What’s Happening with Trade Shows?


Full disclosure here…and I’ve said this before, I LOVE trade shows. There is no better way for distributors to connect with their supplier partners. Suppliers have the opportunity to connect with new prospects and strengthen relationships with current customers. There is no question however that the dynamics of trade shows are changing. It’s a big topic that I will address in two parts.

Trade shows offer professional development opportunities that you can’t get elsewhere. The networking component of trade shows nurture long lasting personal relationships. These relationships are one of the things I cherish most about my choice to be actively involved in the promotional marketing industry. This article is being written during the Specialty Advertising Association of Southern California (SAAC) ShowThe SAAC Show draws engaged distributors and suppliers. It’s held in Long Beach California, which is a beautiful location and it’s cool in August!

Pre-Show education kicked off with two thought provoking sessions. Mark Graham, President of Commonsku presented a session geared toward suppliers more effectively communicating with distributors. Rod Brown CFO from MadeToOrder and Gary Haley, President of Beacon Promotions facilitated Product Safety Jeopardy, covering an important topic with a unique approach. The always fun PromoKitchen Chefs hosted their classic mixer where relationships are built and a good time was had by all.

Some may find this amazing, but I participated in the SAAC Ex-President Run/Walk at 6:15 AM. This speaks to the commitment that people have to be fit and active. I have a long way to go, but I catch the vision. Successful people take care of themselves, so they can stay healthy and continue to be successful. It’s great that SAAC adds this informal event to the show. 

Wednesday morning at the convention center began with a State of the Industry Panel Discussion featuring a brain trust of wisdom. This interesting session was facilitated by Mark Graham from commonsku. The panel featured: Marty Lott, CEO of SanMar, Tom Goos, President of Image Source, Leeton H. Lee from ETS Express, Tom Mertz, CEO of Distributor Central and Trade Net Publishing, Karen Kravtiz from Commotion Promotions and Nichole Stella, President of the Promo Marketing Media Group. It was a great way to start the day!

The show floor was busy. Throughout the day several suppliers had the opportunity to share their lines in a more intimate setting through the Sizzling Supplier Session format. This innovative component was implemented at the SAAC Show as an added benefit for distributors and suppliers.

We had the opportunity to film some suppliers showcasing their new products you may not have seen. Click the links below to get a close up look at these great product lines in these informative videos:

Phil Martin from Warwick shows us a colorful new take on a classic product.
Sheila Basswood from Fields Manufacturing shows us a new tech item.
Barbara Forde from BAG MAKERS shows us their innovative technology.
Mark Trotzuk from Boardroom Eco Apparel shows us his unique apparel line.
Mark Jenson from Pioneer Line shows us what's new.
David Goldfarb shows us new Back to School products from Evans Manufacturing.
Ben Petersen from AdNArt shows us cool new drinkware styles.
Jeremy Chacon from Promo EQP explains their innovative program for distributors.

Here are a few interesting statistics about trade shows:

81% of trade show attendees have buying authority.
67% of trade show attendees represent a new prospect and potential customer.
46% of trade show attendees are in executive or upper management.
The number one reason for attending trade shows is to see new products.

Suppliers have told me that in today’s environment, Regional Association’s have a great opportunity to facilitate an effective trade show. The scale of these can vary in size, but they bring in a high quality buyer and have the flexibility to be creative with their events.

The SAAC Show, as a Regional Association, adds a few nice touches to their show. SAAC provides a lunch for suppliers on set up day. Sizzling Supplier Education Sessions on the show floor are beneficial. The evening event featured wine tasting and a performance by the Industry All Star Band. Next up…was the rocking ZOOMcatalog party hosted at a dueling piano bar. On day two, SAAC brings out the In and Out Burger truck with a free lunch for everyone. This is a cultural icon in the west and people love it!

FreePromoTips supports a few key trade shows by bringing you a unique perspective on the show. Video from the SAAC Show can be found here.  Products you may not see elsewhere can be found here. If you are not receiving our twice a month content driven newsletters, opt in on FreePromoTips.com.

The FreePromoTips.com booth at the SAAC Show featured short end user safe videos that distributors can easily share with their clients. Suppliers were able to see they can very cost effectively reach our large audience with their product specials and videos we create for them. Distributors and suppliers benefit from the unique content driven way we communicate with the marketplace. Suppliers who would like to connect with our audience can find information on our program here.

The SAAC Show is always an awesome event. Trade shows are however facing many challenges. As I did research for this topic, I spoke to a few suppliers and trade show directors. I learned quite a bit from those discussions. The landscape of the trade show is changing and there is much to consider. That information will be shared in my next commentary.

© 2014 Jeff Solomon, MAS 


Nice videos!

I appreciate all the information you share. In these show videos, I'm seeing products I've not seen. I'm in the midwest and don't go to many trade shows, so what you do is a blessing for me. Keep up the good work!

Your articles are always

Your articles are always interesting. I'm looking forward to your part 2 on this topic. Trade show attendance does seem to be dying, but as you note, there is no better way to see products in one place.

Trade shows certainly do face

Trade shows certainly do face some challenges. I was at the Expo East show and it seemed attendance was way down. I'm not sure how the merger with the apparel show will affect it. I guess we will see. Shows are still a great way to see new products and our suppliers.

I've been unable to go to

I've been unable to go to shows due to a back injury. I really appreciate the videos you do since I can't be there. Your report on the Expo in Atlantic City was good too. Thanks for doing this.

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