With more than 1,600 exhibitors and hundreds of thousands of products, buyers working the floor of SHOT Show are certainly challenged when it comes to discovering the goods their clients need and connecting with the manufacturer’s reps who can work with them to place orders and close the deals. In an effort to help those buyers get the most out of their time on the floor, we reached out to two high-profile PR and marketing firms to ask them what their clients, SHOT Show’s exhibitors, are looking for when they meet with buyers.
“The exhibitors do want to know how the past year was for their buyers and retailers, what customers are coming into stores asking for, i.e., concealed carry, long guns, specific accessories, etc.,” said Kim Cahalan, Vice President of Media Relations for Media Direct Creative Group, Inc., which counts Rock River Arms, Taurus Brands, Apex Gear, TRUGLO and Wildlife Research Center among its many clients. “The companies we work with really want to know from the buyers and retailers both what’s selling and what’s sitting on their shelves.
“When the buyer gets to the meeting or booth appointment, they should ask right away for the new 2015 promotions, range programs, etc., so the booth staff can dedicate a person to take them through the new product, showing the selling features and benefits of the product to help make their jobs easier when then return to the shop and getting them into the best promotions we are offering,” Cahalan emphasized. “Whatever the buyer needs from the manufacturer, I’d suggest writing those items on the back of their business card and handing it to the point person in the booth. In other words, if that buyer is out of product catalogs, for example, please don’t tell someone in the booth and expect them to remember, even if you are a valued customer. The SHOT Show is so crazy, that kind of request will inevitably fall through the cracks.”
Cahalan emphasized that her clients truly want buyers to have a pleasant and productive experience when they visit their booths.
“Feedback is always welcome. But beating up the folks in the booth about deliveries or other problematic situations isn’t the best way to get such personal and individual issues resolved. Simply put, there’s a time and a place for those discussions, but the show floor isn’t it. Instead, a buyer should introduce themselves and give a short description of the situation they’re having trouble with, then ask to have someone to follow up with you after the show to resolve the situation and get that person’s name and contact information. I believe the buyer will get a very positive response and hasty resolution of their problem by handling it that way.”
Kevin Howard, President of Howard Communications, which reps such prestigious companies as Browning, Bushnell, Hunter’s Specialties, Mossy Oak and Uncle Mike’s, also weighed in on the conversation.
“First thing I’d do as a buyer is check out the SHOT Show Planner link and download the SHOT Show Mobile App to your smartphones and tablets. Next, buyers and retailers should make a list of the products and exhibitors they must see, set up appointments with sales reps for the first two or three days of the show, using the show floor plan to make a systematic list so you are not running all over the show for appointments—then make sure you make the appointments. To maximize who and what you see at the show, make a second list of exhibitors you’d like to see as your schedule permits, creating that list from the SHOT Show Planner you’ve already utilized.
“As you walk the floor in between appointments, make a list of interesting booths you pass,” Howard advised. “Then take the last day of the show to visit those booths and investigate those products that might be good additions to your store or current lines. These will usually be found at the smaller booths, so learn to look for them on your way to appointments at the bigger booth setups.”
Laura Burgess, President of the well-respected firm Laura Burgess Marketing, talked to several heads of the companies she reps for us.
“I would tell a dealer to come to the SHOT Show with an open mind and look for companies that stand out from the rest,” said Burgess’ client Michael Sodini, President of Eagle Imports. “Everyone seems to get stuck in the rut of carrying the same things. Then they ultimately cut each other so it becomes a rat race to the bottom of the barrel.”
Another client on Burgess’ long list, Russ Datson, Director of Sales for Liberty Ammunition, echoed Sodini, stating, “I would advise a dealer to allocate some time to visit with some of the newer companies in the industry. We all get stuck in our comfort zones, visiting with the manufacturers and people we regularly work with, and while it is important to maintain those relationships, it is equally important to familiarize yourself with the upcoming players in the industry and evaluate the products they are bringing to market. Like it or not, trends are prevalent in our industry, a savvy dealer understands these trends and stays on top of them.”
The full list of 2015 SHOT Show exhibitors is available here. You’ll also find the show’s floor plan, product and seminar listings and a schedule of show specials and celebrity appearances there. The SHOT Show Planner can be found here, and be sure to download the 2015 SHOT Show Mobile App available in the Apple App store and on Google Play for iPhone and Android products, respectively, and in a Windows App for Blackberry devices. Click here for more information.
Chris Dolnack is Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer for the National Shooting Sports Foundation. Follow him on Twitter at @ChrisDolnack.