Post Trade Show Follow-Ups

One of the most important aspects of any show, other than attending, is the follow-up work you do after you return home. The follow-up work is the one area most businesses fail to capitalize on, whether it is after they attend a show like ICAST or consumer shows they attend as a vendor. What you do in the first few days after you arrive home can make the difference between the show being profitable, or a loss of your time and money.

Most retailers will be returning to a store that has been neglected by you for a few days or a week. While you left the store in capable hands, it wasn’t your hands and there are bound to be a few fires you need to put out and issues to address. This is not a reason to neglect your show follow-up duties. If anything, the follow-ups should be viewed as an escape from reality.

Where to Start
The best way to start on a post-show follow-up is to plan before you even attend or display at a show. What are your goals, what is the minimum you are looking to walk away with from the show, and what would be a dream come true? Be honest with yourself and set a reasonable minimum objective, but have some fun with your dream come true objective.

How do you plan to obtain these goals? Are you looking for a new supplier of rods, reels, lures, line or clothing? If so, how many appointments have you made with various vendors before the show? Always make two more than you think you need; you will either miss an appointment, or your representative will miss it. Prioritize your list – who is the most important for you to see? Whose products would you most like to carry? It is always wise to schedule make-up time each day in case an appointment with a key vendor gets delayed or needs to be rescheduled. If you do not schedule someone for that time, you can wander the show floor or interact with fellow retailers.

At the Show
While attending a show you need to make sure each meeting you have is beneficial to you and your store. The suppliers will be doing their part to ensure their products are priced right for you to sell and are in as many stores as they deem necessary. While meeting with the various suppliers, have a budget in mind or a cost-per-unit that you can afford. Discuss timetables of when new products will arrive and what costs there may be to expedite shipping additional products if needed. What displays will they offer, and what standards do you have to meet? Are there licensing agreements or territorial rights for their products? How many of your competitors are selling the same products, or what is your closest competition to you who is selling the same goods? Think up some other questions you may have and write them down before the meeting so you can go through them and make notes while you meet. Many shows like ICAST offer incentives to retailers who agree to buy products while at the show. While these incentives can mean a difference in your profit margin, do not be too quick to agree to buy until all of your questions are answered thoroughly.

Collect business cards from everyone you meet with and notate on the card itself what you remember about that person, or what that person’s job is. Many times a person’s business card will have a misleading job title on it – make sure you notate who your direct contact at each company is. Months from now you may not remember who you dealt with, but with business cards and proper notes you will have all of your needed information in hand.

Get any and all quotes in writing as well – this is for your benefit in two ways. First, it helps you when you return to your store or your hotel room after the show, or at the end of the night to crunch numbers. Second, it helps you in case the supplier forgets what offer they gave you. Be sure to notate as well how long the offer is good for. Is this offer only good for the duration of the show, or can you still get these prices a week or a month from now? Prices change due to shipping costs and how well a product is selling; do your best to lock in the best price for your business.

Finally, you have returned home from the show, your business is still standing and the doors are still open. This is when the work really begins. Hopefully on the trip home you and your business partner or spouse have had a chance to compare notes and make a list of who you want to buy from, if you didn’t sign any deals at the show. Start emailing your contacts within the first 48 hours of the show being closed. If you went home before the show ended, email them as soon as you get home; just do not be surprised if you do not get a quick reply.

Your email should thank them for the time they took to meet with you. Yes, they are making money from you, but still it is always better to be polite. Include in your email a rough outline of what you discussed – this will help them remember you and your store. Once you choose a new vendor, inquire what you need to begin the process and how soon you can expect your first shipment once all of the paperwork has cleared. This will help you anticipate the shipment’s arrival and also give you a framework of when you need additional space open on your store’s floor for the new product. If you are planning a sale on other items, see if you can hold it off until the new products have arrived. While the new goods may not be on sale, you can surely sell a few additional pieces of the new items to your sale attendees.

If the new products you are selling are big enough, this may be a great time to set up appropriate advertising for them, and get them added to your website. Hopefully the new product line is a big deal for you and your customers. Start spreading the word among your customers that by a certain date the new shipments will be in and offer them first chance at the items. This not only shows them how important they are to your store, it also will help get the word out quicker if they are anglers others in the community follow.

Get your social media in gear as well. Even though the new products haven’t arrived yet, start letting your followers know the countdown has begun. You can send a tweet or a post on Facebook each Friday noting how many more weeks it will be before you are selling a new product. Even if you are just adding a new product from an existing line this is still a great idea post-ICAST.

Evaluating Your Trip
Once all of the dust has settled and the credit card bills have come in, it is time to evaluate your trip and decide if it was profitable or not. While the quick return on the numbers may scare you, or have you running to the bank for a loan, you need to look at the long-term return financially. Were you able to secure a great price on new goods? Was this price better than what you have paid in the past? Will you be able to make a profit on these items sooner because of the deals you made at the show?

You should also evaluate what worked and what didn’t work with your scheduling while at the show. Did you see too many or too few vendors? Were the key people you wanted to see at the show, or is there a better show to attend in the future for your needs? How did your store perform while you were away? Did you leave the right person or people in charge?

Finally, you need to look at the intangibles from the show as well. Who did you meet while at the show? Hopefully you had a chance to interact with fellow retailers – what did you learn from them? Did you make a new friend or two you can exchange emails with and bounce ideas off of? Did you meet and get to interact with a famous angler or TV host that you admire? Did you pick up any fishing secrets from one of these pros? Did the show offer business conferences like ICAST does? If so, did you attend any of them, and what was your takeaway from them? The more “extras” you can come away with at a show, the better you will feel about the expenses and your time away from your store.

Every show you attend, as a vendor or an attendee, needs to make sense for you and your business. Each of you has different goals for your store and for each show you attend. Keep your expectations reasonable and a smile on your face and enjoy every show you attend. Let us know what your goals are or were for ICAST and what you thought of the show. You can share your comments with us on our Facebook page, or in our LinkedIn group. Have a safe trip home.