by: Geoff Ficke

Using Trade Shows to Launch or License Your Novel Consumer Product Is Key

Each business day we are approached by entrepreneurs, small businesses, and inventors from all over the world seeking guidance and asking how best to launch and successfully commercialize their consumer product or service innovation. In almost every case investment monies are very dear. There is no one universal answer as every situation is unique. However, we find that we almost always include a suggestion of industry specific trade show participation as a key piece of the answer.

Every category of consumer product has an assortment of local, regional, national or international trade shows devoted exclusively to related products and services. There are Food Product and Gourmet Food Product trade shows. The Pet Product industry has numerous events. Ditto for Hardware Products, Toys and Games, Pool and Spa Products, Gift Products, Table Top Gifts, Hunting, Fishing and Outdoor Products, Sporting Goods, Home and Garden Products, Do-It-Yourself Products, Cosmetics, Jewelry, Wellness Products, Natural Products and, well…you get the picture. If you want to sell, license or introduce a consumer product there is a venue that is the ideal target of opportunity available for you to utilize.

Why are trade shows so important? The answer is simple. In an impersonal digital world the internet has created an inconvenient and often insurmountable buffer between entrepreneurs and decision makers (buyers). In order to bridge the electronic divide you must be able to personally meet and educate the key decision maker on the unique features and benefits of your product. This is best accomplished at trade shows.

Attending trade shows is an important part of retail buyer responsibility. It is easy for a buyer to accept an anonymous new product application from an on-line submission and electronically decline the offer. This is not only easy, but highly impersonal and a way to evade the additional work load that comes with adding new items to a stores retail mix. Management, however, expects buyers to not only attend trade shows, but to discover and bring home new, innovative products.

On the floor of a trade show the entrepreneur can network, demonstrate and display their product and become personally familiar with key personnel in their class of trade. At every trade show I have ever worked there have been sales agents seeking new lines to carry and represent. There are competitors who want to buy or license new products that fit their space (or, beware, knock off your item). You will meet retail buyers from every conceivable size store, from big box to independent. The opportunity to properly present your product to the largest group of potentially important people is never greater than when you display your wares at a trade show.

There are costs attendant to trade show participation. Travel, booth rental, display and sales collateral must be covered. There are also clever strategies available to minimize cash outlays while discovering how the decision makers in your space will react to your new consumer product or service.

We just returned from a major high fashion jewelry industry trade show. Our client unveiled a brand new jewelry line by utilizing production quality prototype samples to demonstrate to the trade. Display was a one-off unit created by our preferred point-of-purchase manufacturer. Sales collateral was designed and produced utilizing a photo-shop graphic art technique. The result was that, with virtually zero inventory expense, the client was able to present his product and give every outward appearance of being an experienced, solid business, not a start-up.

Orders are now being written, international distribution deals negotiated and inventory produced to cover commitments. This expensive step can now be undertaken with a high level of confidence gained by the experience realized by trade show participation. This is just one example of penetrating a highly competitive consumer product market while significantly mitigating financial risk.
Trade shows work and they are prevalent for that reason. Make use of them!

Author's Bio: 

Geoff Ficke has been a serial entrepreneur for almost 50 years. As a small boy, earning his spending money doing odd jobs in the neighborhood, he learned the value of selling himself, offering service and value for money.

After putting himself through the University of Kentucky (B.A. Broadcast Journalism, 1969) and serving in the United States Marine Corp, Mr. Ficke commenced a career in the cosmetic industry. After rising to National Sales Manager for Vidal Sassoon Hair Care at age 28, he then launched a number of ventures, including Rubigo Cosmetics, Parfums Pierre Wulff Paris, Le Bain Couture and Fashion Fragrance.

Geoff Ficke and his consulting firm, Duquesa Marketing, Inc. ( has assisted businesses large and small, domestic and international, entrepreneurs, inventors and students in new product development, capital formation, licensing, marketing, sales and business plans and successful implementation of his customized strategies. He is a Senior Fellow at the Page Center for Entrepreneurial Studies, Business School, Miami University, Oxford, Ohio.