Ah, the adult industry trade show. One of the best places to learn about products and trends, find fresh customers, establish new business contacts, catch up with old friends and of course, consume “Wolf of Wall Street” quantities of drugs and alcohol for several days. But in all seriousness, trade shows like anything else — are what you make of them.
Trade show work can be divided into three simple segments: before, during and after – and they’re all important to ensure you maximize all opportunities.
Weeks before you even set foot in the trade show hall, you should have a good idea of who you’re going to meet with and when — that way you can have specific materials ready ahead of time for all your meetings.
Your trade show prep or “before” work is really all about getting organized. Keeping things organized makes this process a lot easier. Start by researching who is going to be at the event. Figure out which exhibitors, buyers or customers you need to see. Maybe you just started working with a new rep and you haven’t yet met them, or you wanted to make sure you show off a new product to a specific customer — whatever the case, gather your information and drop it into a spreadsheet. Add all necessary contact info, as this will make it supremely easy to set up your appointments. While appointments aren’t required, many insist on them to keep their days moving as efficiently as possible and to see as many people as possible. Weeks before you even set foot in the trade show hall, you should have a good idea of who you’re going to meet with and when — that way you can have specific materials ready ahead of time for all your meetings.
Come show time, try not to book yourself to death unless you absolutely have to. It’s important to leave yourself at least some time to walk the show floor; after all, this is why you’re here. Buyer or exhibitor, we all want to see what’s new in the industry. What’s trending and how can your business take advantage of those trends? Talk to the reps; get as much information as you can. Make the most of your appointments — every meeting isn’t just about big sales, sometimes it’s about smoothing over customer service issues, sometimes it’s about introducing new contacts — whatever it is, you now have dedicated time set aside for someone, so use it well. As always, be a professional and show up to your appointments on time. Gather everyone’s business card, electronically or analog — get them all and put them in a safe place until after the show. This is also important, when introduced to someone for the first time, try not to instantly forget his or her name — employ some sort of pneumonic method to help you remember. Yes, everyone expects you to forget names – so when you’re the only one who remembers someone’s name it will likely make an impression.
After the show is when the most important work is done. The follow-up.
Follow up on everything. Organize all those business cards and new contacts. Set up a call plan and timeline to pursue all worthwhile opportunities you discovered at the show. Start by sending emails saying it was nice meeting/seeing people. When appropriate, use social media to get better acquainted with new contacts and as another line of communication. Let them know you’ll be in touch in two weeks after “you catch up from the show” to discuss future plans. Then actually do it. Plenty of folks have big lofty plans during meetings at the actual trade show, which can often amount to nothing at all simply because nobody bothered to follow up two weeks later. Follow-up is generally everything — whether it’s to win a sale or just to move the ball forward on a project with another company, so definitely don’t slack on your post-show game.
In addition to following up with contacts, try to apply what you learned at the show to your business. Did you learn a successful cross-promotion tip from a manufacturer rep at their booth? Try it! Did a fellow store owner share a successful sales technique with you? Put it into practice! Did you notice a new fashion trend or way to display a product? Experiment and measure the results in your store!
With a modest plan of action during every step of the way, you can get a lot out of industry trade shows. Preparations before, during and after any B2B event will help make your next trade show an efficient success.
Brian Sofer is the digital marketing director for Pipedream Products. A marketer for over 20 years, Sofer has implemented effective integrated marketing strategies for a diverse range of clients in the adult, music, action sports and smoke industries.