I never gave it much thought: NYC vs. DC. I figured the NASFT does a great job of promoting the FF show, creating a “must be there” aura, that all the key players would take booths and attract the specialty buyers who normally come to see what’s new, negotiate with their supplies and educate their teams.

So I was taken by surprise when the first thing out of everyone’s mouth was, “What do you think of DC vs NY?”

So here’s my answer:

  1. There are always a ton of small retailers, plus family and friends, who meander up and down the aisles enjoying the bounty and ………making it hard to move up and down the aisle. I’ve learned to use the cross aisles to move quickly from one end of the show floor to the other. I found it to be the same in DC; lots of people in the aisle looking, tasting and stopping along the way to collect info. I stood around in one booth on Tuesday morning and there was a flush of VA retailers who never would have gone to NYC. My client was happily scanning away, building her database with basket packers, a seafood distributor, and a  catalog company. Another client netted the local culinary school, a Florida tourist shop and a new Kehe account manager for a major Texas retailer. All good opportunities to build relationships and expand reach.
  2. If you are well established, it is best to secure appointments with your key customers to ensure they make time for you, plus you are not embroiled in another conversation when they show up unexpectedly. I have reports from larger more established exhibitors that they did indeed have their key accounts present and in productive meetings during the DC show.
  3. Cash is king, be prepared to write business. I always encourage my clients to have an attractive show special so they can close new accounts on the spot (eliminating painful, unproductive follow up). A really good value entices existing customers to take some extra product and feature you in their promotional plans. I have a client who went out on a limb offering 25% off 25 cases, 15% off on 15 cases and 10% off on 10 cases. They wrote 25 orders totaling 400+ cases. This was in a 10×10 booth, too.
  4. Some exhibitors complained that they wanted to take a smaller booth because they thought it wouldn’t matter in DC, but they felt they had to be there to keep their status in the booth selection process. I have a client who reintroduced her line’s new packaging. She went to a bigger booth for the added exposure (and secured an end of aisle location). She felt she had a much better response than her normal placement.
  5. I like to schedule breakfast lunch, coffee, dinner, and drink appointments with affiliates, prospects, clients, etc. In NY, it’s difficult to go outside the convention center to do any of this without trekking all over town to meet people. I loved the location in DC, there were lots of options nearby to get a drink, lunch, dinner, etc. Even the options inside the center were much better than NY.
  6. Transportation in NY is limited to surface options: bus, taxi, hoofing it. I took the Metro to the DC hall and avoided the traffic. It was clean, easy and convenient from my location in Dupont Circle.
  7. I heard that people felt they didn’t get as much traffic in the lower level as they did in the upper level. It was confusing sometimes, but I think that’s just because we are so used to the Javits center. There were tons of ambassadors positioned around the center to answer questions and give directions. They finished by saying “Thank you for visiting DC”. Try getting that in NYC!

The best way to approach any marketing decision is to be strategic: determine your objective and then set yourself up for success. If you would like to improve your trade show ROI, try Have the Most Successful Trade Show Ever!