Part two of this three-part article focuses on what it takes to organize a trade show event.

With so many people and businesses connected on social media today, it is easier than ever to reach out to customers. Invitations to trade shows can be sent out through email blasts or Facebook notifications.

Dawnchem’s salespeople send invitations to customers, but invitations do not need to be limited to current clients.

“We have a list of prospects that wouldn’t be efficient to cold call, so we send invitations to those prospects already on the list,” says Benson. Sales reps also put an announcement about the show on invoices.

Now that his company has scaled down from doing smaller customer events instead of more substantial trade shows, McGarvey said that their guest list has greater focus on strategic partners and decision makers in a company; many of these people are reached by direct email blasts that follow “save the date” cards and salespeople verbally telling the customers about the event in advance.

As Maintex’s trade shows are quite sizable, Silverman said that the company casts a wide net, inviting a range of guests that come in from other parts of the country and even Canada. They also target potential customers. However, although everyone is welcome, they do try to focus on attracting high-level decision makers. Maintex extended invitations directly through its sales team but also electronically through email and social media, including creating a special website through which attendees were able to register.

“If you’re going to all this trouble to have a really good show, you want to make sure you have really great attendance,” says Silverman. “Your vendor partners will support you, but it’s important that it’s valid for them — they’re bringing people out, they’re helping you; you want to make sure that they get the benefit of the attendance.”

Exhibits And Education

Although samples, giveaways and prizes are welcome and popular, attendees also should take something intangible away from a trade show, such as an incentive to update product lines, which can be accomplished by attractive displays and information exchange.

A trade show’s main attraction should be the exhibit hall. Distributors can invite their vendors to display tabletop booths with their latest product offerings. It’s a great way for customers to see new products up close and get answers to any questions they may have.
Keeping abreast of the latest products is also a primary goal, so hosts should arrange educational seminars during the trade show.
At 2014’s customer event, Philip Rosenau enlisted guest speakers to highlight innovation within the industry and featured educational sessions throughout the day, first in the morning and then repeating them in the afternoon to accommodate attendees who could not attend the full event.

One essential for the program: Keep ‘em entertained. At its last event, Dawnchem featured former Cleveland Browns quarterback Bernie Kosar as a special guest.

Maintex likes to revolve their trade shows around a theme. For the company’s 50th anniversary, for example, the theme was “Cleaning Evolution,” while the 55th anniversary theme was “How We Make It.”

Since customers are taking time out of their day to attend, be sure to have lots of food options to keep people satisfied. Serving a nice lunch is a great way to thank visitors for attending.

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Jan/san Distributors Can Benefit From Hosting Events
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Are Distributor Trade Shows Worth The Effort?