The Outdoor Retailer Summer Market starts this week in Salt Lake City Utah and everyone is excited about the many new products on display at hundreds of booths across the Salt Palace and out in the Pavilions. With thousands of attractions to tantalize the attention of attendees each exhibitor will do all that they can to catch the eye of every passing buyer. But even with the latest in design innovation and state-of-the-art technology vendors will have to ply a little more creativity to bring more customers into their sales camp. Apart from meticulous merchandising and compelling demonstrations it helps to apply just the right amount of booth bait to hook potential prospects long enough to have a good look at the new line.
A few of the better known booth bait initiatives OR attendees look forward to every year. Hundreds of show-goers count on a free cup of espresso at the Royal Robbins booth. Most mornings New Balance offers a Belgian waffle bar. And soft serve maple ice cream can be had with real bacon sprinkles at Darn Tough Socks. Several companies set up a table for their sponsored athletes to sign posters. Stand Up Paddling stars like Chuck Patterson or Candice Appleby and top climbers like Chris Sharma, Lynn Hill and Steph Davis are always a huge draw. But the buzz goes into overdrive at about 4 o’clock every afternoon when one booth after another rolls out a keg and offers up free beer for anyone with a thirst and a free moment in their schedule to stop for a pint.
But with so much going on all at once it’s difficult for any brand to truly gauge the effectiveness of their promotional efforts. When the beer starts flowing much of the brand recognition and customer engagement is lost in the haze of the party atmosphere.
“We love throwing parties and getting people into the booth. But honestly, I don’t think you get a whole lot of bang for your buck if all you offer is beer,” said Scott Kaier public relations manager for Sierra Designs. “You need something more than that or people stop by, grab a pint, and head to their next meeting… or next free beer opportunity.”
Aside from the potential to distract the serious work of doing business, without a coherent marketing strategy the expense of booth promotions can sometimes offer a rather low return on the investment. If you’re an exhibitor, it’s one thing to bring people into your booth, but are you actually inviting them into a relationship with your company and take a solid look at your new products? Effective booth bait is really only half the battle. Once you draw visitors into your space you want them to come away with something more than a free pilsner glass or a key chain. You want to leave them with a lasting impression. Leading public relations professionals in the industry have a few suggestions on how to do just that.
“If you are looking for specific product exposure, I think a raffle is a good way do that. However a compelling reason like a partnership with a nonprofit where there is a donation element and people can feel good about participating and be more purposeful in their action will be the best way to make a splash,”said Brook Hopper of Hopper consulting. “It also associates your brand with being a good community member, so it’s a win-win.”
Robin Enright, a travel writer and merchandising expert says it’s important to make direct contact with buyers. High profile athletes and celebrities need to be real people, “approachable human beings not aggressively intent upon a sale, but who genuinely connect with their brand.”
Though it might sound vague there is a lot of merit to the notion that a company is selling itself as well as its products. When drawing new customers into a booth at OR all the rules of hospitality and courtesy apply. That includes a personal invitation, a warm welcome, attention to a guest’s wants and needs, engaging conversation, respect for their time, but most of all having fun!
“Be friendly. Be happy. Dude, it doesn’t have to ALL be about work!” says Jeanne Wallace a marketing specialist with 20 plus years of outdoor industry expertise. “Similar interests, long-term relationships… what OR is all about. The greatest industry gathering in the world!”
The Joy Trip Project is made possible with the support of The Outdoor Retailer Summer Market
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