In an age of teleconferencing and remote buying, trade shows attest to the enduring power of holding a product, kicking a tire or two and, most of all, seeing valued contacts face to face.
"The vast majority of trade show attendees influence purchases," says Joe Federbush, vice president, sales and marketing, Exhibit Surveys Inc., which specializes in trade show research and trends. "For example, 81 percent have a buying role, and 50 percent of visitors to exhibits have buying plans for products they've seen on the show floor within the next 12 months."
Yet, while thousands of motivated buyers and sellers in a single space for two or three days can create the ultimate business-to-business opportunity, the compacted time frame means high stakes. Every minute an exhibit isn't up and running could mean a lost sale or a relationship that never forms. Display materials must arrive reliably on time, in good condition and ready to make you look your best.
One exhibit matters most
"The trade show business is unlike any other," says Greg Risner, head of the Trade Show Group for UPS Freight®. Getting dozens or hundreds of exhibitors set up for a successful show at the same time, in the same place, requires a symphony of well-coordinated motions, including deliveries.
For any individual exhibitor, of course, there's just one exhibit that really matters: theirs. But amid the chaos, it can be easy for a lone exhibitor to feel a bit overwhelmed. One key is to ship early. Sending materials directly to the arena or convention center a day before the show starts may sound efficient, but your exhibit could get bottlenecked at the loading dock, especially if the show is large. Plus, there's little margin for error if the exhibit encounters any unexpected problems with delivery.
Ship early, save money
Most shows allow shipments to an advance warehouse up to a month ahead, says Jack Savage, regional director for UPS Freight in Las Vegas. You get peace of mind in knowing your materials arrived safe and sound, with time to correct any problems. Before the show, workers move items seamlessly from the staging warehouse to the show site. "When you arrive, all you have to do is find your booth and you're ready to go," Savage says. Shipping early also can help you avoid paying for more expedited travel, such as air freight.
One of the most vital ways to ensure success is finding a trusted shipping partner that understands how important trade shows are to your business, says Susan Hueg, director, exhibitions and events for NBM Shows, based in Colorado. NBM Shows, a unit of the prominent business publisher National Business Media, designates UPS as the "official show carrier" for each of the major domestic trade shows it hosts each year. "It's very important to us that our exhibitors feel taken care of," Hueg says. Her company also uses UPS to deliver its own booth and exhibit materials when participating in shows run by others.
In fact, UPS Trade Show Services has 14 regional trade show managers around the country who are dedicated specifically to meeting the needs of these unique customers.
"We understand the specifics of how shows operate and communicate closely with those running them," says Dana Caron, a marketing manager for UPS. Thanks to UPS Freight's Pickup Notifications for LTL (less than truckload), you can receive e-mail alerts letting you know when the pickup is scheduled, when the driver is on the way and after the pickup has been completed. "UPS gives you complete pickup visibility," Caron says.
Orleans Group International LLC, which specializes in high-quality cigar humidors and accessories, participates in several U.S. trade shows each year. For the major annual show held by the International Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailers Association, Orleans Group packs an entire truckload with enough merchandise to fill a 60-by-40-foot booth, plus backdrops, stands and even fragile glass cases.
The commitment is more than worth the effort, says Bianca Melone, Orleans Group's trade show coordinator: "People want to see firsthand what your new products are, not just look online or read a catalog. They want to see and feel the goods."
That's why packaging and shipping are crucial. "If something's damaged, we can't display it," Melone adds. "When I open up a crate, the last thing I want are surprises. UPS really steps up to the plate – they're the only people I would trust."
Your shipping checklist for a trouble-free trade show
Jack Savage, regional director for UPS Freight in Las Vegas, says a few simple steps in shipping can help make your next trade show a success:
- Select packaging materials strong enough to protect your exhibits in transit.
- Remove all previous labels from boxes and crates prior to shipping.
- Affix the new label with clear, strong tape and include the trade show name, a phone number and your booth number.
- Take advantage of advance warehousing to eliminate tight delivery windows.
- Include deliver-by date on the bill of lading for advance warehouse shipments.
- Choose the appropriate (and most cost-effective) means of transportation for your specific materials.
- If you’re doing multiple shows, consider shipping directly from one show to the next to cut costs and transit times.
For other ways to make your next trade show or convention a success, visit ups.com/tradeshow or contact UPS Trade Show Services at 1-800-365-6990.
This story was originally published under the headline "Road Show" in the Summer 2012 print edition of Compass.