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Archive for the ‘Suppliers’ Category

By Jeff Pett, Fleetwood Group

As a manufacturer in the school furniture market, the NSSEA School Equipment Show is our biggest show each year.  We talk all year about what our plans are and what we are hoping to get out of it.  We have had a good show this year.

I think most people who are here would agree that the show seems to be smaller than last year’s show. It felt like the traffic in the aisles was way down, and the booth “footprint” felt smaller.  If you came here hoping to set up your booth and draw in new prospects, this had to have been a disappointing year.  None of that, of course, is not a good thing.  However, as a manufacturer of furniture that is too big and heavy to drag around the country showing off to your dealer-partners, we use this week to show new ideas and products while training new dealer sales people.  And this year was a bonus for us since we recently added two new sales team members, so they got to meet many of their key contacts this week.

Our top 30 dealers account for over 90 percent of our sales and most of them were here this year.  If you wandered by our booth you saw a very busy place most of the first two days.  Relationships were renewed or created, there was some “surprise and delight” new product ideas, and generally we had a great week.

One more thing that I found interesting was the number of people in the show hall “before hours.”  I don’t remember seeing so many groups taking advantage of that time for dedicated group meetings in their booths before.  And while there is some extra cost involved, it is a great way to have uninterrupted quality time with bigger groups of customers.

Hope you were in Phoenix this year, too, and that you had a great week, too!

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By Jim Kolettis, Mahar Manufacturing

I thought it might be a good idea to share with our members, both dealers and suppliers some “what’s and why’s”.

As the global economy begins to snap back, we are starting to travel once again. Where will we be going? One place that we all should plan on spending some time will be at NSSEA’s School Equipment Show in Phoenix, Arizona this November 17-19 (pause for collective groan). Some of you may feel that it is not the most enjoyable thing to go to just to hand out your business card; however, maybe you feel this way because nobody ever told you how to get the most out a tradeshow. One of the biggest advantages is the number of customers and potential customers; vendors and potential vendors that you can interact with in one trip and in such a short period of time.

It’s All About Having Goals

In all of my years of attending, exhibiting, and producing countless tradeshows, I created goals for what I want to accomplish while I’m there. As simple as this may sound, there’s actually a trick to doing it right.

The goals that you set need to consist of creating a specific business purpose that has an associated objective that is quantifiable. It can be very easy to get caught up in the show (the ton of pre-show material that you get can help to build the hype), but in the end identifying who you want to talk with and what you want to learn will make sure that your time is well spent.

For the exhibitor it means the dealers, end users, and specifiers. Interacting with people from all these segments will help you to understand other points of view for future product evolutions, new designs, and to validate if your marketing message has been effective. Will they be using the competition or just not using a product(s) in your line? It’s a great place to check out the competition to see first hand what features, advantages and benefits they are promoting. This is valuable input into your product roadmap (both for what to include and what to avoid – or how to sell it differently). Also, it’s the perfect time to reinforce the key benefits of a product with your sales team and to better understand the sales objections that are being raised. Oddly, tradeshows are the ideal arena in which to interact with your own sales team to ensure that your products are being represented properly and to gather and process feedback from the field.

For the attendee it means visiting with the exhibitors, attending the sessions, taking part in business conversations in any roundtable or networking events and learning how to increase sales with new product lines.

Time Management Counts

You wouldn’t show up for work without having a plan (would you?) so you need to have a plan in place BEFORE you arrive. You can create your plan by taking the time to read the promotional material, going over the meeting agendas and using the SES Online Planner.

You should spend time studying the layout of the show floor so that you know what vendor booths you want to visit and in which order you are going to want to visit them. Before the show, take an hour and surf the web sites of the firms that you are thinking about visiting and make a final decision as to if you want to spend the time with them.

It’s All About Appointments

To get the most out of any show, the best way to maximize your time is to schedule appointments with customers and vendors before the show. Now you are not the only one to realize this and so you’ll have to set up your appointments well before the show date in order to get on everyone’s calendar.

Too Much Really Is Too Much

The School Equipment Show is a dynamic event – you might think that you know what is going to happen before the show, but things can change either before or during show. This means that you don’t want to fully book your day – leave open times. This “free time” will become valuable as you meet new people and exhibitors at the show that you want to have discussions with. Having a list of back-up people and booths that you’d be willing to visit with is always a good idea. If an appointment cancels on you or if a scheduled vendor doesn’t show up, you’ll need to have a plan to fill in your sudden free time.

Work With Non-Competing Exhibitors

Look, any tradeshow is probably too much for you to handle by yourself. Even if other people from your company are going, you could still quickly end up being overloaded. One way to deal with this situation is to enlist help from people at other firms.

This might sound a little weird to you, but here’s how it goes. You reach out to your network of people who work for non-competing companies and find out who will be attending the same show. You call them up and find out what they are going to be highlighting at the show. Likewise, you tell them what you’ll be promoting. Finally, you offer to send any prospects that you run into their way if they’ll do the same for you. This can be a great way to reach out to potential customers that you might not otherwise be able to contact.

What All Of This Means For You

In addition to much of the tradeshow behavior already discussed – I like to eavesdrop. What’s the buzz at the tradeshow? What are people talking about when they’re not specifically talking to me? What off-hand comments are being made about a product or feature? I have found just keeping my ears open between meetings provides a lot of opportunity, and often makes me a better advocate for my customers.

A tradeshow can easily appear to be a big waste of time – if you are not prepared in advance for it. However, if you take the time to plan out what you’ll be doing, it can turn into a big success for you. The key is to take the time before the show to sit down and identify what you really want to accomplish, who you want to meet with, and how you can get your message out to the most people who will be at the show.

Time is the one thing that none of us ever seem to have enough of. Trade shows in general can be an enormous waste of time and expense if you don’t plan for them. However, by doing some planning before the show, you can transform this potential waste of time into a big boost for your business.

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By Jeff Pett, Fleetwood Group

According to my records, this is my 24th monthly blog for NSSEA.  When the request was put out a couple of years ago, I thought that it might be fun to try it.  I like to write, and the guidelines simply said to write about what was of interest to me and there were no limits or minimums on size. Simple.  And I thought that I was keeping up with the times in social media use.

Since that time the use of social media, or “new media” has exploded… or at least that is what I read. We are not using it at the company where I work, and I do not know anyone in our business that is using it extensively.  That doesn’t mean it is not being used, but I do have a hard time imagining someone wanting to “friend” our company to learn about what is happening this week in school furniture.

A part of me would love to make it work for us, but I just have not been able to connect the dots to justify it.

This past week I have done some “touring” of other company’s blogs, and I cannot say I am seeing anything compelling to make me want to jump into the pond just yet. I attended a teleconference recently where the speaker was touting all the ways her company was benefiting by having all of their office people spend time daily working their Twitter and Facebook accounts. This particular company was a service company and depended a lot on continuous attraction of potential workers and customers. That probably makes sense. In addition, I can see where a school supply retail store would have a lot of reason to attract teachers and local administrators to a Facebook page, or be sending out tweets.  Even a catalog supplier would seem to make sense.  But a manufacturer with dealer distribution?

Am I missing something?

I would love to see a string of your responses to this blog. Please educate me as to what you are seeing, using, or why you are not using it.

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According to a recent survey, Manufacturers have expanded for the first time in 19 months. The month of August has brought about a positive change and shows signs that the nation’s economy might be growing and is seeing better days.

The rise in the expansion has a lot to do with the auto industry but the report indicates that the expansion goes much broader than just the auto industry. The index of manufacture ring firms grew from 48.9 to 52.9 at the Institute for Supply Manufacturers. The line between expansion and contraction begins at 50 and since January 2008, the index was below this number every month.

The report revealed even more positive news as it indicates an index of new orders rose to 64.9 and production index rose to its highest peaks since 2004. These new findings suggest that expansion is set to continue in the future.

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