This article was adapted from an episode of the Boss Your Business podcast by Candace D'Agnolo of Pet Boss Nation, a WPA partner. You can subscribe to the Boss Your Business podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or Google Music.
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For pet retailers, trade shows are a wonderful opportunity to discover brand new products, hear from industry experts during the educational sessions and seminars, and make invaluable connections with other retailers, manufacturers and suppliers. To make the most of your time, it's critical to plan ahead.
Now is a great time to start planning your trip to the pet industry’s largest trade show in North America, SuperZoo, taking place August 22 – 25, 2022, at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, NV. Registration is now open and it's free for attendees who register in advance!
Here are ten tips for maximizing your trade show experience.
1. New Products Drive Sales
One thing that’s important for all retailers to understand is that you are not a museum. Products should not be sitting around and collecting dust on your shelves. Inventory should never have a birthday in your store.
If anything has been with you for over a year — maybe a dog collar or a dog bed or an unpopular brand of treats — put it on sale and move it out. When you put those old and tired products on sale it frees up some cash to invest in new and innovative items that are more likely to sell. That’s the perfect time to come to a trade show and see what you should invest that money in.
2. Look for Inspiration
When you’re walking the show floor, keep your eyes open for potential inspiration from the booths and areas dedicated to new items, like SuperZoo’s New Product Showcase. Whether it's packaging, colors, uniforms people are wearing, how things are displayed, conversations that are happening, signage, flavors, toy styles, proteins ... see what trends are happening and how that can influence and inspire the next thing you do.
3. Identify Your Must-See Vendors
Trade show days are jam-packed and they will fly by, so you want to have a plan in advance for the vendors and key clients that you absolutely must see. Every minute that you spend strategizing is an hour earned on the show floor.
Download the trade show’s app, note the brands that are most popular in your business, and see if anyone from your vendor list is coming to the show. Prioritize a list that you can reference throughout to the show to ensure you don't miss those important connections.
It also helps to take time to review the floor plans and chart a path through the different sections.
4. Make Connections Off the Show Floor
Some of the best moments happen off the show floor. You can meet amazing people on the transportation shuttling people between the venue and hotels, waiting in line for coffee or lunch, or simply sitting in the food court.
Use the opportunity to get to know people. It's easy to hang out with the people you’re already familiar with, but you never know where you might find a new partnership, learn about a new product or resource, or even just be of value to another person in the room.
5. Use a Digital Calendar
Setting up all of your trade show activities in a digital calendar, like Google Calendar, will make it much easier to stick with your plan and make sure you don't miss an appointment.
In your calendar, include:
- Buffer time for travel to and from the show
- Classes you don't want to miss and buffer time to get to the classroom
- Vendor appointments and client appointments
If you have prescheduled appointments, don’t forget to ask for cellphone numbers. It’s easy to lose track of time on the show floor when you run into someone you know or come across a really cool product, so you’ll want to be able to connect easily.
6. Pack With Care
A few things to consider packing:
- A portable battery charger or power bank for your phone
- A spill-proof water bottle
- Comfortable shoes!
Download the Trade Show Packing List from Pet Boss Nation
Complete the form below to download a PDF from Pet Boss Nation, which includes 20 ideas for what to pack when attending a trade show.
7. Get Connected
In the Pet Boss Nation - Pet Industry Professionals Facebook group, members actively share threads about trade show prep and facilitate vendor connections.
Joining an active professional group can help you prepare and kick-start your networking efforts.
On-site at SuperZoo, you can attend The Mandalay Bay Beach Party to network with other industry professionals on Wednesday, August 24.
8. Have Fun with Social Media
Trade shows are social media gold! There are so many opportunities to capture interesting photos and video.
Bring out your playful side by taking pictures with wacky props, snap a photo with a celebrity, take a video with a new squeaky toy or have fun taking part in a vendor booth activity. There are so many unique elements of a trade show; you can take advantage of the opportunity to show off the fun and humorous side of your team on Instagram Stories, Reels or TikTok.
Learn from the pros on-site with sessions built around social media, like Reels Mean Deals, Get Social Savvy: Today’s Social Media Questions Answered and Social Success with Maddie Goode and Crystal Vilkaitis from Crystal Media.
9. Document Your Transactions
Keep your phone out for this one, because photos can actually be used to help you remember product orders.
At a trade show, many retailers and manufacturers rely on paper orders in forms or notebooks. Sometimes, orders can get lost due to spotty Wi-Fi or lost paperwork. So, whenever you place a paper order, take a picture and upload it to Dropbox or Google Drive. If the paper order form is lost, you’ll still have access to the information.
It can also be a great idea to share a folder of those photos with your team. It gives them a chance to plan ahead for what's coming and they can communicate any updates to your customers as well.
10. Have a Clear Goal
This is key to making sure your time and budget investment are worth it. What’s the overall objective of this whole experience for you?
Here are a few potential goals that may be important to you:
- Connect with key contacts or clients
- Find a new business partner or collaborator
- Get discounts or deals on products
- Discover new promotional ideas
- Learn a new skill
- Solve a problem that you have in your business
Identify one to three of your biggest goals and write them down. Put them front and center in your notebook or in your phone notes app so they will stay top of mind throughout the event.
A trade show can be a whirlwind. One moment you’re getting on a plane and arriving at the hotel and then all of a sudden — it’s all over. You’re exhausted, you’ve learned so much, you’ve seen so many things — and then you’re right back in the swing of things back at home. Hold your main goal front and center so that when all those other distractions show up, you’ll remember to make time for the thing that matters to you most.
And if you’re a first-time attendee, check out these tips for trade show newbies!
About Candace D’Agnolo
Candace D’Agnolo is the founder & CEO of Pet Boss Nation, a business mentor company for independent pet business owners. Pet Boss offers marketing solutions, sales training and leadership development via their signature program the Pet Boss Club, now with 250 clients across the US + Canada. Candace is also a trade show speaker, magazine columnist, influencer and consultant.
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