OTS 160 | Trade Show Strategies


One of the best ways of showcasing your brand is through trade shows. But how can you outshine so many similar products and services? Today, Timothy Bush shares some trade show strategies that you can use to allow your presence to vibrate in the venue. He highlights the benefits of trade shows as well as the things that you should certainly think about before going to such event. He also offers some tips on what you can present in your booth, something that makes you unique and memorable, highlighting the power of timing or understanding the perfect moment that you can engage in retail.

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Do You Have A Trade Show Strategy?

If you haven’t been to my private group on Facebook yet called On the Shelf “Now”, you’ve got to get there. I understand that you are probably doing other things and when it comes time to it, you may forget. I know that you’re all going on Facebook. Don’t forget to go over there and become part of the group. What you’re going to get is information that you’re not getting anywhere else. We did a Facebook Live and I answered a bunch of questions from the group that was on there. Information that doesn’t necessarily always come up here. This is great stuff. Not only that, but you get to become part of a community of people that are doing the same thing as you.

As I talked about last time, entrepreneurs helping entrepreneurs. When you start hanging out with like-minded people, you can elevate your overall game. That’s the way it works. I didn’t create it like that. It is that way. There were other people out there that are taking their products to retail. These people want to hear from you. I want to hear from you. We need your input in this group. As a result of what you’re going to get back is you’re going to get information that’s not available anywhere else. Stop what you’re doing right now. Go to Facebook, On the Shelf “Now” private group, hit join and I look forward to seeing you there.


Before we get into the main topic, I wanted to talk a little bit about timing. I get a lot of questions from people who ask me, “Tim, when should I contact you? When am I ready to go to retail? When do I need the help of somebody like you?” The real answer to that question is always the same. It’s yesterday. That’s when you should contact me. Yesterday is when you should start looking. Yesterday is when you should start thinking about it because you don’t know what you’re missing. You don’t know the things that you don’t know. It’s worth one coaching call to find out where you’re at now. What are the things that you need to do? Start creating a strategic plan. Start knocking things off on your list so that when you get the time and you’re ready to go to retail, you’re really ready.

The hardest thing is when you think you’re ready to go to retail, and people call me, “I’m finally ready,” and then they find out that they’re not ready. There are still a bunch of things that they have to get done before they can go to retail. Let’s get those things done first. That way when you’re ready, you can begin the process. Timing-wise, it’s not going to be the end of the world. What I’m trying to say is it’s worth it to find out where you’re at and where you should go at any time during your process, so that you’re not going left when you should go right and going straight when you should go left. It helps you clarify where you’re at, where you’re going and the steps that you need to get there. Stop thinking to yourself, “When should I get ready to call,” just call and let’s start having a conversation now.

That brings us to our main topic, which is trade shows. The reason I chose trade shows to talk about is that I was at a trade show. I was in Germany. I was at the Ambiente Show, which is the largest housewares show in the entire world that deals specifically with housewares. It dawned on me after I went around to all these booths and I talked to hundreds of people that people are spending money. They want to be at a trade show. They want their product to be seen, but they have no idea what they’re doing. They have no idea how to make the most of the time that they’re there, how to make the most of every single person that comes up to the booth. I know sometimes I’m a disappointment when I get to the booth and they find out I’m not a buyer. They’re like, “It’s somebody else asking questions.” You can’t look at it that way. You have to look at it as “Here’s an opportunity for me to work my pitch. Here’s an opportunity for me to have a live subject to work off of.”

OTS 160 | Trade Show Strategies
Trade Show Strategies: Give yourself some time to get organized after the trade show. Don’t follow up with buyers until 7 to 10 days.


In our private group, I wrote a post on it right after I got back. There were several things that I wanted people to know because it was so up in my mind about how I see people working these trade show booths. What ends up happening is a lot of times, you think that they’re not worth it. It’s not worth it to go to a trade show. It’s not worth it to spend the money and go there because you don’t get anything out of it. I’m here to tell you that that’s not true. You should go to a trade show. You should spend the money and get your product out there but here’s the key. You got to know what you’re doing. You’ve got to know what your goal is before you go in there. You have to understand how it is that you’re going to reach your goal at the trade show. If you have no goal or if you don’t know what you’re trying to get, are you trying to get leads? Are you trying to get sales? Are you trying to get exposure? Are you trying to get brand recognition? Are you trying to catch the attention of a specific buyer? What is it you’re trying to do? What’s your goal? If you don’t know what that is, then you’re never going to be able to create a strategy to get there.

There are great trade shows out there. I’m getting ready to go and walk The Inspired Home Show. It used to be called The International Houseware Show. It’s in March every year in Chicago at the McCormick Center. They changed it to The Inspired Home Show. I’m getting ready. That’s a good one. If you’re in the housewares or anything in and around your house, that’s where you need to be. Ambiente is the bigger version of that in Frankfurt, Germany. If you are a foodie, if you have food, you want to be at Expo West, Expo East, The Summer Fancy Food Show, and The Winter Fancy Food Show. If you’re any of those things and specifically getting your product in front of buyers is your number one goal, then you have to go to ECRM. You know I talk about that again and again. If that’s your big goal, then that’s where you need to be. They have specific sessions for your products where you’re going to meet with buyers that are specific to what you’re trying to accomplish. This needs to be part of your strategy. This needs to be part of where you’re focusing your money, your funds and your marketing on.

A lot of times, we spend all our money-making the product, building the product, shipping the product, and then once we get it here, we have no money left to market it. We have no money left to hire somebody to help us. We have no money left. What we’re hoping is that we’re going to strike gold. We’re going to put up a website and that one buyer, we need to see is going to come because that’s how great our product is and that’s not going to happen. It could happen. Nothing is impossible. I don’t know who you have on your side. Nothing is impossible, but it’s not probable. If you want to get your product out there, you want to sell it in retail, then you’re going to have to go where the retail buyers are. If you want to fish, you’ve got to go where the fish are. You can’t stay and do what you’re doing, put it on Amazon and hope that it catches somebody’s eye. You’re going to be hoping that for a long time.

If you want to get your product out there, go to where the retail buyers are. Click To Tweet

A lot of times, we don’t see our products clearly. I might be getting off on a tangent here. We don’t always see our products clearly. I have a client right now that I asked what her uniques were. She sent me back five different uniques. Of the five, only one was unique. It’s something that would help her product stick out at retail that other products don’t have. The rest were features that any one of her competitors could have or could claim. They weren’t uniques. That’s a big factor. Sometimes going to a trade show can help you talk to people about your uniques and become comfortable. You should want people to come into your booth. It doesn’t matter who they are so that you can talk about your products. Talk about you and your uniqueness. Get feedback from the people that you’re talking to. See their face. Are they getting it? Do they get it? Does it take you too long to explain it? Is it not getting through? It’s a great testing ground. It’s a great place for you to be and get your product in front of hundreds of people. It’s a necessary part of going to retail.

Do you have a trade show strategy? Do you know what trade shows to go to? Do you know what to buy at a trade show, what you need, what’s important, how you should spend your money? Do you know what to do before, during and after the trade show? If your answer is no to all of those, then reach out to us. We can help you with all of that. The purpose of this is not to get you to call us, but to get you thinking about trade shows and do you have that type of a strategy? Is that built into your budget for the year or are you hoping or praying that you catch the eye of a wandering buyer who sees the website that has been looking for a product like yours? This business is not about hope. It’s not about wondering. It’s about executing. It’s about having a strategy and executing that strategy in a way that will move you further down or closer to where you’re trying to get to.

Preparing For A Trade Show

With that in mind, let’s talk a little bit about trade shows. Let me give you a little bit of information about a couple of things that you should certainly think about before you go to a trade show. Number one, understand that most of the key buyers, most of the buyers that you might want to be meeting with have a trade show schedule. They schedule themselves to be in certain buildings, in certain areas of certain days or times during the day. They can’t simply wander around. That’s a waste of their time and they don’t have that time to waste. If they’re going to be there for two days at the McCormick Center for instance, they’re going to say, “I’m going to be in north building on this day. I’m going to be in the south building on this day.” Most likely, they have some key suppliers that they’re going to meet while they’re there. They have some set appointments already and they have very little free time. They’re not going to be wandering around seeing what they can find. Contrary to popular belief, buyers of main retailers don’t wander around trade shows trying to see if something catches their eye. That’s why when you see them, they’re on their way to buy. They’re going somewhere. They’re on their way to their next appointment.

How can you get on that appointment schedule? If you don’t reach out to them early, you can’t. My advice is to put yourself together with an emailable postcard that gives them a small amount enough to create interest in your product and where your booth is. Invite them to come by. You also want to invite them to book a scheduled appointment. If they don’t, you want to ask them specifically, “Please come by our booth when you’re in this particular area.” Send that out to as many buyers as you can get ahold of. Send it out to as many as you can. If you’re going to a trade show and you haven’t invited anybody, you haven’t sent anything out, you haven’t talked to anybody, the chances of that trade show to not meet your expectations are high. You’ve got to invite some people to come to your booth. You’ve got to reach out to them and invite them, create some interest and let them know that you’d like to see them at the trade show if they’re going.

Number two, spend the money on a lead retrieval system. I get it, “Why should I spend $500 when I’m going to write on the back of people’s business cards?” A lot of times, some of the information you want isn’t on the business card. Some people aren’t going to have business cards. Sometimes you’re not going to have time right then to write the things that you need on the business card. Not only that, but you’re going to be busy when you get back to your real job. When you spend a week at a trade show and then you get back, stuff is going to pile up. You’re going to need to then enter in each business card into your customer relationship management software, whatever you use and that’s going to take some time. If you have a lead retrieval, you scan their badge, you put in some notes at the end of the trade show, they give you a CSV file on a flash drive with everything. You input that into your CRM program and you download it and you’re ready to start emailing and following up. Spend the extra money on lead retrieval.

Number two, while you’re there, do not follow up with buyers while you’re at the trade show. Don’t go home each night and say, “I’m going to knock some of these people out. That way, I don’t get behind.” Those emails will never be read and never be seen. They’ll go into the wasteland and then you’ll wonder why they didn’t respond to you. Unless a buyer specifically says, “Can you please follow up with me?” Don’t do it because they’re still at the trade show. They’re busy. They’re having dinners, they’re doing this and they’re meeting with colleagues. They’re not going to see your email. When they get back, it’s going to be deleted in the thousand emails that they have waiting for them. Give yourself between 7 and 10 days after you returned from the trade show before you start following up. Otherwise, that follow-ups are going to fall on deaf ears.

If you can find something memorable in your conversation with the buyer, something that may or may not have to do anything with your product, something memorable about the conversation that you had, even if you have to create the memorable moment by asking them, if you’re talking to a Costco buyer, “What’s the weather in Seattle right now? I’m getting ready to come to Seattle. What are some cool things that I might be able to do?” “Go on to Pike’s Place,” or whatever. If you can get something memorable in the conversation and reference that in your email when you email them, that’s going to be key. It’s going to help your rate of response because it’s not a generic email that got sent out to 100 people. It’s a specific email to talk specifically about a conversation that you had and that makes a huge difference. It can make the difference between getting a 10% response rate and getting a 60% response rate. It’s that big. Make sure that you write something down that’s memorable or you create something memorable.

Before you leave for the trade show, make sure that you schedule on your calendar that when you get back, you have some scheduled time for follow up. Don’t expect that when you get back that time is going to be there for you. It’s going to be filled up with 100 different things. People are going to need you. You’re going to have fires to put out, a crisis that’s going to happen. Pretty soon, all of a sudden, more than 10 days, 20 days, 30 days have gone by and you haven’t reached out to anybody. If you schedule that block of time on your calendar before you go to the trade show, then it’s already there when you get back and you have it blocked out.

Identify your goal and know how to reach it before going to a trade show. Click To Tweet

The reason I tell you 7 to 10 days is also to let the buyer get settled, but also to let you get settled. Once you start reaching out to people, you also have to be ready to receive them, receive the information that they’re sending you and take action on it. If a buyer asks you for something, you have 48 hours to get it back to them. If you can’t because of some issue, then you’ve got to reach back to them and tell them when you’ll be back to them. It can’t be days and days because then you get filed down on the bottom and of the stack and you are starting from scratch.

Trade Show Goals

While you’re at the trade show, I want you to focus on what you’re doing, what you’re selling, what you’re saying, what’s your goal? When you talk to people, what is your goal? What are you trying to get them to do? Try your product? Look at your product? Hold your product? Buy your product? If your goal is to have them buy it right then and write you a PO, most likely you’re going to be disappointed because most major retailers are not placing POs on the spot at a trade show. It’s not how they do business. There’s a lot that goes into their decision-making process. If that’s your goal, then adjust that goal so that you’re not disappointed. A lot of times people say, “This trade show wasn’t good for me because I didn’t sell anything.” Is it a trade show where you should have sold stuff? If you’re at the True Value Hardware Reunion Trade Show, that is a writing PO trade show and you should be selling products and taking orders at that show. If you come away from there empty-handed, that’s a problem. At The Home Show, The Fancy Food Show, Expo West, Expo East, these are interest shows. What you’re trying to do is create interest so that you can follow up on that interest at a later date.

I have in my plans to do an in-person like a master class on trade shows and buyer meetings. I’ve been rolling that around in my brain where we could do some role-playing and set up a room like a 10×10 booth and get down to the nuts and bolts of how to have a fantastic trade show. I’d be interested in your comments. You can go to our Facebook group and tell me whether you think that that would be a viable good idea, whether you’d be interested in that. A lot of what I do and what I come up with is going to be based on interest from you. If that sounds good, if that sounds like something you’d be interested in partaking or participating in, then please let me know so that we can move that higher on our production list.

There are a couple of things about trade shows. If you have other questions, please get into the group. Let’s talk about it there. We can do Facebook Live, we can get more specific, but some key things to remember. Plan your trade shows. Understand that you need to invite people to come to your booth. They’re not going to all of a sudden show-up. You need to know what your goal is for the show. What are you going there to do so you know if you accomplish that? You need to have a specific pitch in mind. You have to be able to get across to people that are coming to your booth. What it is you’re trying to get across so that you can achieve your goal. You have to have a follow-up system. I recommend lead retrieval. Every trade show has an option for that. I would say take advantage of that so that you’re not struggling to create these follow-ups. Give yourself some time to get organized after the trade show. Don’t follow up with buyers until maybe 7 to 10 days. That way it gives you a chance to get back into your routine and be ready to answer their questions and then respond with their questions within 48 hours.

OTS 160 | Trade Show Strategies
Trade Show Strategies: Once you start reaching out to people, you have to be ready to receive the information that they’re sending and take action.


One of the things I forgot to mention and this is crucial, are you want to make sure that if you promised something to somebody at the trade show, it is number one on your follow up the list when you get back. You need to execute on the things that you promise. This is a huge red flag to buyers if you said you were going to do something and then you don’t do it. I will tell you that there is a ton of people that don’t follow through on what they say they’re going to do. It’s more the norm than not. Don’t be one of those people. Don’t be one of the norms. Be a standout salesperson, manufacturer or supplier. Make sure that you are executing on your promises. It will make a huge difference.

That’s everything I had for you talking about trade shows and wanting you to get involved in that. If you have any feedback on this episode, please leave it for me either in the Facebook group or in the comment section. I’d be glad to hear what you have to say and understand your thoughts on the subject. I appreciate you spending time with me. It means a lot. I know that you have a lot to choose from out there and it makes me happy that you choose to spend time with me as much as you do. The feedback that I do get is amazing. The questions that I do get are terrific. The lives that we’re changing, the way people are approaching retail is changing. That is super gratifying and that’s because of you. I look forward to talking to you next time. Until then, I look forward to seeing your products On The Shelf.


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