Local building product shows and events: Opportunities not to waste

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The Merkley Supply show in Ottawa is an excellent example of a successful local event.

Mark Mitchell writes in his blog for building products manufacturers about the importance for businesses to take more care with local building product shows. He observes that the manufacturers often see these events as afterthoughts and spend little time or effort on managing the displays.

I ask them, why do you spend the money to go to these shows?  The answer I usually get is, “We do it because the sales people want to be at these shows.”  It’s treated, almost like it’s a favor to the local rep rather than an important part of the companies marketing program.

In fact, these events often are highly powerful interfaces between local clients/influencers, sales reps and manufacturers and (as Mitchell indicates) can have much higher return-on-investment than big national events, where logistics, time, and competition burn away the scale-related advantages.

Mitchell suggests these strategies:

1. Have marketing talk to the local rep in advance of the show and ask. “Why are they going?  What worked and didn’t work last year?  Who are the attendees?  What is the main goal the rep wants to accomplish at the show?  How will they measure if the show is a success?  How can you help them?”

2. Marketing should think about what they can do to help make the local show more successful. What display should they use?  Should they create a custom display or a sign for this show?  What handouts or giveaways should they use?  Can they help the rep with pre and post show email followups? 

3. Most important, after the show have a debrief so you can make other local shows better.

I agree with Mitchell’s recommendations. Generally, if you are a local rep, you’ll know which shows/events are worthy of supporting (and if you don’t I would suggest you need a crash course on local marketing). I think there is some 80/20 factor here — just being at the event with some sort of reasonable display will work quite well. But on scale, if the manufacturer takes time to take these events seriously, there will be genuine incremental value.

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