Making Trade Shows A Smashing Success

Originally posted: October 15, 2013. Revised August 6, 2015

Expo East is one month away. But trade shows are year-round.

What are some tips retail buyers have for how to draw them to your booth and build a strong relationship?  

Leading up to this show and remembering my days walking the floor, I have some DO’s and DON’Ts for how to influence retail buyers.  I’ll focus on the DO’s:

    • DO send emails in the 2 to 3 weeks leading up to the show to set up buyer appointments.
    • DO incentivize buyer appointments with “free shipping”, order discounts or other promotions that make sense.
    • DO create a sense of urgency with a deadline.  Nothing threatening.  But a deadline for when to order to receive the promotional discounts or for when to receive inventory to leverage your marketing activity.
    • DO recognize buyers prefer anonymity and can be afraid to approach a booth if it looks empty.
    • DO know that buyers hide or flip their badges over to browse at peace.
    • DO recognize that there are two distinct segments of buyers and you need to cater to both.  One group that will make appointments and another group that will prefer to drop by un-announced.
    • DO create micro-events at your booth (coffee hour, wine hour, special appearances, book signings, demos/scheduled presentation, etc.) to encourage buyers to visit your booth without making a commitment.
    • DO foster relationships with buyers you already work with or have existing dialogue with by hosting a group lunch, group dinner, or post-show happy hour.
    • DO partner with your competitors. Team up with companies in similar product categories to co-host happy hour or cocktail events under the guise of “networking” to entice buyers to get to know several companies at once.
    • DO ask the retail buyer about their stores. It will enable you to align your sales pitch with their areas of focus. 
      • If you are familiar with the store: "What areas of your assortment are you looking to grow?" 
      • If you are unfamiliar with the store: "How would you describe your target shopper?" "What is your store's price positioning - value, premium or somewhere in between?"  "What areas of your assortment are you looking to grow?"
    • DO practice your elevator pitch many times before the show. This will be part of your greeting when a retail buyer visits your booth. 
      • For example, “(Target Market) can use (Product X) to (solve this problem). (Product X) is currently sold in (Retailer 1), (Retailer 2) and we are in discussions with (Retailer 3). We average (X) Units Per Store Per Week in sales. Our last marketing feature in (Media Vehicle) drove sales lifts of 150% for our retailers. Do you have a few more minutes to discuss whether our line is a fit with your stores?”
    • Once the retail buyer is interested in learning more, DO spend time showing your product, BUT spend just as much time discussing how your products benefit their sales and profits. Many people find it easy to do this with a one-pager that contains all the talking points that matter to retail buyers. It makes for a great hand out! Consider creating a packet to hand out to all buyers that visit your booth including order forms, terms and conditions, and credit application (for smaller stores). Check out our Wholesaler's Starter Kit for all the items mentioned here. 
    • DO keep a copy of your larger sales presentation deck at your booth for impromptu sales presentations to retail buyers at your booth. Check out our Retailer Pitch Deck for a sales presentation template.
    • After the show, DO send follow-up emails with all the retail buyers that visited your booth. Remind them of how your brand drives their financial performance and meets their business goals with our Letters of Follow-Up (same as our Letters of Introduction). Plus, use our language to create a sense of urgency so that retail buyers buy sooner rather than later. 

These are just some of the things you can do before and during the show to foster relationships and build awareness of your brands.  Remember: Sell yourself, not just your product.

And treat it like a marathon, not a sprint. Your goal should not be to get as many orders as possible, but to meet as many buyers as possible, make a good first impression and build relationships.  Retail buying is a process that happens over time (hence, the marathon analogy).

And that concludes my cheesy sayings.

For more trade show tips, visit the Retail Library

Good luck at the Expo East and all future trade shows! 

If you will be at Expo East, give me a shout! I will be there too! 


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