Effective Trade Show Strategies (Part 1)

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(Image credit: Alissa Ausmann)

“The Clean Show is next month, and I’m excited to attend for the first time. How do you prepare for the show, or any trade show? What strategies can I use to get the most out of my investment?”

Uniforms/Workwear Manufacturing: Scott Delin, Fashion Seal Healthcare, Seminole, Fla.

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Scott Delin

Scott Delin

My wife, Beth, drives a Volvo XC90 that has 213,000 miles on it. Unfortunately, since her Volvo is running like a champ, and having the genes of her father, she was hell-bent on running this car till it stops dead in its tracks. After long deliberations back and forth between us about the new technology in new automobiles these days, we thought maybe we should start looking at cars, given the high mileage of hers.

During our first visit of the day, while looking at the car of her liking, my wife could not believe how the technology and interiors of cars have advanced since she purchased her current vehicle back in 2009. Obviously being a smart shopper and getting excited about the possibility of purchasing a new vehicle to replace her current mode of transportation, like a typical buyer, she inquired about some important subjects of concern.

How many miles per gallon does the car get? How fast does it go? What is the safety rating of the car? Does it come with a navigation system? What if I don’t want a navigation system? Does it have a rear camera? What about floor mats, are they included? What other colors does it come in, exterior and interior? Plus, many other questions. But then came the best part of the whole day: she walked around the car and she kicked the tires.

This adventure made me think about the upcoming Clean Show and how exciting it must be for those attending the world’s largest show geared toward laundry operators, dry cleaners and coin-operated facilities for the first time. This is a show unlike any other trade show in the world that showcases machinery, technology, apparel and, yes, basically everything and anything that has to do with our industry, whether we are on the processing side or the manufacturing side.

One might ask, “What should I expect when I get there?”

The Clean Show is so big, one needs to plan at least two to three days to visit the show and see all that is on display, and even that might not be enough time. Machinery companies will be showcasing the latest technology their equipment has to offer. Attendees will marvel in awe at the massive pieces of machinery designed to produce and process faster while using less energy to operate, in some cases less chemicals, and reducing your labor costs as well.

Chemical companies will be showcasing their new chemicals geared to reduce wear and tear on the textiles the machinery processes. Apparel and textile manufacturers will be introducing new styles, new colors and new fabric technology that also addresses the issue of reducing both processing and labor costs. They will also be showcasing new, innovative styles desired by the daily-changing healthcare and hospitality market. 

There is so much to see at this show that for the first-time attendee, this show is going to be a mind-blowing experience. So, here are a few suggestions I would like to offer in order for you to get the best experience out of this show:

  1. Make a list of what you want to accomplish while at the show. What and who do you want to see?
  2. What are looking to purchase or try to learn more about?
    1. If it is machinery, what type of equipment are you interested in?
    2. Are you looking for a new soil-sort system or conveyor system?
    3. Maybe you are looking new ironers and dryers?
    4. How about steam tunnels?
    5. RFID technology?
    6. Let’s not forget uniforms.

What about new fabrics, styles and colors in healthcare apparel and uniforms? Are they industrial laundry-friendly and energy-efficient?

Being a seasoned veteran of going to these shows, I have found my best plan of attack for this monster of a show is after first entering into the massive convention center, before getting started on my journey, I will take a huge breath. Then with my list in hand, I will spend most of the first day walking up and down the aisles trying to get a feel for how the show is laid out by machinery and product sector and the items I am most interested in seeing.

Then I will begin the task of taking the deep dive into the specific areas that really pique my interest and appeal to the needs on my list of items I wish to accomplish or address while attending the show. I can assure you that this is going to be a grueling, tiring process for you and suggest you wear comfortable shoes, as you will be doing a lot of walking and talking while at the show.

This is a great show. I, for one, having over 35 years of experience in the industry, look forward to this show every two years. I always walk away from it learning something new and finding better ways to do my job and ideas to offer my customers that will help them exceed their customers’ expectations. 

The last piece of advice I have is have a good time. Take it all in and be open to the new technology and ideas you are about to witness. Be sure to ask a lot of questions and, most important of all, don’t forget to kick those tires on the new machinery.

Have a great Clean Show.

Long-Term Care Laundry: Kathrine Flitsch, Ascension Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare, Brookfield, Wis.

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Kathrine Flitsch

Kathrine Flitsch

A trade show is a wonderful place to meet other people and learn about the trade.

Before going to a show, identify what your needs are. Are you looking for new equipment, looking to downsize or expand your operation, or just looking for innovative ideas? 

Often, they have educational seminars taking place during the show that you can take advantage of as well.

You can start by registering for the show in advance. If you are traveling to the destination, try to stay close to where the event is being held or even at the same hotel. You may come across some vendors in the hotel and have more time to talk with them. 

The website associated with the trade show will be packed with helpful information. Many times, it will have coupons or deals listed for vendors attending the show and their location within it. It also may have tips for attending the show, such as parking or shuttle services. The website will also contain the map of the show. Look over the map and make notations of vendors who you want to see. Once you get to the trade show, it can be overwhelming and you may miss a vendor that you had an interest in seeing. 

Dress the part. Wear items that contain the name of the company that you are affiliated with. You want to be comfortable. Dress business casual and wear comfortable shoes.

Bring a bag to hold all the things you pick up as you travel through the show. As you navigate, be sure to pick up any literature that you can. You can review the information and follow up with people long after the show is over.

Business cards are also important, not only to get, but to give away as well. Bring a stack of them with you when you attend the show.

Keep track of your budget while attending the show. It can be easy to overspend, so write down purchases you have made.

While at the event, try to visit booths when they are not busy. That way, you can spend more time talking to the vendor about their product. If the booth is busy, visit another one on your list and come back to the one you skipped.

Some vendors will take appointments. Make one later in the day, just in case previous ones run over. That way, you still have most of the day to visit other booths. Your time is valuable, so you want to make the most of it. 

Take some time after the show to evaluate if it was worth your time and money and if you would plan to attend another one in the future.

By planning, you can get the most from the trade show. Having a plan will help you stay organized and relaxed in an environment that can be overwhelming.

Chemicals Supply: David Barbe, U.N.X. Inc., Greenville, N.C.

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David Barbe

David Barbe

Before going to a trade show, obviously one should think about any problems occurring in your facility that you are having. Do you need a new washer or some other piece of equipment?

Many people read over the exhibitor list and make a list of possible vendors and/or suppliers they would like to visit. That’s a good plan.

Many shows have an app that can route you around to exhibitors by category or name. 

The Clean Show is trying something new this year. They are using a service that will deliver a “Personal Guide” that allows you to select interests, and it will produce a guide for you based on your choices. My advice is to investigate such tools and try to take advantage of them.

I am in a unique position, as I attend trade shows both as an exhibitor and an attendee. So, I see things a little differently. My tactic is to do some of the previously mentioned items based on my company’s needs and my interests.

I try to prepare as best I can to see exhibitors that can help me with a need or problem. I’ve gone so far as to arrive with a shopping bag full of sample parts, drawings and USB drives with computer files already copied onto them. That surprises quite a few exhibitors by showing them exactly what I’m looking for, samples and files included. This has resulted in quotes waiting in my in-box by the time I return to my office.

Remember that any exhibitor is trying to maximize their investment and capitalize on any opportunities. You should expect an enthusiastic greeting, some information, an exchange of names and contact data, etc. At most shows now, you’ll have your badge scanned and information will be forwarded from the show operator to that exhibitor. You and hundreds of other attendees will be contacted by someone after the show. Sometimes I never hear from a company, but that’s instructive in itself.

I try to go a little further. I’ll write what I’m interested in on the back of my business card, with a short note on the front and hand that to the person in the booth I’m talking to. I want to go to the head of the line. If I’m really interested in their services or product, I want to stand out as someone they should get in touch with right away. I try to be businesslike and polite, but tell them exactly what problem I may have and let them explain to me what they can do about it. 

Yes, I know business cards are old-fashioned and electronic scans are more efficient. But, do you want to be a name on a list of hundreds, or a card in someone’s pocket with a description of exactly what you want? If someone has something I’m truly interested in, I’ll go back by the booth a couple of times. I want them to remember me and what I might purchase.

With all that said, there is no substitute for wearing comfortable shoes and doing some work. After I’ve gone by the specific booths on my pre-planned list, I try to go down every aisle and look at every booth well enough to know what they are offering. New products and services are created every day. Something might be available that you aren’t even aware of.

Talk to everyone, ask questions, and don’t think you are wasting time looking at things that seem irrelevant. You might have a need for that new automated gizmo someday that seems impractical today. 

Check back tomorrow for the conclusion with thoughts from experts in textiles, consulting services and healthcare laundry.

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