As much as I preach the importance of marketing and not relying upon your suppliers to do your marketing, the relationships you develop with your suppliers are critical to your success. They are your partners. Building a solid relationship with them, whether you are a $20 million agency or a single, home-based agent is incredibly important. Attending a few trade shows each year is one of the best ways to start and nurture these relationships.
Why is attending trade shows important?
Your suppliers can help you. They have incredible resources. But you must do the work to find out what those resources are and then be willing to use them. At the end of the day, the most important reason is your clients. With a good relationship, you can take far better care of your clients – pick up the phone and ask for something you wouldn’t have the leverage to ask for without the relationship. You can also get great ideas and learn about what’s working for other agents.
In this article, I provide some tips on how to tackle a trade show so that you develop and nurture relationships and don’t just come home with a suitcase full of brochures that sit in a corner for 3 years.
1) Be Smart:
As a business owner, you need to be smart about your business. Being smart is recognizing that you MUST specialize and let go of trying to be all things to all people. One of the best tips I can give you is to select a handful of suppliers with whom you want to work. Remember the 80/20 rule. 20% of the suppliers you currently deal with should be getting 80% of your clients. BUT, and this is a critical but that most people miss, when marketing your services, the focus needs to be on the benefits, solutions and end result for your client NOT on how you get there. The products in which you choose to specialize are your “how” in providing a solution for your clients. Don’t lead with that in your marketing. Instead, create a core compelling message that communicates the benefits and solutions you provide as a travel consultant.
Now that you have made the decision on what suppliers you want to work with, it’s time for a strategy. Rather than going through the trade show floor in a linear fashion, row by row, collecting brochure after brochure after brochure (us creative explorer types have a hard time resisting the urge to see every single booth) keep it focused on who you want to see and create an action plan before you even set foot on the trade show floor. Then stick to your plan.
3) Ask good questions.
Don’t get trapped into thinking you have to tell them all about you. Keep focused on the fact that it’s all about them, not about you. Find out what’s new…what’s different, what others have been doing. Ask about their demographics, who are their best clients. Then find out who you should speak to for what. Get the right contact details.
4) Follow Up:
Imagine what an impression you make on a supplier when YOU follow up with THEM, and not the other way around. Send a card to each supplier with whom you want to nurture a relationship. These should be suppliers that you have decided you want to work with. A simple Send Out Card campaign doesn’t have to take very long and may make the difference in the end.
5) Take Action:
Odds are, you got at least one good idea, one memorable nugget from your event. Don’t let the day to day of the office distract you from taking action on an idea. Set the intention to implement 1 thing.
Have a look at what trade show events are taking place in the next 6 months and decide to attend one or two. Don’t use the excuse that your budget won’t allow it. Make it happen. In the meantime, get clear on your specialty and focus in on the handful of suppliers you want to work with. Then, follow these tips when the day comes to attend the trade show.