To trade show or not to trade show?
To Trade Show...
Peter Herz, Jornik Manufacturing, Stamford, Conn., www.jornik.com
Every year, we look at the schedule for the following year’s trade shows to see if there are one or two we can cut. We mull it over and, after a very short while, decide there is no better and economical way to see all those distributors within a two- or three-day time frame. It’s a chance to be reacquainted with old friends, and meet and greet new ones. It’s always great to put a face with a name and a voice. We can always count on getting some quality time with our current and new distributors. Trade shows definitely help cement relationships.
Trade shows are just the place to educate distributors on our line and give them ideas on how to sell our products, especially the newest and best-selling items. We have many exclusive and unique items; with a line that includes fishing lures, imprinted walnuts, custom-shaped pens and Bottle Buddies, it is not always obvious where they work best.
Meeting the distributors in person gives us the opportunity to get to know them and the types of clients they work with. At a show, we have the opportunity to talk about Jornik’s high ratings for quality and customer service, and how we can help with our contract printing and sourcing capabilities. I always find it exciting to be talking to one client or prospect at a show when another client walks up and tells the distributor I am meeting with how great it is to work with Jornik.
The other benefit of trade shows is how much we learn from our distributors. We have learned that distributors want easy online order tracking, humans answering the phone (not automated attendants), simple product and theme search capabilities on our Web site, notification when samples are shipped, and many other details that have helped us along the way. Also, trade shows give us the opportunity to get feedback on products we are considering for the future, so quite often we use the shows for market research.
It is hard, if not impossible, to pinpoint which advertising medium pulls in those sales. But, it is comforting to work a show and then return to the office and see the orders come in as a direct result of our efforts.
We feel the most important thing is to look at the totality of our marketing efforts and how to make them work together. All available methods have strengths and weaknesses. E-mail blasts and print ads, for example, help to raise awareness and mindshare for Jornik in a broad sense and in an economical fashion, but you’re not necessarily making a very deep impression. Jornik’s internal and multi-line sales efforts, plus our trade show presence, reach far fewer people at a higher cost, but the individual impressions are more powerful, so ROI is justified. In the final analysis, the cost per presentation at a trade show is actually far better than almost any other option.
Not to Trade Show...
David Karpman, president of Del Rey Nut, Los Angeles, www.delreynut.com
Four years ago, we did a lot of road shows. Every week we’d receive three to five phone calls, and that was good for us. Now, we receive no phone calls from the events; we recently sent an employee out to four shows—nothing.
I would argue approximately 50 percent of
distributors had computers five years ago. I would guess 70 percent to 80 percent of distributors have computers now, even mom-and-pop operations. Before the influx of online promotional products search engines, distributors had to go to trade shows to collect catalogs, check out new products and get that baby bottle filled with jelly beans. Now, if
distributors want an obscure product, they no longer have to leave the house to find it.
Another problem is that distributors no longer take catalogs. Road shows may cost each of the 50 suppliers $2,500 per week in hotel rooms and airfare, so the show is generating $100,000 a week for the economy, but distributors don’t carry catalogs out to their cars. Previously, if there were 140 people at the road show, I’d give away 110 catalogs. Now, I give away 70. Distributors don’t feel any urgency to visit the second or third pen
company because they know if they need that company, they can go on the Internet and find it.
Larger trade shows give the illusion of being this giant event with parties, balloons and fanfare, but, the fact is, suppliers exhibiting at an ASI show will see approximately 200 people. Depending on freight and the show’s location, it costs suppliers between $3,500 and $4,500 for a 10' booth at that show. If you take the 200 people and divide them by $4,500, suppliers are spending $22.50 per person. They could have taken that money and produced a direct mailing and hit 4,500 people.
Comparatively, road shows cost about $2,500 a week and exhibitors see between 200 and 300 people. If you must exhibit at a trade show, you may as well do a road show.
Next year, we’re just doing the PPAI Expo in Las Vegas because there we see 1,600 people, and we may also do SAAC. The money we’re saving on not exhibiting at all the industry shows will be invested in direct mail and the Internet, making sure we are positioned well on SAGE, ESP and PMDM Web sites. If we’ve got to pay for clicks, then that’s what we’re going to do, because on any given day that is where distributors are found, not at a three-day trade show.
When a distributor walks down the show aisle carrying a foam dog on the end of a coat hanger and refuses to take a catalog, it is disrespectful, it raises the prices in the industry and it hurts everyone. The catalog itself is running anywhere from $0.70 to upwards of $3 per catalog to produce, and $1 to $3 to ship every time distributors arbitrarily just want it mailed to them.
One time at a trade show, there was a booth giving away peanuts, just like the ones you can buy at 7-Eleven. Distributors were crowding around like it was gold bouillon or Tiffany jewelry. Why? Take the catalog, not the sample; that’s what you came for, isn’t it?