Sunday, November 19, 2006

Advice for Vendors

Today I was going through all of the brochures and such from the chocolate show, and thinking about some of the vendors I met with. When the show opened, I started by visiting every booth. Well, almost every both. Having done that, and later looked through the literature, I have come up with some observations and advice that I think may benefit vendors at all future trade shows, both food related and otherwise.

Bring Handouts

I'm not talking about things like samples. I'm talking about anything, be it a photocopied sheet of paper or a full-color brochure, that you can hand out to your visitors that explains the key items that you would like them to be familiar with, gives appropriate company and contact information, and maybe even lists references for the potential customer to research, such as your company website. I don't even know how many booths I visited that may have had a quality product, which I will never remember beyond the sample of chocolate that I tasted while trying to focus on fifty other things. If you can't be bothered to photocopy something, then at least bring a stack of business cards.

Put Some Effort Into Your Handouts

I have a price list sitting next to me for "Seven Component Trays" from, well, I don't know who. On the bottom it says, "Orders: Sharon" and lists a phone number. At the top it has the words, "Price List" printed on top of a very festive-looking snowman, which is dark enough to make it hard to read the text on top of it. I don't know that I'm even going to bother looking at the price list now, because it would do me little good anyway. Had they bothered to put a company name on the sheet, I would have been several times more likely to call "Sharon", whoever that is. If they can't be bothered to do the handout right, how do I know they'll bother with doing anything else right either?

Hand Out Your Handouts

One booth had some very nice chocolates, which I was interested in. I could see that the man at the booth had a price sheet behind the counter, so I asked for a copy. He gave me an almost blank stare and asked, "what price list?" I pointed at the stack sitting in front of him, not two inches away from him and said, "that price list." He looked surprised as he looked down at the list and said something that could have been, "oh, of course" (but probably wasn't), and handed me a sheet. The product was good, so I may still order some. But I worry that working with them will be a chore.

Be Useful to Guests

There was a cruiseliner booth. There was a booth handing out free newspapers. A local TV station had a booth that seemed to have nothing more going than a drawing for a giftbasket. One booth seemed to be selling excercise equipment, and another was advertising "spinal decompression" procedures. I did not visit these booths. If I really was in the market for a newspaper subscription, I'm afraid a chocolate show is the last place I would be shopping for one. Ditto for doctors. If it wasn't bad enough that I found these booths useless, somebody I spoke with after the show seemed surprised that there were so many booths that had nothing to do with chocolate. As somebody with a vested interest in such shows, she was the last person who I would want thinking that.

Be Friendly to Guests

As I was mainly interested in booths that had liturature for me, I gravitated towards a stack of catalogs at the Winder Farms booth. The nearest rep at their booth came over and greeted me. He asked me questions, such as whether I'd heard of them, and what sorts of things I was interested in from them. He showed me a few products, and was a little surprised to discover that a) I used to live within minutes of their main farm, b) I also used to live down the road from a New Hampshire supplier of theirs and c) I currently live within minutes of their Orem location. These are not things I normally tell salespeople because, as you probably know by now, I generally hate salespeople. This man didn't act like a salesperson, he acted like a company representative. He didn't try to push me into buying anything, and when he offered me a sample of their chocolate milk, I didn't feel like he was preying on me. I gave him my card, and he wrote his name and number on the catalog. I plan to check out their store this week.

Show Off Your Wares

This one wasn't bad at this show. Almost every booth had samples at it. These people were ready and willing to demonstrate to me what I would never be able to experience on their website: what their product was really like. Of course, this did mean that I found out for certain with some products that I would never want to spend any money on them. But it also let me know with other products that I was interested. A company called Utah Truffles came out to the line waiting for the show to open, to offer a couple of different flavors of truffles to the waiting guests. When I reached their booth, they had several other flavors available, and I now have their brochure and business card to let me know what else they offer, and how to buy from them. There's a good chance I will, too.

Become Involved

The previous tip was a good example of this. Utah Truffles involved themselves at the beginning of the show. Amano Chocolates was one of several booths featured on Fox 13 News on Friday morning. In fact, Amano actually brought a piece of equipment from their chocolate factory to the show, and had it working during the show. I walked by their booth several times, and there were always people there looking at the machine and talking to the owners. And who could have been more involved than Callebaut Chocolate? Their chocolate was featured prominently in Raymond Lammers classes, especially in the chocolate tasting at the end of the show. It was because of them that the chocolate tasting was able to happen, even though they certainly weren't the only brand featured. These are all companies that I hope to deal with in the future.

These were just a few things that I noticed during the chocolate show. I'm sure there were several others that I didn't pick up. I hope my advice and observations help out somebody, and doesn't just look like me ranting.

1 comment:

  1. The customer is the most important person. Treat them that way! If you've ever heard Jeff Bezos speak on the importance of a customer-centric focus, you'd realize that that's his biggest focus as a CEO. It pervades everything at, and has pushed the company in the direction it is.
    Anyway, that's very off-topic, but merlyn's comment made me think of that...
    On a side note, why is it that after i put in my name, if i hit tab. it takes me to the word-verification instead of to the "your web page" box?


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