Volume 13, Issue 7 - September 2012

AMD Headlines

Company Investments
Are Trade Shows Worth the Expense?

by Mark Hefley

In these days of shrinking advertising budgets everyone is looking to get the most “bang for the buck.”

How do you justify the expense of having a display made, shipping it to a show, paying for exhibit space, carpet, electrical and labor to set up and tear down? While the expenses are easy to add up, the benefits are harder to put a number on. Your accounting department would like you to show actual PO’s with new customers and additional business. Accounting is black and white, debits and credits, no grey area. Trade shows fall into the grey area on the ledger.

The Payoff
I have attended the Association of Millwork Distributors (AMD) convention every year since 1980. Could I justify the expense with purchase orders taken at the show? Not even close. Why do I continue to attend?

A national trade show like the AMD convention in Louisville, Ky., this fall presents the opportunity to meet with the decision makers of our industry located around the world. The people who attend the AMD convention generally are responsible for the current and future direction of their company. They don’t come to the show with an order pad. They do come with a vision for what kind of products or services they want to see in the future. If you are an exhibitor at the show and will take the time to listen and, yes, go to dinner and spend some of your advertising budget, the benefits to you and your company are “priceless.”

I won’t pretend to tell you I have attended every educational session in the past 31 years. What I can tell you is when I do attend I always leave with a fresh outlook on the topic discussed. Insight to the direction of the industry, new codes and standards and motivational speakers help keep us informed and leading the pack instead of following and reacting after changes have been made.

The Meeting Place
Another way to get value out of a trade show is to set up your customer or potential customer meetings in advance. We schedule breakfast, lunch and dinner meetings along with conference meetings in between. Trade shows also present an opportunity to hold national sales meetings with your salesforce.

Let’s face it: the exhibit floor is a competitive environment. It also presents the opportunity to check on what the competition is up to. Getting to know more about who and what you are competing with adds more value to the trade show.

The most important plus on the trade show ledger is the opportunity to meet your customers, suppliers and even competitors on a personal level. You catch up with their families, hear about new challenges, both personal and professional, and count these people as close friends. At the end of the day that is what keeps us coming back every year.

Mark Hefley is vice president, Cascade Wood Products Inc., and AMD associate vice president.

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