Friday December 9, 2011
Wholesalers always ask me whether they should invest and sell products at trade shows. And it's a legitimate question because trade shows trade shows can be incredibly expensive. When you start adding up hotel rooms, airfare, booth equipment, product samples, etc, you start to question whether it makes sense. So should you invest? Well my answer is simple, it depends on what you are trying to accomplish! Let me explain...
When I started in the wholesale product business, I tried a few trade shows and they were not as successful as I hoped. I also worked for a product company that was pretty tight on cash, so it wasn't the most enjoyable experience either. The truth is that the product company I worked for was testing out the concept of selling direct to buyers verses selling at shows. So he was analyzing how we were selling at the show very closely. In the end, he felt that selling at shows was not worth the investment. And I believe in his case, he was right. He was in the accessory business and had been selling to retailers for a while. Although buyers loved his inexpensive quality wares, it was hard to differentiate himself from his competitors at the shows. There were too many other products that were similar to his, so it made it really hard to differentiate from the competition. Now, he did build relationships and capture some new business, but it wasn't the same for his business as contacting buyers directly.
Now with that said, I've watched other product companies absolutely explode in sales revenue simply because they invested in trade shows. Retail buyers were clamoring to order these products. I remember this one product company that showcased their products at the National Hardware Show. This company could not stop getting retail orders from buyers! It was incredible to watch!
Why do you suppose this one product company did so well at this show?
I personally believe it was because the product company offered a unique product that had great packaging. I also believe it was because their brand, marketing collateral and their booth made it very clear that they were retail ready! Buyer's love that!
What do I mean by retail ready? It means that this product company had pricing, shipping, packaging packaging, marketing collateral and order forms that included quantities available ready to go. Basically, they made it so easy for buyer's to purchase quickly and easily.
Also, it was very clear that the product company was ready for business! The booth looked professional and visually appealing and the products were laid out in such a way that it was easy for the buyer's to review efficiently.
People don't realize how visual Buyers are. They hate having to try and figure out what you are trying to sell. They want it organized for them so they can pick products and move onto the next. If they see chaos, they will ignore!
Now all of this might seem pretty obvious to you, but you'd be surprised at how many product company's fail at trade shows because of these simple strategies! I see it all the time! Product companies assume that because they have a great product, the buyer's won't mind spending some time with them. But this is not always the case. Buyers avoid headaches like the plague and if your booth doesn't have the basic information that they need, they will not spend time with you.
So to answer the question about spending money on trade shows...I say go for it! Just make sure you spend the time thinking through how you can make it easy for buyers to buy from you quickly and easily.
Wednesday November 30, 2011
The most commonly asked question I receive is how do I sell a product. As a Sales Professional, I actually spend most of my time doing essential research and developing an awesome plan prior to spending a dime or effort on my sales and marketing efforts.
Creating a plan in advance can save you a tremendous amount of time, money and headache. And more importantly a quality sales plan will help you generate more revenue than you ever thought possible.
To help you get started, I've included three things to think about when you want to sell a product and create a revenue generating sales plan:
1) Who Really Needs Your Product
There is a big difference between someone really liking your product and someone who actually really needs it. This can be the difference between someone opening up their purse strings or not. Most product entrepreneurs tell me that nobody really 'needs' their product, but is that really true? The truth is that ALL of the money I've made in sales over the years have come from figuring out who really NEEDS my customer's products verses who just WANTS these products.
And I always take the time to really think this through. Sometimes it comes to me immediately; sometimes it comes to me many months later. But it is always worth the outcome. Why? Because I know that when I come up with that 'needy' customer, I will probably have no competition in that marketplace because my competitors probably haven't thought about that angle yet. And at the end of the day, this means more money for me.
Here's an example of 'needy' customers:
I have one student who invented an awesome cosmetic line for people who excessively sweat. Wouldn't this product be perfect for women going through menopause? Women with Menopause have such a hard time with hot flashes; this product could really solve an embarrassing problem!
Or what about the student that created a headphone that you can wear comfortably when you sleep. It's basically a soft cloth headband with headphones in it. Although this is perfect for people trying to sleep, wouldn't it also be great for people in cold regions such as New York, where people cover their ears and listen to music as well?
The possibilities are endless! Your goal is to come up with as many 'needy' potential customers as you can. If you really took the time to think this through, you'd realize that there might be several types of customers that actually NEED your product. And once you uncover them, then you are on your way to financial success!
2) Who Has Money to Buy Your Product?
Once you come up with a list of 'needy' customers, Try and narrow it down to those that have money to buy. And if not more money to buy, then a large enough audience that will give you the biggest return.
Let's use the example of my student with the headphones. Another possible customer that would need this product is people with sleeping disorders. Now this target market is huge, but unless I research and make sure that I know that there are enough places that sell products to people with sleeping disorders, then I will not start by focusing on this audience.
Why? Because mass retailers would probably love this item, especially as a holiday gift, and targeting these mass retailers first would probably make my student money more quickly.
Basically, all I'm trying to do is to figure out which audience to focus in on first, second, third, etc. And then develop a plan around this.
3) Develop Your Marketing Collateral Accordingly
Once you've outlined your plan as to who to focus on, the next step is to ensure that your marketing collateral and packaging is in alignment with this plan. If you are focusing on women with menopause, then you better explain all of the reasons why your product is perfect for this target audience! Having packaging that focuses on a general audience will not intrigue this potentially 'needy' audience!
4) Find These Customers Quickly
Now you need to figure out where these customers hang out. Where do they shop? What retailers sell to them today? Once you've done your research and put it in your plan, then you will be ready to go! If you want to sell to stores, contact the retail buyers immediately about your new product. Focus on the particular audience you want to help them sell to. The retail buyers will love that you've done your research. Especially since your product is relevant to their customer base. By doing this work in advance, you will be able to start selling your products today!
Monday November 21, 2011
Most trade associations aren't known for fun and games, but most trade associations aren't the TIA. Around since 1916, when it got its start as Toy Manufacturers of America, the Toy Industry Association has represented the interests of producers and importers of toys and youth entertainment products sold in North America. It represents over 500 manufacturers and vendors comprising over 85% of the United States toy market.
The TIA's membership, which includes toy manufacturers and vendors, as well as members of peripheral areas like testing laboratories, promote the growth and image of the toy industry through trade shows and philanthropic organizations like the Toy Industry Foundation.
Its signature annual trade show, the Toy Fair, celebrates its 109th year in New York in February 2012. The TIA expects some 1,100 exhibitors from over 100 countries. The show, open only to industry professionals and vendors, is a fantastic opportunity to show off the latest in toys and games, and to network with others in the business. To help ensure success for exhibitors, the Fair's website features a free exhibitor's guide, and additional promotional opportunities such as signage, on-site sponsorships, advertising in the Toy Fair Times, and even costumed characters. The opportunities are huge at this premier showcase.
The night before the show opens, the TIA hosts the Toy of the Year awards, which it calls the "Oscars" of the toy industry. Out of some 500 products submitted for consideration, 12 will receive awards in categories such as Boy Toy and Girl Toy of the Year; Preschool Toy of the Year; Outdoor Toy of the Year; and Innovative Toy of the Year.
In addition to the Toy Fair, the TIA plans to host the PlayCon (formerly ToyCon) in Washington, DC, in May of 2012. PlayCon promises to offer a "shared networking and educational experience for toy and youth product decision-makers" with networking events, presentations by successful vendors, and interactive breakout sessions.
But the TIA's activities clearly aren't child's play. The Association has long advocated responsibility for toy makers, and developed the first toy safety standards. As part of its commitment to safety, the TIA's website features a wealth of safety information for both parents and industry professionals. You can link to sites devoted to toy safety standards, including the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008, and the International Council of Toy Industries' comprehensive listing of worldwide toy safety and manufacturing standards. For parents and caregivers, the TIA offers the sister website ToyInfo.org, with the latest news and information on the toy industry. The "Safety 24/7" link provides tips for choosing safe, appropriate toys for the kids in your life, and you can check the toy recalls link to make sure you don't have a recalled product in your home. You can also download free the brochures Fun Play, Safe Play; Let's Play: Toys for Children with Special Needs; and Play is Forever: A Playbook for All Ages.
In keeping with the TIA's mission of advocacy of the industry, their website also offers education sessions for aspiring toy vendors and manufacturers. TIA's website offers a variety of education sessions that will help with everything from "Developing Media and Marketing Strategies," "Preparing for a Product Recall or Crisis," "Communicating to Kids," and "Toy Fair Safety and Legislative Update," all designed to keep industry professionals up-to-date and prepared for success.
With the United States toy industry estimated to be worth over $21 billion annually, and the worldwide market worth some $80 billion per year, toy manufacturers, vendors, and importers need optimum support to reach the broadest market possible. TIA has proven itself as a premier advocate of toy industry professionals, and offers numerous opportunities for marketing and sales.
Thursday November 17, 2011
Orlando will play host to the American Craft Retailers Expo from January 21-23, 2012. This is the second year ACRE will be in Orlando. Wholesalecrafts.com, who produces the Expo, was prompted to create the Orlando ACRE following the enormous success of their original show, ACRE Las Vegas, which is enjoying its fifth year.
Founded in 1998, Wholesalecrafts.com joins American and Canadian wholesale artists with retailers interested in selling their handicrafts. The ACRE, along with the online marketplace and quarterly buyers' guide, is part of the company's strategy for helping the 1,300 artisans it represents to sell their products.
ACRE Orlando will feature products in juried showcases including Handmade Jewelry, Handmade Gifts and Accessories, Handmade Wearable Art, The Gallery of Fine Crafts, The Gallery of Fine Jewelry, and One-of-A-Kind. The Fine Crafts and Fine Jewelry galleries feature products that wholesale for $100 and up, while the One-of-A-Kind showcase features items selling for $500 or more. Handmade Wearable art includes unique and beautiful clothing in all styles, as well as leather goods. The show features hundreds of established artists exhibiting their handmade goods, as well as "Emerging" artists who are new to trade shows. Products on display will include jewelry, watches, stained glass, metalware, stationery, home furnishings, decorative items, wall art and artistic prints, and pottery. Items range from the purely decorative to the totally practical.
The show also contains a Retailer Resource area, where exhibitors can get help and information with sales and marketing, and support from industry group CRAFT (Craft Retailers and Artists for Tomorrow).
In order to exhibit at ACRE Orlando, exhibitor wares must be handmade in the United States or Canada, and must be unique items that are not crafted from a kit. Artists are screened based on an application process and photos they submit to the show, ensuring that the show's offerings are top quality, unique, and desirable. Jurors at the show are successful artists, gallery owners, and vendors from all over the United States.
ACRE also offers a number of educational presentations and seminars intended to help exhibitors have a successful show and to have further success in marketing their products to attendees and online. Presentations, most of which are free of charge, begin on January 20 and extend throughout the run of the show. Presenters are successful entrepreneurs and consultants with years of successes to share with other vendors. Topics include Exhibitor Sales Tips, Social Media Marketing, Hiring and Retaining Employees, Branding Your Business, and How to Increase Sales in Tough Economic Times. Exhibitors can even sign up for a free critique of their booth to ensure that they attract maximum attention during the show. As an added bonus, exhibitors get a free year of Wholesalecrafts.com web service.
Of course, ACRE will offer opportunities for vendors, attendees, and others to meet, greet, and network, starting with a networking reception on January 21st. The show's website also features a vendor directory, floor plan, and free show planner so that attendees can map out their visit.
For this second show, ACRE is once again partnering with the Orlando Gift Show, co-locating and co-promoting the two shows together. The Orlando Gift Show also features the Orlando Cash & Carry Show, a "show within a show" that features gift items available for immediate delivery to retailers. This complimentary combination of shows will provide even more opportunities for visibility and foot traffic.
Wholesalecrafts.com recently reported that the third quarter of 2011 was its best quarter ever. As is also indicted by the proliferation and growing popularity of similar web-based handicraft markets like etsy.com and tenthousandvillages.com, all indicators suggest that the market for handmade and unique items is growing. Shows like ACRE allow vendors the chance for face-to-face interaction with potential customers and buyers.