Sunday, October 3, 2010

The inevitable trade show

In most markets, September and October are widely recognized as trade tasting months. Distributors jockey for the exact date they want months in advance, try to book as many tables as possible and charge outrageous table fees. In most cases, this is a tremendous waste of time and energy. If you are a large distributor, this is an inevitablity. You don't sample enough wines during the rest of the year, so in order for your customers to get to know your product, you need to rent a hall, and serve mottled cubes of co-jack cheese.

For the rest of us, a trade show may be optional. I know that this betrays conventional wisdom, but it's true. You could actually just sink your budget from a trade show into increasing your day to day inventory and sampling budget. You would get no complaints from your suppliers, and their money is also better spent investing in your sampling programs and incentives for the sales team. If you can't shake the guilt/ obligation feeling of needing to host a trade show here are a few very important guidelines:
  • Don't waste anyone's time-Whether this is your customer or your supplier. Make sure there is a good reason for them to be attending your show.
  • Pick a good location-Sometimes the oddest venue is the most memorable.
  • Great and interesting food-no brainer
  • Be original in everything
  • Blow them away with your selection-Open a few ridiculous bottles
  • Create a buzz-If you do the above things well, this will follow
  • Understand why your are hosting an event-For P.R.! If you are a small distributor, you need to reinforce why people are doing business with you. This is your one time of the year to show them what your business looks like beyond 1 salesperson, 1 delivery guy and an invoice. Details are very important.
  • You can't replace 9 months of poor sampling and representation with 3 hours in a crowded room somewhere.
  • Make it fun for the suppliers-Take them out somewhere cool afterward. Arrange interesting ideas for them to burn free time. These get really old really fast. If you can coordinate some cool down time activities, you'll be a hero. Happy Suppliers= more sales.
Bottom line- This is money spent you'll have a very hard time justifying or tracking. The direct sales are pretty few and far between. If you view this as a "thank you for your continued business" and make it fun, your business just might grow as a result.

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