Let’s face it – trade shows have seen a lot of change during the past year and a half, from adopting virtual booths and experiences, to making a move back to in-person options.
We wanted to take a moment to unpack the trade show experience as a whole. To do this, we sat down with Rick Saez, host of the Outdoor Biz Podcast to talk it out. Envoy B2B’s Sales Manager, Matt Dobrowolski, is joined by Patrick O’Neil, Rumpl’s Vice President of Revenue, Jill Jacobson, Buyer/Manager at Bill and Paul’s Sporthaus, and Michael Stevens, Founder of sales agency True North to talk with host Rick Saez about what's working, what’s not, and how trade shows are key to facilitating buying and selling. Listen to the whole podcast here:
If you’re looking for the key takeaways, we’ve got a quick summary for you below.
What has been the most impactful trade show format for your business?
Michael Stevens, from True North says, “My end goal is to show up and have the best representation for our brand partners. But also to meet our buyers and the owners on where they need to be seen and where the best opportunity is to put the plan together,” explained Stevens. “Currently, what's leading for us is the regional trade shows. They've come on strong over the last few years and have been a great place to really be able to work it.”
Stevens went on to say that national trade shows are a lot of fun and can serve as a great time to recap and strategy, but the nitty-gritty work seems to get done at the regional shows.
Patrick O’Neil, Vice President of Revenue at Rumpl chimed in by stating that they view trade shows in a few different ways.
“Attending big, national trade shows as a small brand in the outdoor industry has been crucial to getting our footing and making connections with potential hires, sales agencies, retail partnerships, and other brand partnerships. At Rumpl, we do a lot of brand collaborations, so shows like Outdoor Retailer have been absolutely vital to our ability to create those connections,” he stated.
“But really, as we're looking forward, we see what Mike sees,” continued O’Neil. “There's more business and actual transactions of dollars happening at the regional shows. It's more focused. We can have those one-on-one conversations and spend more time with our retail partners. It allows us to better understand their needs, have those in-depth conversations, and see how we can work to grow our business together.”
As a buyer for Bill and Paul’s Sporthaus, Jill Jacobson completely agreed. “The regional shows are where we are working. It's where we're looking at everything, where we're deciding on everything,” said Jacobson.
Matt Dobrowolski, Sales Manager at Envoy B2B, confirmed Stevens’ and Jacobson’s thoughts as well when it came to regional shows.
“Working shows… are the places where the business is being made and in turn, that's where I see the best direction of investment,” said Dobrowolski.
What’s working for the trade shows right now?
O’Neil explains that smaller, regional shows have had a better understanding of the needs of all the parties that the show serves and that reaching out is important in this dynamic, fluid state of the industry.
Jacobson adds, “The regional shows are very efficient as a buyer to knock off a lot in a short period of time. I can get a lot of appointments done and see a lot of stuff.”
“It's a big picture. It's the unity of the industry,” says Dobrowolski. “When all of us unite in a place, whether it’s national or regional – the pulse is ramped up. Everybody's excited. We leave that show ready to go and ready to be excited about the outdoor industry.”
What improvements would you like to see at trade shows or what would you like to see more of at future trade shows?
For Jacobson, the biggest improvement they would like to see is the scheduling of the shows.
“Every show is so independent. They're all doing their own thing. But to me, I'd like to see improvement in scheduling so I can get to each one of the shows I want and be efficient when I'm there,” Jacobson explained.
O’Neil wants trade shows to take a more hybrid approach.
“I think it's interesting with some of the things that are trying to be done with digital tools. I don't love the idea of saying ‘This is the platform we're using as a show, get on this platform,’ or ‘this is the platform we're using as an industry,’” O’Neil went on to explain, hoping for smarter, more hybrid use of digital platforms. “I do think technology will play a role, but I hope it is a more flexible role.”
Has your company embraced any new technologies because of the current circumstances?
According to Stevens, True North has adopted a lot of virtual showings and virtual meetings. However, personally connecting with the retailer became key as they worked to foster a greater relationship.
“I think a lot of us, not everyone - but a lot of us - are people persons, or also just have a long history with each other. There was definitely a blend of using those [virtual] tools, but also just finding virtual time to just continue to work on the relationships,” stated Stevens.
Jacobson reinforces this hybrid idea, mentioning that the digital tools are helpful, but she prefers to connect directly with a rep for a more hands-on, personal experience.
Dobrowolski added that Envoy B2B has focused on the reality that the reps and buyers still need personal time with their brands.
“Our focus going through this was how can we make this as efficient as possible? As you're doing orders, in-season replenishment, or you're going through pre-line buy, how can we make this as simple and efficient, so in turn, you can give them more time to interact?” said Dobrowolski.
“Ultimately, that's what we've found through all of our research and all of our interactions with industry leaders, buyers, rep agencies, and in-house reps – The most important thing continues to be the time that they can spend with each other. In turn, we focused a lot of time in our photography department to really develop good clean aesthetics, so on the platform, it's visually appealing,” he concluded.
To end, O’Neil confirmed that the work and focus Envoy B2B put into developing their platform was crucial for Rumpl and has helped to streamline their business.
“[Envoy B2B] saves us so much time on order entry, on presenting lines, on everything. So it does exactly what Matt said, which is allows us to have that time for connections versus just sitting at the keyboard entering orders all day long or struggling to put together an assortment that looks good, or screenshotting our workbook and then throwing it into a presentation and putting together an assortment – It's way easier in a platform that's designed to do it,” explained O’Neil.
Listen to the Rest!
Want to hear more ideas, thoughts, and stories from Envoy B2B, Bill & Paul’s Sporthaus, Rumpl, and True North? Be sure to listen to the full podcast by clicking here.
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