Trade Show Attendance Tips

(I originally wrote this a couple of years ago for a group of Amazon Sellers on the FaceBook Group, My Silent Team. I am also a paid coach for the My Silent Team company headed up by Jim Cockrum. He is the creator and main leader for the Proven Amazon Course (PAC), the best ecommerce training available.

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Trade shows are a lot like your local Home or Boat show, except “for the trade”. They require some sort of proof that you are a re-seller. Every show is different.

ASD Market Week in Las Vegas is Huuuuuge! Thousands of vendors, tens of thousands of participants. Huuuge! I tell you.

Will this be your first time?

My advice follows – Warning: a Loooong Post…

Getting Ready

A couple of months in advance, you’ll want to get yourself ready to go. Being prepared and having a plan will make success that much easier. It will also help you focus on the important details.

First, get registered for the show. Use their online process if you can. Send it in by snail mail if required. Get registered and get your credentials. I usually start a file folder for each show we attend. Credentials go here.

If you need to travel for the show, make your travel plans early. Hotel space fills up fast in the show town. Airlines are jamming their flights full. Get your reservations made and secured in plenty of time. Most of the big shows make deals and arrangements with hotels, so check their rates and use their connections.

Your show will likely be in a convention center or one of the hotels’ convention spaces. If your show is at one of the hotels, stay there. You’ll save on cab fare or parking fees. Usually, even though I spent 10 years flying and driving all over the US and Canada for my real consulting job, I try to avoid driving and trying to find parking. Use the local mass-transit or cabs to get around.

Try to get a list of the exhibitors. Most shows have one available for registered attendees. Using the list, track down their websites so you can get an idea of what they will offer and general price and quantity ranges. Make a list of the vendors that interest you.

The show might also have a floor map. Plot out where each of these vendors are so you can efficiently find them.

Many vendors will make appointments for their larger or preferred customers. At some point, you’ll make appointments, too. Be sure to get them on your calendar, along with the seminars you want to attend.

Get some business cards. You can get card-blanks from an office supply store or online, and make your own using your word processor. Or, you can get a slug of them from Vistaprint or any of the thousands of local print shops near you.

Don’t get too fussy about business cards. You’ll just be using them to give your dealer your shipping information. You won’t be selling to them — they are selling to you — so nothing fancy is required.

Name, address, email and phone number are all you need for now — maybe forever.

The focus of your visit will be to find and buy products for you to sell. You will also find vendors that you will be able to buy from over and over.

Buying will cost money. You’ll have to budget your Open To Buy (OTB) and stick to it.

Your OTB, simply, is how much money you’re able to spend on products. Vendors will have various purchase requirements, so you need to be prepared to meet them. Some sell in case-quantity with no minimum purchase. Others might have a $100, or $500, or $1,000 minimum order.

How much are you willing to spend during this trip? Mark it down. Keep track. Stick to it.

Make yourself a BOLO (Be On the Look Out) list. If you’ve done research on Amazon, you have a pretty good idea of the categories and kinds of things you want. Make the list and keep it handy for the show.

At The Show

You’ve arrived! Anticipation is high. You don’t really know what to expect. What am I going to do?

Here’s what.

You’re going to exhaust yourself walking, and you’re going to overload yourself with the millions of things on display.

Don’t panic. Just take it easy.

You want to present yourself professionally. But, there is no need to dress up. Business casual is plenty good enough. Remember, you aren’t selling to them.

You’ll be doing a lot of walking, maybe miles and miles, and on concrete. Wear comfortable shoes. This isn’t the time to be breaking in a new pair, or showing off that fancy pair of stiletto heels. Be prepared to get some blisters. We usually bring Mole Skin and other aids to deal with any blisters.

Every vendor will be offering you literature, price lists, and the like. My advice? Get their website address. Give them your card and ask them to mail or email you their literature. You’ll be glad you did.

Why? Because paper weighs a lot. By the end of the day, you’ll be lugging around 40 pounds of literature, most of which you’ll not read. You’ll be really tired, and the extra weight will just make it worse.

But, if you insist, (I usually get some interesting material near the end of the day for evening perusal) where will you put it?

A rolling cart or bag seems like a great choice. No weight on your shoulders or arms. Room for lunch and water. Perfect!

Except that many shows prohibit them. Why? Imagine 10,000 people in narrow, crowded aisles, all with rolling carts. What a traffic jam. Those things follow you around in the same space as another person. They get stuck, bump into tables and other people, and generally irritate people trying to get around.

Leave the wheelie in the hotel room, and carry a backpack instead. There’s room for the literature, your lunch and snacks, and your drinks.

Speaking of lunch, be sure to take one along. The convention venues will have concessions serving meals. But, they generally aren’t very good, and they’re expensive. We get a few Lunchables or similar snack-meals for lunch. Cheese and crackers, a hunk of hard salami, tuna fish, beef sticks, carrot and celery sticks, peanut butter, an apple or two. We take some nuts or trail mix for snacks.

Stay hydrated. If you are in Las Vegas, or at elevation, you will lose water and not even know it until the muscle cramps and headaches double you over. It’s easy to get cheap bottled water outside the venue. Refill the bottles from the drinking fountains.

Take breaks. Even though there are thousands of booths, you’ll see enough to over-fill you. Maintain your energy.

As you walk the aisles, some of the booth-minders will see your name-tag, and call you by name. They’ll ask what you sell. They’ll offer you some sort of sample, or their catalog. Unless this is something that interests you, smile and politely decline. You aren’t required to respond to every offer.

However, as you walk along, you might make eye contact with a vendor. Again, smile, say, “Howdy.” And walk along. You aren’t required to be rude, either.

Most booths are open, meaning you can enter and browse at your leisure. If you pick something up, be sure to put it back where you found it. Inquire about the product, it’s price, where the vendor is located, and the like. Be sure to give them your card. They might follow up with some nifty specials.

When it gets down to business, one of your first questions to a vendor is, “I sell on Amazon. Is that OK?” Be upfront. Don’t waste time getting a deal only to find Amazon or other online is not allowed. Also, don’t start a business relationship with deception.

If they’re OK with Amazon ask, “What is your minimum?” That will help you determine if you can get what you want. We’ve been with vendors with a $1,000 minimum, but only found one product that interested us. No, we’re not willing to buy $1,000 of this one product. Walk on.

If you decide to place an order, the vendor will follow you around their booth, and take notes of your order. They might write up your order on the spot, or they might need to send it back to the head office. Regardless, you’ll be giving them your shipping information, and making payment arrangements.

If you want to make a buy, be sure to ask, “Is this your best price?” Be sure to write it down, because this might not be the same price as in their catalog.

Also, be sure to ask for their Show Special. It’s sort of like a Seniors’ Discount. Many times, if you don’t ask, you don’t get.

Be sure to get clear and readable copies of your orders. Be sure the price and quantity is legible. Later on, you might not remember what a “Frlbnwt” is, and is that 70-cents, or 7-dollars?

In the evening, back in the room, be sure to total up each order and compare that to your OTB. That gives you what’s left to spend tomorrow.

We pay using our credit cards, and pay off the balance every month. This does a couple of things for us.

First, it gets the order on its way. No need to establish credit or terms with the company.

Second, we get Miles or Points we can use for future trips. I’ve got about 1,000,000 miles accumulated. Yes, a Million. Guess I’ll have to break down and take Sandi to Europe or Africa.

Using the credit card can run you into trouble, though. Your card has some sort of limit. If your OTB doesn’t keep your limit into account, you might exceed it and get a nasty fee. Keep track.

The card company also might find a couple of thousand dollar charges in Las Vegas as suspicious. I like to alert them ahead of time that we’ll be traveling. This minimizes credit shutdowns. Nothing more embarrassing than to have your card declined in front of a vendor.

We deal with some vendors that will keep our CC on file. Re-orders are relatively painless. Some vendors, however, don’t keep it on file and require a new Authorization each order we place. Pain. Oh well. We get our orders and make our profit, anyway.

Be sure to enjoy yourself. You’ll see really interesting products. You’ll meet really nice people. You’ll experience new and different — everything.

Take it all in and enjoy.

Trade Shows are one of our enjoyments of the FBA Life. We get to travel to different places. We get to meet new people, and see old friends. We get to make some money along the way.

Be sure to include a couple trade shows in your annual plans. You’ll be glad you did.

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