deal of money for booths, as well as shipping, travel and staffing costs, only to incur additional mailing costs days after the show’s conclusion. In general, suppliers felt slighted.
The suppliers’ sentiments generated many responses from distributors as well as other suppliers. These comments ranged in tone from understanding to outrage. Many distributors defended the reasons they ask for catalogs to be mailed. Many suppliers expressed annoyance with the distributors for requesting catalogs be mailed when they stood in front of stacks of them.
A few themes became apparent after reading the plethora of messages. The clearest concept is that distributors do not rank catalogs as a priority at trade shows; usually it is the last item on their agendas.
“My purpose for attending a show is not to collect catalogs but to collect ideas and product knowledge which I do take home with me.”
“I go to the show first to meet my suppliers; second to see what’s hot, new and different; and lastly to get catalogs. I can request my catalogs by phone, fax or e-mail. But I can’t ‘meet’ or ‘see’ that way.”