I admit it! I am a trade show groupie. There is nothing I love more than walking the floor to discover new talent and re-connect with my favorite vendors.
Exhibiting at pet industry trade shows is a great way to gain exposure, sell more products and stay up on the competition. That being said there are factors to consider and a lot of advanced planning to do in order to ensure a successful show, and the maximum amount of exposure.
Here are some trade show tips for the first timer!
Do Your Trade Show Homework!
First, you should familiarize yourself with the different pet industry trade shows, and how they may best showcase your enterprise. Make a point to attend them all and decide which works best for your product line.
The three top general trade shows are:
- Global Pet Expo (which takes place in Orlando, Fla., in March)
- SuperZoo (held in Las Vegas in July)
- Backer’s Total Pet Expo (the flagship event held in Chicago each fall)
Superzoo is my personal favorite. However, as a stylist and blogger, I am foregoing Superzoo this year, as I’d like to get a more International flavor and add some diversity to my posts. Global Pet expo (or Global as insiders call it) is the place for that and I will be attending this year. Backer’s Total Pet Expo is smaller and a good first show for a first timer.
It is important that you walk the floor, take pictures of booths you like and observe who is busy and why. Network with those vendors and ask for advice and direction. Their advice will be invaluable.
I’ve done my homework and I am now ready to take the plunge!
The most important aspect of your product is visual. Your booth! This doesn’t have to be elaborate or fancy. It should be tidy, well organized and uncluttered, and one that is consistent with your brand.
Utilize technology. Make it easy for your customers to place orders. Most business people have an I pad. Invest in a good website that acts as a wholesale site as well as your inventory of products. Catalogs are expensive and most end up in the trash. My favorite vendors are the ones that hand me a well-designed card with a link to a website where I can place my order, connect with a publicist and reach out to customer service if needed.
If possible, you should consider giving out samples of your product. This is an especially good idea if you are an independent pet food maker.
You might also consider offering specialty-advertising products, the ones that work best are ones that are useful in some way to the consumer. My favorite giveaways are the Pet Head Totes. They are stylish and reusable long after the show.
Bottled water with your branded logo is another great giveaway, as your throat will undoubtedly get dry from frequent talking. This will also be a draw for tired buyers walking the floor. If you are thirsty, chances are they are too. This will further help to draw attendees to you, after which you may more readily engage them in conversation.
Have the Right Personnel
You should have at least one person helping you during any given show. Not only will this come in handy when you take bathroom, meal and other breaks (which you should periodically), this also will help you to engage more people at once.
It’s very important that you and your helpers put your best faces forward. My dogs were asked to work for the TORU brand as canine brand ambassadors. They were paid handsomely in treats and brought foot traffic into the booth. They also allowed potential buyers to see how the clothing was sized and styled on real dogs.
Be Professional at All Times!
There is no better sales tool than a friendly smile and sincere concern for the buyer’s needs and situation. Buyers can get cranky and may not have a lot of time to spend with you.
Remember to take into consideration that they only have a limited amount of time to spend with you and will be turned off by pushy sales personnel.
Offer to take a business card and follow-up with buyers that do not have time to meet with you. Those cards are worth their weight in gold!
These suggestions are just the tip of the iceberg, but should be a good starting point, and hopefully an inspiration to start exploring trade shows to boost your brand!