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.