Trade Shows

MBS launched its major marketing campaign at the 1996 Action Sports Retailer Trade Show and at the Snowsports Industry Trade Show. These shows allowed MBS to build its distribution network of specialty snowboard, surfer and skateboard retail shops. What did the shops like about the pair? They gave them what they wanted-products for their adrenaline-junkie customers.

Specialty shops offered another major advantage to MBS. Knowing their target customers like to try out products before buying them, the shops were willing to rent out the MountainBoards-and that willingness was a huge contributor to MBS' early sales success.

Hold Your Horses

Trade shows are an effective tool for introducing a product to retailers, but they're also expensive, notes Douglas L. Ducate, president and CEO of the Center for Exhibition Industry Research or www.gotoexhibitions.com, 312-808-2347), a nonprofit group that offers helpful "how-to" packages for first-time exhibitors. Even a plain exhibit costs $2,000, and that doesn't include your travel expenses, shipping costs and promotional materials. Often, your expenses will run $5,000 to $10,000, which is not necessarily a bad investment, as 75 percent of attendees typically leave a show with at least one purchase, and 85 percent either decide what to buy or will be influenced in a purchase decision. Many inventors attend trade shows too early, before they're ready to ship products. All that does is turn buyers off because they're at the show intending to buy. Jason Lee and Patrick McConnell made the right choice. They waited three years before attending a show-with ready supply.

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This article was originally published in the July 2000 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Bull's-Eye!.

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