SHOT SHOW '90 - a buyer's bonanza and a marketing tool.
So, here we are again getting ready for another SHOT Show. In terms of the shooting sports industry, there has never been a bigger, more mind-boggling extravaganza. This year, the SHOT Show spans four full days (that's right, four days - count 'em) it houses more than 1,200 exhibitors and no telling how many thousands of new and old firearms, archery and outdoor products. And, it's all spread out over 335,000 square feet of exhibit space in the sprawling Las Vegas Convention Center. Hooo, boy! The enormity of it all makes one feel kind of giddy with excitement. Talk about a kid being turned loose in a candy store!
But that all-over tingly feeling soon gives way to anxiety as the reality sets in, and Joe Gun Dealer (the prospective attendee) comes to grips with the fact that there's serious business to be transacted at this show of shows. "How in the world," he says to himself, "am I supposed to see everything, do everything, and get the most out of this circus?" A question aptly phrased, and one that's easily answered in a single word: Planning.
Too many dealers arrive at the SHOT Show without even the barest outline of a game plan. Right from the git-go they become awestruck with the vastness of the show - they wander aimlessly from booth to booth with eyes like saucers and drool dribbling from the corners of their mouths - they ogle all the keen toys - and, at the very last moment, they frantically run around buying stuff and placing orders in a futile attempt to justify the trip. Pretty pitiful, don't you think? But it happens - boy, does it happen.
Avoiding that kind of non-productive "country boy in the big city" approach to the show is really pretty simple. All you have to do is follow a simple, common sense guideline similar to this:
1) Several days before you even leave home, make a list of exhibitors you know you want to see. Maybe they're current suppliers or maybe you've seen their products advertised and have a genuine interest in looking, examining, and asking pertinent questions. When your list is complete, prioritize it according to the companies you really must see versus the ones you'd like to see. Then, write the booth number of each company next to its name on your list. The booth numbers aren't hard to find; SHOOTING INDUSTRY has provided a comprehensive exhibitors' list and map in this very issue.
2) On your very first day, as soon as you enter the show hall, start visiting the companies on your list in order, one at a time. Carry a notebook with you at all times - or a microcassette tape recorder if you prefer. That way you can record the high points of each business meeting, and you can proceed to the next name on your list with a clear mind without having to clutter your head with everything that's happened to that point. Use that same notebook or tape recorder to register the booth numbers of the other companies or products you see that might stimulate your interest. Then you'll remember to visit them later after you've completed your priority list, and you won't get side-tracked from your original schedule. 3) Every evening, review your notes and create an updated priority list for the following day. That way you'll have a new plan of attack each morning. By reviewing in the evening while memories of the day's activities are still fresh in your mind, you'll be in a better position to make important decisions and then get on with the rest of the show. This daily review and planning period is really essential to maintaining some sense of organization in your activities. So although the temptations of tinsel town are pretty powerful, be absolutely sure you do your homework every night if you expect to "ace" your test the next day. 4) Begin each day fresh and be at the show hall when the doors are first opened. By following your daily list faithfully, you'll be able to cover a lot more territory and transact a lot more meaningful business than by running around haphazardly. One more thing: Try not to return to any individual booth too often. If you treat your first visit as a fact-finding mission and if you ask the right questions to be able to make an intelligent decision, one return visit is all that should be necessary in most cases.
So there you have it - a simple step by step approach to covering the SHOT Show more thoroughly - and more effectively. But, wait a minute - we're not done yet. Because I have still one other tip to impart that will help you get even more out of the SHOT Show. It's one most dealers never think about because they're usually too wrapped up in a touching, feeling, buying orgy to realize that there's much more to be gained from the SHOT Show than just previewing new products and ordering new merchandise. After all, the SHOT Show is a bonafide trade show, not just a massive gun show.
The SHOT Show is the one time of the year when the major manufacturers' marketing, advertising and promotion staffs come out of the woodwork to meet the retailers and answer questions. So this is probably the last time until January 1991 that you'll have a chance to talk face to face with the people who design the ads, catalogs and packaging and plan the advertising strategies for the products you carry in your store. Why is that important? Three reasons: First, because they need your input to know if their efforts are properly directed. Are their ads and literature targeted to the right market(s) and are they having any impact on your local customers? Are they missing an important selling point or are they doing something right that has really helped you move their merchandise? The advertising and promotion people really will listen to your comments; they have to, because you're the one who's doing the selling. The success or failure of your efforts reflects directly on theirs.
Second: You need to know what kind of promotional support you can expect from the manufacturers of the product lines you carry. Do they offer point of purchase or display materials, either free or for a nominal cost? Is there an active co-op advertising program in place that will help you advertise the manufacturer's product at a reduced cost? If so, how does the co-op program work? How much will the manufacturer reimburse? How much merchandise must you buy to qualify? What are the guidelines and restrictions? And how do you file your co-op claims?
Third: You should determine the manufacturers' national advertising plans so you can coordinate your local promotion to be able to capitalize on them. Which product(s) in the line will be receiving the greatest promotional attention during the coming year? Will the promotion for a specific product or product line be seasonal, and, if so, at what time of year will it be getting the biggest promotional boost? Will the manufacturer be advertising in consumer magazines, and, if so, which ones? Do the current plans include full page four-color ads, or just an occasional one-eighth page black & white ad whenever there's extra money available? You need to know these things so you can support the manufacturers' efforts with your own "pull-through" advertising on the local level. Remember that no matter how good the product, it ain't gonna sell if nobody knows about it and if they don't know where to buy it. It's just that simple.
The SHOT Show is the focal point of the year for most companies in the shooting sports industry. With advanced planning, it can be a genuinely rewarding experience for any retailer, both as a source of new merchandise and as a compass to help point his local marketing efforts in the proper direction for the next twelve months. Without that planning and organization, it's just one big carnival.
Do you have any questions about advertising, promotion or marketing, specific or otherwise? Send them to me c/o SHOOTING INDUSTRY. I'll do my best to respond to your questions and concerns in future columns.
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|Title Annotation:||gunshop advertising|
|Date:||Dec 1, 1989|
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