Aug 26, 2006

There's a reason it's called a TRADE show

So, I recently saw on a message board that some scrapper was meeting a bunch of female relatives at Memory Trends - which takes place in early October in Las Vegas. I had to sit on my hands to not post a reply that says, "So, I assume your entourage of female relatives are ALL business owners. Or I assume that they are not actually going into the show with you. Remember, it's a trade show." Perhaps they are just meeting her there for a "Girls-Only Weekend" and not going into the show with her. I don't know for sure. But, it brought up something I have been thinking about for a while - trade show "Tag-a-Longs".

Call me crazy, but I thought you had to be a BUSINESS owner (or at least work for one) to get in a trade show. I fear more and more that the real reason you can't get into a popular class or get near a make-and-take is that the shows are becoming crowded with tag-a-longs, not business owners.

High numbers at trade shows might seem like a good thing - and it IS something that organizers like to see. However, the vendors are largely interested in the SALES and if it starts to look like there are lots of shoppers but few buyers, then suddenly, it may not make financial sense to attend the shows.

Trade show booths can run into the thousands of dollars. In order for it to be cost-effective, a vendor must weigh that cost against the return (ROI - or "return on investment"). If the ROI isn't good, they'll stop attending shows and focus their marketing efforts elsewhere - as some vendors are already doing.

I have heard tales of vendors spending their precious time with who they THOUGHT was a business owner, only to find out that they have shown everything in the universe to a design team member with no real purchasing authority, or a Tag-a-long who never intended to buy anything, but just wanted to see "all the new stuff" so she can email back to all her friends later that night. That's dandy, but while the tag-a-long is taking the Tour d' booth, how many real buyers kept walking because it didn't look like anyone was available to help them right then? They may or may not come back.

My husband mans his company's trade show booth from time to time and he calls them "Booth Gnomes" - the people who want as many of your freebies as humanly possible (or flat-out steal as many as they can), or the people who find a celebrity and attach themselves for 20 minutes to "Hero Worship". I am always amazed at the number of people standing in line at a celebrity's booth at the industry trade shows just to meet him/her. Ummm, time is short - go buy something. Heidi Swapp, Melody Ross, Heidi Grace, Tim Holtz, Dee Gruenig, etc. are all nice people, I'm sure - I've even been helped by a few of them. But I don't have time to stand in their booth waiting for them to turn around and say, "Hi" to me. I have things to do. I often wonder if those waiting are actual business owners or tag-a-longs.

The same goes for make-and-takes. They are a GREAT way to learn about a product and gather ideas for your business. But it seems at times like there are professional Make-and-Takers who spend all day wandering from booth to booth just to do the make-and-take. I often wonder if they, too, are tag-a-longs. I would respectfully ask you to get out of the chair if you aren't a business owner. My annual trip to Memory Trends costs me about a thousand dollars. I am not on a vacation, I am there for a business education. In fact, since I don't own a store, I would honestly never do a make-and-take at one of the booths that has a line. I feel like those spots should be reserved for the people who can make the most use of them. My rear in a chair is just taking up space for my own amusement. I will stand and WATCH the Make-and-take for a few minutes, but I don't need (nor do I have time) to do it.

Classes are another place that I suspect are being populated by tag-a-longs. Vendors used to be very generous with the free products at classes. Some still are, but many have pulled back. I don't blame them. I have heard many tales of students walking in, picking up their load of freebies and leaving. I'm sorry, but if you don't intend to actually take the class, then don't sign up. I know things happen or come ups so some may have really wanted to take it, but, remember, if you take the chair, no one else can. It's not a crop. Don't sign your whole entourage up for the same class and don't take your non-business-owning friends. Wait until the next consumer Expo or Convention comes to town and then knock yourself out. But the trade show classes should be reserved for business owners only and even then, store owners should spread their staff or DT members out. It's more efficient that way (compare projects later) and it frees up space so MORE business owners can attend. There's no sense in even 2 of you taking the same class. We women are social and like to do things with friends. I can appreciate that, but again, it's not a time for socializing, it's a time to build your business with an infusion of new ideas.

I really wish that the trade shows would better qualify attendees. The business owner must submit a bunch of business ID to get their badge, but, they can bring along about as many unqualified people as they want to. Even if the trade show requires a business card to prove you "work" for them, it's easy enough to make all your sisters and friends "business cards" with an ink-jet printer.

Yes, trade shows are fun and exciting and yes, you can find out about the newest stuff. But, as you gear up to go, PLEASE consider other attendees. If you must bring non-business owners, limit it to one or two and then educate them about the purpose of the show and the price vendors pay to be there. Give them trade-show tips and ask them to respect the time and investment that others have made. In fact, better yet, give them $20 in Quarters and tell them you'll meet them in the Grand Canal shops at 6pm when the show is over.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Kim, you took the words right out of my mouth. Thank you for speaking up, I totally agree that shows should better qualify ALL attendees, period.