Are you thinking of being an exhibitor at ABC Kids Expo?
As an entrepreneur with a product-based company, there are many ways that you can spread the word about your products. There are trade shows like the ABC Kids Expo, there are showrooms, there are sales reps and there is social media or advertising, among others. But trade shows are expensive and you often wonder if the return on investment is worth all the time and money you spent.
So I talked to some entrepreneurs who exhibited at last year’s ABC Kids show and expo, which took place in Louisville, KY, to get the scoop on whether it’s wise to attend or not. The reviews were mixed. Some said that this was their best show ever and some said it was their worst show ever.
Juli, founder of Belle Baby Carriers, said that “Belle Baby Carriers has been attending the ABC Kids Expo since 2007. Comparing to last year, I would have to say that it felt like buyers attendance was down, but our sales are up from last year. I also made some great contacts in the industry. You just can’t make those connections unless you come to an event, such as the ABC Kids Expo.”
That’s why it’s important to have a booth at a trade show as a part of your overall marketing strategy. Exhibiting at a trade show can help you get more wholesale clients, meet potential sales reps, reconnect with your retailers, learn from other vendors and perfect your pitch.
“Our company has grown so much since attending the show in 2010. We had five new products to show along with an entirely new swaddle brand – Mod’Swad. The ABC Kids Expo is the perfect environment to showcase new products to vendors and wholesalers” said Karen from Woombie.
“We’ve been attending ABC since 2006, and it’s always been a great place to see all our current industry connections as well as make new ones. We like to introduce new products at the show, and familiarize all our retailers, reps, and press contacts with any product updates in person,” said Emily of 4Moms, who manufactures super stylish strollers and bouncy seats.
How to “walk the floor” and why it’s important
You might have heard about “walking the floor” before exhibiting, but what does that mean? That simply means that you attend the show, but don’t have a booth. Your main goal while walking the show is to see what vendors are there, to meet people (maybe sales reps or potential retailers), and get a general feel of the show to see if it would fit in with your brand.
Mari from Marketing Maven PR recommends the following if you are going to walk a show:
“If attending the show to walk the floor I highly recommend reaching out to potential clients and vendors beforehand. It’s great to be in contact, find out about the company and potentially set up a meeting with them. Even if the company isn’t available to formerly meet you can still stop by the booth and introduce yourself- but don’t forget to mention you had communicated via email. With initial contact made before the trade show people at the booth are friendlier and more willing to speak with you.”
Rebecca Michi, who is a children’s sleep consultant, radio show host, writer and speaker, went to the show with a media badge (thanks to her radio show, The Rebecca Michi Show), but she was looking to build relationships with companies who have products related to children’s sleep. While walking the show, she also found some wonderful guests for The Rebecca Michi Show.
How to make the most of the show
If you decide not to attend a children’s products trade show, what can you do? Leda from Pixie Lily has some great advice:
“Well, savvy retailers are taking lots of cues from customer requests and they’re looking for vendors online. I have seen an uptick in the number of stores contacting Pixie Lily because customers are requesting the line. Rather than waiting to see me at a show, they’re calling to get wholesale access to Pixie Lily’s website and then placing orders direct. Retailing directly through Pixie Lily’s e-commerce site has also increased my wholesale orders as gifts are purchased and shipped to parts of the country that may not have a Pixie Lily retailer…”
A buyer’s perspective
I also talked to a few buyers who attended to show to look for new products. It seems that the main reason they are there are to discover new products. Roberta from Creative Kidstuff, a kids store with seven locations in MN and IA, went to the show to look for products that they don’t necessarily find in the Toy Market. She said that her customers are always looking for “new, new, new…”
And I also asked buyers if they are more likely to place an order at the show if a vendor offers a special (like Free Shipping, a free gift with your first order, etc.). Some said no, but some, like Kate of Simply Mama boutique in San Luis Obispo said, “we typically prefer not to purchase on the spot, but we will write orders in the booth if there is a special that is only available at the show.”
And what do buyers look for? “I am really lucky that I am excellent at buying and finding the truly unique and quality items. I can sort through a trade show and take away only the best of the best. I also use my standards of it it an attractive product? Does it serve a purpose? Is it quality? Would I as a mom buy this? Secondary, I consider the company aspects. Is their opening order reasonable? I try to support mom invented companies when I have two choices of comparable products. I also look for unique items that are not sold in every store and are not in chain stores or big box stores,” said Tara of anklebiters, inc., a kids boutique in Georgia.
Some tips for success
A few of the entrepreneurs shared their tips for success:
Wendy from Snugabell Mom & Baby Gear said: “We had our show special on the ABC site and sent out pre-show marketing email blasts about it, but didn’t have a hand-out at the show which would have been helpful stapled to our line sheets to remind buyers of our special. I am going to add a “certified organic cotton” sign to my organic pumping bra display and also a big sign that says “Made in Canada”. We should have also had a price list or added pricing to our line sheet. Our order forms had pricing, but a separate list would have been good. Those were details. Other things to remember are:
- bring a sample of your product to leave in the media room
- set goals for the show – $ or number of orders
- ask open-ended questions and listen!
- prep each day – tidy booth, pump-up staff
- walk the show/network
- have a plan in place to follow-up on leads after the show
- watch your behaviour after hours
Karen from Woombie said: “Keep it simple, buyers do not have a lot of time to sit down and review products. Have a short and sweet “pitch” with features and benefits. Organize colors (or options) in an easy to view area. Have sales sheets prepped so that only quantities need to be entered. Be friendly, and true to your product. Buyers will sense it.
If you have attended the ABC Kids Expo this year or in the past, I’d love to hear your experience! And if you attend any other trade shows, how are they compared to the ABC Kids show? Leave your comments below.