One of the marketing efforts that AV firms engage in to reach more clients is exhibiting at promotional shows: Buying a booth at the show to promote their services.
When we talk about the promotional shows that dealers participate in, we’re most commonly talking about consumer shows. That includes home shows. Renovation shows. Home shows. Car shows. Boat shows. Hunting and fishing shows. And so on.
To the best of my knowledge, AV dealers don’t typically pay to be an exhibitor at bridal expos, but who knows? I could be wrong.
Even though they’re commonly called “trade shows,” that bugs me, and I make an effort to refer to them as consumer or promotional shows. Partly that’s me being cranky about the need for exact terminology. And also because there are actual trade shows out there, that rather than being open to the general public, which are focused on buyers in a specific channel or industry.
The biggest ones in my market are the regional oil and gas shows, in which my biggest commercial and industrial dealers in Alberta participate.
What kind of support can vendors provide to their dealers to make their efforts at promotional shows more successful? The easiest and most obvious answer is money. Co-op marketing dollars spent to subsidize the cost of the show in exchange for brand placement, and swag and product donations for prizing for giveaways.
But surely there’s more that vendors can do for their dealer partners than just write a check? There’s more that can be done with co-op dollars than just renting a booth. Print your brand’s brochures for the show co-branded with your dealer’s logo and contact info on them. Cement in the minds of end user clients that your dealer partner is your trusted brand ambassador. Crosspromote your dealer’s exhibit on your brand’s social media. If your dealer is social media savvy (and really, who isn’t these days?) they’re promoting your brand hard, so return the favor.
But in my opinion, the best thing you can do to support your dealer at their show is the simplest: Participate. Show up and work the booth with your dealer. Meet their customers and their prospective customers. Help your dealers carry your brand’s banner.
In this regard, the most important thing is determining who on your team is the best choice to travel and join forces with your dealer to work their event. In many cases the regional sales rep (guys like me!) is the best choice, but not always.
I can point to one instance where it wasn’t. An opportunity came up to participate with one of my biggest industrial dealers at a regional oil and gas show. However, I was already booked for a commitment elsewhere. Rather than just say no to my dealer, I looked for a solution and approached the brand I represent, which my dealer sells and installs a lot.
I managed to arrange for their VP of engineering to come out the day before the trade show, put on some in-house training for their technicians, and then he spent two days working my dealer’s booth, representing his brand to very technically savvy end-user company representatives.
Making all that come together worked out better than if I’d been there, and frankly made me a bit of a hero to my dealer.
The lesson I want to impart to manufacturers and distributors is that when it comes to supporting your dealers’ promotional show events, spending money is great, but get personal and get creative. They’ll appreciate it.