> SUBSCRIBE FOR FREE! 

Wade Elliott

Editor’s Note: This column was written by Wade Elliott, owner of Washington-based Utility Supply Group, as part of his monthly e-newsletter, “Words from the Wizard of Watts.” To subscribe for free you can click here.

The fall trade show season has just kicked off and Utility Supply Group (USG) is attending the Campground Owners of New York’s (CONY) 56th Annual Exposition for the Outdoor Hospitality Industry and Trade Show. This is one of seven trade shows the company will be attending this fall.

It is no secret these shows offer so much in terms of getting face time with your customers and prospective customers, as well as a chance to learn about new trends through educational seminars, but there are also many business to business specific benefits as well.

These benefits include:

  • The ability to do market research.
  • Expand your company’s brand and brand awareness
  • Create new business relationships.

Market Research:

With the RV park industry constantly evolving, trade shows offer a chance to get ahead of the curve and find out what customers would like to see. Having a chance to do some on-site market research allows us to find out what is in development and see the problems and concerns RV park operators are focusing on.

USG’s RH75GPD3L pedestal is an example of a product most could only dream about five years ago. Who would have thought you could have a pad mounted, ringless, GFCI breaker protected, pedestal at a reasonable cost?

Innovation is rarely a task done in a vacuum, but by researching the competitive environment and talking to customers, you can take the next big idea and make it better.

Brand Awareness:

With new campgrounds and operators springing up left and right it is always a good idea to keep expanding your brand awareness. Case in point; you may have worked with Chris and Lena for the last 15 years, but now they’re getting ready to retire. Their kids, who haven’t been involved in the business end of the operation, will be taking over.

Chris and Lena have decided to send their kids to their industry trade shows for a few seminars. As a vendor partner, this is a chance to put a face to a name and continue as their preferred provider. Instead of an index card in a Rolodex (remember those?), you are now the face of a long-term colleague.

Chances are if they do not remember you, they will web search the next best thing and you may miss your opportunity. By building that new relationship, you ensure you will be the business the next generation of campground operators call first.

Creating & Enhancing Vendor Relationships:

Breaking into any industry can be difficult and once you are in you will want to stay there. This is why building relationships with other vendors are so valuable. One of the hardest things to do in any industry is to create new business relationships and trade shows give you that opportunity.

These relationships also allow you to be a resource to your own customers when referrals are in order. Understanding your industry by understanding the products and services that other vendors provide will give you the breadth of knowledge to make your own business indispensable.

Many trade shows have meal breaks, cocktail hours and so on — all great times to get to know other vendors.

“Networking with other vendors is a great way to learn how they meet people and get your name out there,” said Heidi Doyle, a USG sales adviser. “Just as the campground owners learn from each other, it is invaluable for vendors to see what works for others. This can include logistics, keeping costs down, putting our name in front of potential clients and understanding how our services and products can provide value for them.”

It’s no secret trade shows provide many opportunities. I believe that they are an expense that generates opportunities created through relationships made in these face to face meetings.

I think trade shows definitely give you a high return on your investment.