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Maximize Your Trade Show Experience

An old friend and business colleague and supplier Jay Busselle posted a Linkedin poll question asking why people go to trade shows. The featured answers were:

Nothing better to do "Scan my badge and send me 5 catalogs" Look for new ideas/new products Source new vendors/suppliers Participate in education/training

I have been to countless trade shows through the years. As I have visited with suppliers, other folks are often seen in the time-honored, trade show ritual of walking up to booths with their badge held out…asking the supplier to: "Scan my badge." It’s a common line. Being the rabble-rouser I am, I had to be the one vote for "Scan my badge and send me 5 catalogs" in Jay’s poll. As a supplier, Jay has experienced this a few times which is why I believe it was included as an answer…obviously in a tongue and cheek way.

In a time where the cost of catalogs is high and an excessive use of paper is uncool, perhaps it’s time to rethink the burden we put on suppliers. This is a big expense for them. I’m not against catalogs. I just think we shouldn’t abuse suppliers by asking them for more catalogs than we need.

People also shouldn’t ask for catalogs from companies they may never use, simply because they are walking down an aisle past them. Some may feel that’s what they are “supposed” to do, but it isn’t. It’s always been a pet peeve of mine how this whole badge-scanning thing works. Words don’t need to be said. It’s just implied that if your badge is scanned…you get “something.”

Going the other way, it seems some suppliers want to scan your badge for no other reason than the scan. I understand that they want to capture information, which makes sense, but I wonder…how is this valuable? Especially if the “scannee” could care less about the goods or services that supplier offers?

At a recent apparel trade show there were a large number of boutique T-Shirt companies. (What a surprise!) While passing a large booth from a t-shirt company I’ve never heard of in my 20+ years in the garment decorating business, I was asked if they could scan my badge. I dutifully responded with a yes. Since I am a brat, I just had to ask what they sold? “T-shirts,” the company rep responded. Acting surprised, I asked, “What makes your t-shirts different from others?” The answer was, “They are really nice t-shirts.” This was not a very compelling trade show presentation, but I’m sure they will send me a catalog.

Sometimes when a supplier who I have no interest in offers to send me a catalog, simply because I’m there, I’ll ask, ”Why don’t you just give me 5 bucks so I can buy a Latte?” I’ll always remember them for the coffee and I’ve saved them money!

Trade shows enable suppliers and distributors to make beneficial connections. Developing quality, personal relationships is the foundation how good business is built. In today’s fast-paced, online world now, more than ever, is the time to invest in attending trade shows. The Trade Show Secret is to not ask for or show what's new, but what products have been used to provide an effective promotional marketing solution. A supplier should be able to show a distributor the items they can offer, that will make distributor money, as they help their clients with their marketing needs.

Let’s all work the trade shows we attend with a purpose and gain a competitive advantage that will generate quality business. Effective trade show attendance goes beyond scanning badges and sending catalogs.

© 2012 Jeff Solomon, MAS


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