Does an Expo Exhibit Really Help Your Business?

A month has passed since the Bassmaster Classic Expo in Greenville, South Carolina—the nation’s largest consumer tackle show. But does having a presence at an expo really help your business? How about a trade show like ICAST?

That’s what we want to find out. As the Classic Expo wound down last month, we reached out to exhibitors of varying booth sizes to get the lowdown on their results. Some had good experiences; others, not so good. And at least one major player in the tackle trade was absent a booth.

Large booth

Costa Sunglasses purchased enough floor space to bring in a full-size Airstream trailer at their booth. The setup was one of the largest, non-boat manufacturer booths at the Bassmaster Classic Expo, and they used the space not only to display product, but to spread the word about their massively popular GEOBASS web series. Here’s their official statement:

“The Expo was a huge success for Costa. Traffic was strong all three days. Everyone loved getting to meet the GEOBASS guys and all of the pros that were hanging out at the booth. This event always draws a nice mix of families, college and youth anglers, and they all love their Costas. The weekend was capped off by Casey Ashley winning the Classic!”

Ashley is, of course, a Costa-sponsored pro. But from their reaction, you can deduce that the large floor space was a success for the Daytona-based eyewear company.

Small booths

Yo-Zuri America‘s booth—on the smaller end of the spectrum—was tucked away on an inconspicuous isle among other inconspicuous isles. Inside, Yo-Zuri America VP of Sales & Marketing Buddy Prause had enough room to display new lures and hold court with passersby. But for Prause, that was all he needed to make the exhibit space a success.

The show for Yo-Zuri was a complete success,” Prause said. “At the Bass Master Classic show, our 3DB Series, including the introduction of our 3DB Crayfish with our supporting retailers such as Dick’s Sporting Goods, flew right off the shelves. The 3DB series has quickly established itself as the go-to brand of quality Japanese hard-baits under $10.00 in the US market.

Upstate South Carolina has such a great folks and a strong supporting fan base for bass fishing due to all of the great fisheries including Keowee and Jocassee lakes to the North as well as lakes Hartwell and Russell to the south.”

Because he was on the show floor, Prause was able to shed light on the 3DB series and Yo-Zuri’s reintroduced Hardcore series of baits to consumers and even a few media types.

Salmo USA, the U.S. distributors for Poland’s Salmo Lures, was a first time attendee at this year’s Bassmaster Classic Expo. Salmo’s Tom Zenanko said his team enjoyed being around industry leaders, but felt like their booth location limited exposure.

“The atmosphere at the Classic Expo was great, and our team enjoyed all the great folks we met. However, like several other exhibitors located on a lower exhibit hall, we did not see a tenth of the traffic the main floor did. From the outside, you need to realize the attendance numbers are greatly inflated due to the fact attendance is free, so many of the same people came two or three days in a row. With such large crowds, if you don’t go big, you simply become a booth they walk past, or in our case never found since we were in the basement.”

“We hope to participate next year,” said Zenanko, “but we will need to set clearer goals as to what we want to say and how we want the bass market to see Salmo lures. For sure, being on the main floor is a top priority to justify the cost.” 

No booth at all

Noticeably absent from the exhibitor list at this year’s Classic Expo was industry giant Rapala—or maybe their absence wasn’t noticeable, depending on who you talk to. Rapala pros did criss-cross the show floor with the company’s new (heavily promoted) Shadow Rap. Still, Rapala was not among the official exhibitors with booths on the show floor. That left more than a few attendees scratching their heads and wondering whether Rapala was shunning consumer shows altogether.

Consumer Shows vs. Trade Shows

Strike King’s 2014 ICAST booth


Strike King Lures had a significant presence at the Bassmaster Classic Expo, but their booth at the industry’s largest consumer show pales in comparison to the setup they bring to ICAST—a full-size, walk-in tackle shop complete with lure displays, meeting areas and the lingering pro (like Kevin Van Dam) to draw the media spotlight. To find out why, we talked to Strike King’s Marketing Relationship Manager Mark Copley.

“They’re two totally different shows,” said Copley. “ICAST is strictly for dealers and media. That’s where new products are introduced and it’s important in that realm for us to make sure that anything we have is available for the media and for dealers. When it comes to a dealer, you want them to be able to see every single thing that you have so they can know it, and they can order it and get it in their stores.”

“Our main goal at the Classic, being that it is a consumer show, is brand awareness. The only things we sell at the Classic are apparel and sunglasses, because the one thing that we do not want to do is step on our dealers’ toes and undercut them. We try to protect our dealers. Usually, we partner with somebody that is going to be at the Classic selling baits.”

Copley says that for Strike King, the Classic Expo is all about helping to educate the consumer and letting them meet the pros, and whereas a successful consumer show can be gauged by building brand awareness, success at a trade show like ICAST has more to do with building relationships, gaining media exposure for products and placing orders for next year.

 “I honestly believe that both are essential for our business,” he said.

[divider]The Verdict[/divider]

What’s the verdict on expos? Most companies seem to agree that a presence in an exhibit hall is a valuable asset. However, booking that presence can be expensive; it also comes with risks. One of the basic tenets of business is “location, location, location.”

Expos are no exception.

If your booth is in a high traffic area, it’s likely to do well regardless of size. But, if you find yourself the victim of a bad booth location, you could be missing out on some serious opportunity.