As Outdoor Retailer Winter Marketplace rapidly approaches, exhibitors, attendees, and media alike are all preparing to attack this golden opportunity for networking, negotiating prices, and staying half-a-step in front of the industry’s latest trends.
For exhibitors especially, this is a stressful period where display booths are in their final throws, appointments are filling the ledger, and leadership is struggling to determine who will stay and who will go to the Salt Palace Convention Center in January.
So for those exhibitors big, medium, and small…but especially for those medium and small, here are five elements of your operation and experience at OR that you MUST include since it enhances the value of your investment, as well as makes it more worthwhile to those visiting your booth.
1. Offer Something New
Yea..you’ve been coming to OR for years now. You DO look forward to seeing old friends, sharing some great memories of years gone by, and wondering what ever happened to Tom, that cute guy who was the new field sales rep for Polartec 7 years ago.
BUT…the entire reason any of us show up at OR is to SEE WHAT’S NEW! So do not fail your loyal, but still curious, legion of fans/vendors/customers who are counting on you…the industry leaders…to…well…lead!
We’ll take a new product, a new strategy, even a new logo. But please do not waste our time…and yours…by trotting out the same-old-same-old. If you do, we will be talking about that exhibitor next to you who had the most adorable turtle-shaped buttons on their NEW mustard-colored, hemp entwined sweater! Get it?
2. Wear GREAT shoes/Put Inserts into Shoes/Ibuprofen
FACT…standing around a convention room floor for 10 hours IS a real workout! And it will wear you down, especially after three straight days of it.
Counter-balance the impact of gravity’s tug on you and wear great shoes, put an insert in the one’s you love, and, the corollary…bring lots of ibuprofen. Seriously! Sure, those free lift tix at Solitude are an awesome way to start your OR Winter Market, but (for me) enduring the “good kinda hurt” that manifests itself TWO DAYS after the skiing (sure sign of an elderly, active life) requires a robust response, which is usually with my favorite anti-inflammatory. Of course, you may have your own remedy (or just want to endure the soreness), but if you are hurting from the standing and walking, you are likely to be less attractive to your visitors, and thus, less likely to generate meaningful business.
If you can keep your feet happy, then your positive attitude at the show will keep your business in good standing.
3. Scrutinize your Public Relations Firm/Strategy
If you are paying good money to your public relations firm, be hard on them. If you are doing PR on your own, be hard on yourself!
So we get all these amazing emails that tout “visit this…” and “make an appointment with them” and “try out our that…” Yet, when I call those contact persons, and I’ve done this repeatedly, I either cannot get through to their line, or I am forced to leave a message. So far, nothing tragic.
But what really gets under my skin is that NO ONE calls back or responds to my call! Huh? How can that be? Such disregard for common courtesy simply takes the “relations” out of public relations, and it’s hurting your brand big boys! Especially queries from potent small and mid-sized businesses that have so much value to offer you.
So demand phone logs, follow-up call records, contact information and anything else that gives us a more clear picture of what your PR firm or strategy is doing for your business. Do not be satisfied that all your appointment slots are filled. The best part of the icing is that extra stuff that flows off the side of the cake and that you scoop onto your slice as you slide it over to your plate. How many of MY calls are you missing, but that you will never know about, because of how wonderful you THINK your PR firm or own strategy is doing its job. Dig deeper, and see how you might improve your own relations with your public relations firm.
4. Deploy a Business Card Scanner App
Look on your desk or in a drawer right now. How about in that box on the shelf. See them there? Those 100’s of business cards you’ve been collecting over the years?
We are all so proud of our own business cards, aren’t we? The amazing taglines, incredible colors, and oh yes…my impressive title! We never miss an opportunity to hand them out. Please take mine!
Yet, the sad truth is that exhibitors (again, especially small and medium-sized businesses) should never have to put another one of those business cards into that growing pile. Instead, use any of the growing number of apps that are available for you to scan/take a picture of the card and immediately enter it into the contact list on your phone. You could then import it into your CRM package or even just your shared G-mail contact list after each day.
The Contacts app on my Android phone does it. There are dozens of others to use as well. Simple, time-efficient AND it saves paper too…and desk space!
5. Absorb the High Energy First, then React
So you are exhibiting in front of 1000’s of hyper-caffeinated, intelligent, driven people from the outdoor industry. And you know well that there is going to be an onslaught of interested AND interesting people to our booth. So how can anyone be expected to withstand the flurry of innovative ideas, potent problem-solvers, and social savants?
While there is no secret formula here, you should be prepared to absorb this initial high energy engagement that is inevitable at such a great event. There will be roundabout stories of successes, new initiatives, and “do you knows…” that will come your way. Let them.
Eventually, you will seize on an opening to counter when you gain a sufficient understanding that either focuses your response in the most productive, effective way, or you just simply ask, “So how can we help you?”
By absorbing a reasonable rush of rambling from your visitors, you should be able to avoid the natural tendency to reflexively pre-qualify your visitor based on their badge, the logo on their shirt, or their introductory statement. It’s possible that she has something out of the ordinary to offer your business or even just a hot, new e-commerce site to sell your goods.
You will never know this however if your first encounter becomes a caffeinated conversational clash that never really gets off the ground(s).