Strategy For Returns - Tire Review Magazine

Strategy For Returns

If you are like most business people, you'll be going to at least one convention and/or trade show in the next year. At last count there were more than 12,600 conventions each year, attracting 13.5 million attendees and spouses to 300 convention centers around the country.

Strategy For Returns

If you are like most business people, you’ll be going to at least one convention and/or trade show in the next year. At last count there were more than 12,600 conventions each year, attracting 13.5 million attendees and spouses to 300 convention centers around the country.

Regrettably, many of those 13.5 million spent about $1,000 during an average stay but did not get their money’s or time’s worth. Reason: They simply did not plan ahead and then stick to their plan.

With the International Tire Expo just days away, it would be a good idea to review your plans for the show in order to maximize your return on this important investment.

Strategize Weeks Ahead
 Strategizing for a convention/trade show should begin weeks before the event. Key advance decisions to make are deciding who should go, main objectives, and your buying position.

Who goes depends on your objectives and your buying needs. When it’s a major event, then probably at least two of you should go.

If convention buying decisions will involve new equipment or new procedures for your business then you should take the person most involved. This will improve your buying decision and ease the transition when you add equipment or procedures to your operation.

Products, Procedures or Pals?
What about determining in advance what your main objectives are? Consider the many convention/trade show benefits to decide which ones are for you. These include learning about new products on the market, acquiring new procedures for your business, and networking and bonding with old or new colleagues in the field. Attending educational seminars and/or special events should be considered. Deciding what aspects of the event are most important will help with your advance planning.

Strategize Your Buying
Another big up-front question regards your buying position. Look over your inventory to determine in what area you should be on the lookout for show-special buying opportunities. What are some of your inventory, equipment or market needs? Are you looking to change or add suppliers?

Finally, make a tentative decision about any diversification you might consider in your business. If you have ever thought of adding a new merchandise line or service, the convention and trade show will be an excellent source of information.

Do Your Homework
Once you’ve decided why you’re going, who is going, and what you’ll be looking for, set about studying the convention/trade show in advance. Read all the literature, program information and your favorite trade magazine. For comfort and convenience reasons, find out about accommodations, locations and how you can best move around the convention city – cabs, rental cars, public transit or transportation provided by the event.

For the educational program, note the workshops you will probably attend. More information about any program is as handy as a telephone call to the show planners, or a visit to the sponsoring group’s Web site.

Obtain a show floor layout and exhibitor list to review well in advance of the show. Note the exhibits you want to visit. On the floor plan, trace logical routes to follow. This can be a major timesaver, especially in huge convention facilities. By proceeding systematically, you’ll avoid hopscotching which is a tremendous waste of time.

Try to arrange appointments in advance at the most important booths and with the most important people you want to see. Attending a trade show is an excellent opportunity, perhaps your only one, to talk with people at the top of your various supplying firms.

They want your grassroots input, and you want real information. Often the top person is not at the booth when you just drop by, so make an appointment or at least learn when the person you want to see will be in the booth.

Tax Deductible?
Along with all the important advance strategizing discussed above, look over some of the less obvious details. Check with the IRS as to how you can be sure that your entire expenses are tax deductible. Of course you will want to save all receipts.

If you are a buyer, a trade show obviously is tax-deductible. But a convention in the Caribbean? Only if attendance will demonstrably improve your business or you as a business person. What about your spouse? Only if they are a co-owner or employee of your business.

There is another bit of advance planning that will save inconveniences later. This involves the wealth of literature, brochures, workshop handouts and other stuff you will inevitably accumulate at the show and that just won’t fit into your suitcase when packing for the return trip. So take along some large envelopes with stamps or overnight packets to send these materials home.

Be sure to have plenty of identification for the show. That means a large supply of your business cards, and perhaps even a factual statement about your business.

Your business statement will be useful when contacting a prospective new supplier for a line of credit.

That Mass of Material
How do you record and later summarize the mass of information that’s there for you at every trade show and convention? Of course note-taking is a must. If you don’t have a tape recorder, then buy one for say $25 before you head to a convention city. That way you can play back the actual commentary you heard at a workshop or your impressions recorded during the show.

It’s easy after a booth visit to just step aside and speak into the recorder before going to your next stop. Some shows even offer cassette tape recordings from each seminar session.

Another word about workshops. Plug into them. That means speaking up during the inevitable question-answer session that closes most workshops. If you have a question or even just a comment, by all means raise your hand and be recognized.

Usually after every workshop session, you will see a throng of attendees talking with the panelists or a group of two or three chatting together about their businesses. Join that group for profitable business networking.

Another good idea: bring a camera or camcorder along. There are many demonstrations of new products – some you may have never seen in action – at virtually every show. This is a good way to get a sustained look at its operation and practicality, and you can take the photos or videos home and share them with your staff for a more thorough evaluation.

Beware Impulse Buying
A few more words about buying decisions at the show. Don’t be swept up in the euphoria of show hype and product showcasing and then make a hasty, ill-advised splurge. Here’s where your advance planning will come in handy. You’ve decided what you want to buy and hopefully have even studied product literature ahead of time.

Then there is the really new item that is being introduced at the show. How do you decide on that one? If at all possible find another buyer who has used it. Even if it is having a debut at the show, chances are the supplier has placed it in the field at a few locations in sort of a field test. There should be a chance to talk to those customers. Be direct with questions: What is its reliability? How about customer acceptance? Is it worth the price? Does it deliver real profits?

Socialize and Shmooze
Finally, be sure to attend all the social functions. No, these are not there just for play. From the supplier hospitality suites to the convention luncheons and banquets, those functions are an excellent way to do business, network, or to further your education and friendship.

As the convention closes and you head back to your business, hopefully you’ll have your notes or recordings in order and your collection of literature and workshop handouts in the mail.

En route home, begin strategizing for an early postmortem with your business staff so that you and your business get maximum bang from your convention buck.

John Rogers is an editor, a regular writer for trade and business magazines, and has authored two frequently reprinted books: Store Planning and Store Operations. His monthly column – Business Sense – appears in Tire Review.

Doing The Show?

Pack For Success

1. Comfortable Shoes

2. Business and Casual Attire As Needed

3. Camera or Camcorder

4. Tape Recorder

5. Exhibit Floor Plans

6. Info About Hotel and Attractions

7. Ground Transportation Plans

8. Airline and Emergency Numbers

9. Lots of Business Cards

10. Plan Out Your Schedule

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