What Can a Trade Show Do For You?

Fourth-grader Lexi Glenn was frustrated with filling water balloons with the hose or faucet. After digging in the garage, she found a garden mxl tv, which she then tried to fill water balloons with. She realized she was on to something and with the help of her grandmother, they started making modifications to create the perfect water balloon filler, the Pumponator!

After developing the product, Glenn’s grandmother, Donna Ramere, put her savings into ordering 2,000 products and put them on eBay and Amazon. But besides an occasional sale, nothing really happened.

That all changed when they attended the American International Toy Fair, an annual trade show in New York City. At the trade show, Ramere was able to get the word out about the Pumponator to the right people, and even after the trade show, the word kept on spreading. Soon Toys “R” Us was selling the Pumponator online and Learning Express was selling it nationwide in 150 stores. Within 9 months, the Pumponator passed the $1 million sales mark and now Ramere is working on a newer and better version to sell next summer.

1. Find the right trade magazine by looking in Gale’s Source of Publications and Broadcast Media at larger libraries, or search on the Internet for your product category and the term “trade magazines”. Also, you can look at associations, such as toy industry associations and their sites will typically have a link some where to trade magazines. These trade magazines will list and cover the best trade shows in their industry.

1. Before attending the show as an exhibitor try to get a copy of last years exhibitors and call up some of the companies that had just one booth and ask to speak to their show manager. Ask whoever is responsible for attending show about their show experiences and if they have any tips. Be sure to find out about the quality of the booths (ask for a picture of their booth if possible), if they needed samples, how much display product is needed and how much literature they used. Check to see if they offered show specials, or would offer show specials the next time they attend. Also see if they were satisfied with the results from the show and see how many sales they made, or reps they signed up. I’ve found that people are more than willing to talk to you if you explain you are a new inventor and are trying to prepare for the show.

2. If you have an idea, but not a product, I still recommend you try to attend the show as an attendee. You will have chance to talk to people at booths, and also at tables where people eat lunch and have coffee and at the show hotels after the show. Always be at the show the first two hours it is open and the two hours before it closes. The show is typically not busy at that time and many reps and others working booths will be happy to talk to you if they are not busy. Take a one page simple non-disclosure document (unless you have a patent, then a non-disclosure document is not needed) with you and a sales flyer for your product.

If you don’t have a good looking prototype yet, hire a graphic artists to give you a good drawing of your product (contact Josh Wallace for a product drawing). When you approach someone at the show ask them 1) how the show is going, what their product line is and how long they have been with the company. They will almost always ask you what you do. Tell them you are considering introducing a new product and ask if they would be willing to look at it for you. Offer to buy them coffee, lunch or a beer at the hotel. Ask them to sign the non-disclosure form and then get their feedback on your product.

Investing the money in attending a trade show (not even having a booth, just attending) is one of the most worthwhile investments you can make in your product. At trade shows you can meet sales reps and other important industry contacts, you can get great advice from really knowledgeable people and get a better idea on how to best break into the market. These contacts can be the difference between success and failure for you idea, just as it did for Lexi Glenn.

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