Maximize Your Trade Show Inve$tment

It’s time to plan to make sure you and your company get the most from show season.

When it comes to shows, you are either in the aisle or in the booth (attendee or exhibitor), and no matter what side you are on there is one thing you share: expenses! There is only one thing you can do with an expense that will take a negative and turn it into a positive: make it an investment. How you turn an expense to an investment is through proper prior planning.

Let’s take this view through the eyes of a Dive Retailer Trade Show attendee.

As a Dive Retailer it is no secret that your plate is very full. In our Industry, we find that the most successful retailers are those that compartmentalize their business and in the process create the best possible service experience at every turn for their customers. Dive Retailers are expected to be experts in many areas – equipment, instruction, travel, repair, rentals – and that is just on the front end of the business. On the back side, there’s inventory control, accounting, human resources, marketing and the ever-changing landscape (think social media).

As you set out to plan for attending any show, first take “inventory” of your current situation. The following questions are meant only to get your thought process started, and we realize there will be many measures that you will apply to the process that may be unique to you.

  1. Equipment– Review your offerings, such as the brands and the segments that each brand occupies. Evaluate your sales performance – try to check emotions at the door by utilizing true measures such as gross sales, sales per square foot, inventory turn, gross profit and the ever important “competitive landscape”. Once you complete the outlined process ask yourself: “Do I need to alter the mix, add new brands, or change the shelf space allotment?” Make your meetings now with your vendors to address your findings and improve performance.
  2. Instructions– Compare your educational certification trend with previous years. Also, compare the classes you offered then and now. What are your market trends? Where does customer demand lead you? Are you fulfilling the market need? Are you creating the direction? Does your Instructional Team posses all the necessary tools to help your facility meet its goals? Plan now to attend the appropriate Instructional updates, upgrade your ratings and pursue the new ones needed to meet your goals. What classes and levels create the best sales? Are you tracking them?
  3. Travel– Arrange your calendar and “fill the tool box”. Align your plans to make sure you can service those seeking from individual to group travel, from land based to live aboard. Develop a “one stop” service solution for your clients that will keep them happy and coming back. Check out Scuba Travel International, and find out how it can help you meet your goals.
  4. Repair– Are you and your Team qualified to service all of the brands you come in contact with? Do you have new personnel that need training? How long ago did you and your staff update? Are your repair technician documents current? Trade shows make for ideal venues to get training up to date.
  5. Rentals– This is a good time to evaluate your rental locker. Does it meet your overall strategic plan, rental vs. sales? How does it align with your Instructors equipment?

Here are some quick points to consider.

  • Attending dive shows is a business expense and should be treated as such. Budget time and budget dollar investment for every show you attend.
  • Turn the expense to an investment with the proper prior planning.
  • If you have staff at show, coach them in what you expect from them and give them firm objectives to accomplish.
  • Present the right visual image (branded shirts, casual business attire etc.)
  • Have a plan and work with it.
    • Identify a goal or series of goals for the show – It could be to sign up for a new brand of an existing product line, identify a totally new product category to sell in your store, to cement an existing relationship with a supplier or wholesaler, etc.
  • Make appointments to meet people / companies that can help you to meet goals. Use time effectively and be realistic planning the number of meetings per day.
  • Use a day-timer (paper or iPad and anything in between) to track your appointments and carry it with you everywhere.
  • Invest some time to attend product knowledge and business related seminars and workshops.
  • The workday is 16 hours long – Tie social events into business goals.
    • Attend company “parties” but take your notebook and business cards.
    • Set a goal to make at least two new contacts per event attended.
  • Catch up on entering expenses and contact information every evening if at all possible.
  • Write follow-up emails on the plane ride home and make follow-up phone calls within five days of show ending.

Until our next visit, you have quite a bit to do if the show is to give you the greatest return on your investment. Don’t just “wing it”…get started now!

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