February 26, 2018
By Paul Stewart-Stand, Stewart/Stand, MSA Board of Directors, Senior Vendor Member Advisor
Having exhibited at many of the national and regional trade shows in the US, and some abroad, MSA offers a truly unique exhibiting and sponsorship opportunity at MSA FORWARD 2018 to exhibitors both small and large. I’m going to assume you’re already a member of MSA given the fact that you received this email and you’re reading it. If not, I highly recommend that you join MSA and our community of professionals dedicated to non-profit retail.
At this point, you, as a vendor, are committed to exhibiting in Washington DC, or are considering being a sponsor. With 2 months before the expo opens, here are a set of recommendations to consider before, during, and after the conference to maximize your experience and ROI, while meeting your expectations.
BEFORE THE CONFERENCE:
Do you currently work with museum stores? All of us have perfect products for museums. Unfortunately, in my case, an overwhelming majority of them have a different opinion. There are certainly enough institutions for me to justify involvement in the MSA over the last 10 years. I mention this only because MSA represents a fairly diverse range of institutions by size, revenue, museum type, collections, etc. When I sell to ‘museums’, I’m painting with a very large brush. Know your customer!
Have you considered any type of marketing opportunity or sponsorship? MSA offers quite a few sponsorship opportunities that we have found very effective with a strong ROI. Gain visibility throughout the conference, even if you are not an exhibitor or can’t exhibit. To learn about available sponsorship opportunities, read our exhibitor prospectus or contact Alicia Muller email@example.com at MSA headquarters.
Your current and past MSA Board Vendor Member Advisors, Ari, David and Paul will be hosting a pre conference webinar. I think we had over 60 people listening in and asking questions from last year’s webinar. People found it helpful, and I enjoyed listening to David and Ari talk as well. If this is your first conference or your 20th, you might find one bit of information that could prove helpful. The webinar scheduled date will be announced shortly, stay tuned!
Know where you’re exhibiting! I’m not referring to your booth number. I’m referring to the fact that we’ll be exhibiting in a large ballroom and not a large conference center. It’s your standard pipe and drape. However, it is a two-day show. My company’s strategy is to bring top sellers, new products, and examples of our custom capabilities. Right size your product and brand presentation. Save a few bucks on drayage, minimize stress, and enjoy every opportunity to both hard sell and soft sell your products during the conference and expo. There will be exclusive show hours to be in your booth, but you better find yourself at the networking lunches, seminars, and general sessions to connect with Buyers and get to know them!
Review the pre-show attendee list! This is a great new feature of the conference. Last year I was able to quickly identify active customers, inactive customers, and target potential new customers. MSA headquarters will be sending out the pre-show attendee list shortly.
During the Conference/Expo
The energy and traffic flows a bit differently during the show hours. You will likely not lose your voice by talking to 100s of buyers. You will, however, have an opportunity to have meaningful, less rushed conversations with buyers. Ask questions, and listen. Although your product may not be appropriate at that very moment, museum buyers have vast catalogs housed in their brains and can recall a product or company that is appropriate for an exhibition 3, 6, 9, 18 months in the future. At the same time, you might have the perfect product that can ride the wave of a traveling exhibition from one MSA member to another.
Get involved! Are you active in your local chapter? MSA has eight regional chapters and they’ll each have a meeting during the conference. This is a great way to learn more about MSA members in your regional chapter, the association, industry and build relationships. Is there a committee you can volunteer to participate on? Is there a volunteer opportunity during conference you can put your name forward to work on? There are a ton of ways to get involved. Build your network.
Go to the education sessions! Who knows, you might learn something, you might have something to contribute. But, most importantly, it gives you an opportunity to stand in the shoes of your customers and have a better sense of some of their challenges and questions they need answered. Also, you might sit next to someone you don’t know and have an opportunity to spark a new relationship.
Eat the food, drink the coffee! You’ve already paid for it. Enjoy it. It’s another opportunity to ‘soft sell’ your products and build your network in a enjoyable and social setting.
Don’t go home after the expo ends! Too many exhibitors leave after the expo wraps up. There is another half day of sessions, meetings, and networking opportunties! It’s a fantastic way to spend valuable face-to-face time with current and potential customers to continue to ‘soft sell’ and build your network and clientele.
Buyers talk! Although you might meet someone your products are inappropriate for, they may know someone it is. Don’t be pushy. Build your network.
Digest all of the notes from the conference and follow up. Understand that buyers are inundated with emails. Rather than sending out a generic, blanket email to follow up, send out individual, targeted emails. If you have the perfect product, demonstrate that you listened and illustrate it simply, with an image heavy email.
Over the years, my appreciation for MSA has grown. It represents something truly unique within retail. Understand this uniqueness. It requires a different approach in contrast with other retail segments. Your network, and by extension your business with museums will grow year over year.
For 16 years, since founding Stewart/Stand in 2002, Paul has overseen all facets of what has evolved into one of the leading accessories brands at the intersection of fashion and technology.
While still at its core, a product design and development company, STEWART/STAND® maintains its origins in creative, original design with particular focus on continual improvement and development, production-led design, and a firm belief in free flowing dialogue with consumers to provide robust feedback on products.
A product of Union College and the London School of Economics, he maintains varied interests both within the industry and beyond. He is currently serving as Vendor Advisor to the MSA Board of Directors as well as on the Advisory board of NY NOW.