How to Ensure You Make Money at SHOT 2023

If you’re behind on your SHOT Show plans, don’t give up hope. There are plenty of steps you can take to make your trip a success.

How to Ensure You Make Money at SHOT 2023

Thanks to the pandemic, attendance at trade shows nationwide experienced a significant decrease in attendance for 2022. That wasn’t all bad, though. As a matter of fact, for hundreds of exhibitors and thousands of attendees, the 2022 SHOT Show was a tremendous (albeit mostly unexpected) success.

While on assignment at the show for several different publications and having representation contracts for several different companies, I decided to ask a few questions at every booth where I stopped and had a meaningful discussion. A total of 54 exhibitors answered these questions.

Forty-four of those exhibitors stated that they were, “exceptionally happy” with the results and business they acquired at the show. Six exhibitors were “satisfied” with their ROI from attending. Four exhibitors were unhappy, with three of those four being located in the new expanded exhibit hall at the Caesar’s Palace convention center.

As the months went on in 2022, the entire country became more open, and business, commerce and personal spending have almost all returned to or at least are very close to what are considered“normal levels.

By the time you read this article, the 2023 SHOT Show will only be a few weeks away. What can you expect at the 2023 event? From my discussions with insiders in the industry, you should plan on the following:

1. The return of many exhibitors that did not attend last year.

2. A significant increase in the number of attendees.

3. A much smoother process and execution, especially regarding the expanded convention center area.

As with any event or industry show that you attend, having the proper plan in place is essential in order to ensure that you accomplish the ultimate goal of your attendance — to make money. Utilizing the tips outlined below will help you to make that happen.


1. Have a Written Plan

There is a famous saying I learned years ago from a respected football coach: “Failing to plan is planning to fail.”

For both exhibitors and attendees, even the most minimal attendance at the show requires a significant expense to your business. Whether that’s over $1 million or only a few thousand dollars, you need to ensure that you are utilizing every resource, tip and trick in order to make a significant return on that investment. That starts with a plan of who you are going to visit or how you are going to promote your product or company.

If you have not made your plan already, it’s not too late! Even if you decide to attend at the last minute, you still need a plan.


2. Set Some Goals

Are you looking to encounter the most new customers possible? Do you need to plan a time for current customers to be seen/visited, even if it’s just to show them a little attention? Are there significant target customers on your list who are imperative for you to see? Your first priority should be to decide what your main goal is and who are the most important people for you to target in order to reach that goal.


3. Rank Targets in Order of Importance

To help with this, you should follow the 80/20 rule, which says that 80% of your business will come from 20% of your target customers. Make them a priority.

If you have a team of people attending, break up the list and assign your target customers to the appropriate people. Remember, a lot is going on at SHOT Show, and things change on a time as everyone’s schedules get blown up. Have a backup plan. For example, if Customer A is John’s responsibility and Customer B belongs to Jim, make sure that if an opportunity for Customer A comes along and John is busy, you have a backup person to handle it. 


4. Schedule Meetings With the Right People

If you haven’t been doing this already, there is no time to delay. Schedules are likely filling up, if not already full. If you haven’t already begun sending communications to and scheduling meetings with your target businesses, you need to drop everything right this second and begin doing so. At the same time, don’t lose hope, as I have had tremendous success when performing a blitz in the final weeks before a large event. The reason for that is that as you might be aware, you are likely not the only person who has procrastinated or been delayed in accomplishing this task.

Finally, make sure you download one of the many card scanner apps available for both Android and IOS to ensure that you don’t misplace any important new contacts you make at the show. This will also make it easier for you to upload new contacts to your CRM system.

If you don’t have a CRM program, get one right now. Put your contacts into it and add to it as new ones are identified. There are many options out there that are low-cost or even free; one of the best and robust free CRMs available is Hubspot. Whatever system you choose, make sure you spend some time getting to know how to navigate and use it.


How to Schedule More Meetings

Start with a simple email to your targets. If it’s late in the game, limit this list to your top 25. Doing more is possible, but will require some additional work. If you’ve already reached out to your top 25, now is the time to work on the next 25 to 50 targets. Regardless of the size of your business, I recommend limiting your target list to a maximum of 100 targets. If you have ranked your potential customers, this will be the most effective way to attain the most bang for your buck while at the show.

Any responses to these emails should be followed up on immediately. If there is no response within 24 hours and the show is only a few weeks away, it’s time to hit the phones. Break up your list and assign five to 10 targets to each person on your team to call, talk to, and set up meetings with. If you are unable to schedule a meeting but are able to speak with a target customer, make sure you gather as much information as you possibly can. Find out where their booth is, who will be staffing it, if they have plans in the evenings, and what their availability is like at the booth. Most importantly, “assume the close” and do not hang up before letting them know that you will be sure to stop by to try and catch them at the booth.

Note these accounts on your show plan. Include their location and the next several closest account booths to them.

If you are an exhibitor and need to meet with attendees, you will need to find out what floors they plan on being on during which days and what booths they plan on meeting with. If you can, set an appointment and get their contact information so that you can reach them at the show.


5. Go Ghost Hunting

Sometimes, you may not be able to reach your target customer contact before the show. If this is still an important target customer, you are still going to want to make every effort possible to see them at the show. This requires a bit of homework ahead of time. The most important thing to do is map out where each of your customers or target customers are located on the show floor. Then, you can make a plan to stop by them when you are already in the area, rather than making a special trip to see them. SHOT Show used to be very large. Now it is absolutely huge, and it can take quite a lot of time to walk from one booth to another. You can’t afford to waste time traversing the entire show floor(s) over and over because you didn’t plan ahead. In the four days you have to meet with customers, every second counts. Seconds add up to minutes, minutes add up to hours. Imagine missing the opportunity of the year because your target left from the show an hour or even 5 minutes early.

If you are an exhibitor, “ghosts” are hard to find. Likely, your best chance is to send out a communication to your top targets informing them that you have something special just for them at your booth and would like to ensure that they receive it in person. Reach out to anyone you can at their company and let them know you’ve had difficulty reaching your target, and that you have something for them at your booth. Make sure you give them the booth number and actually have something (like a small appreciation gift) for when the ghost shows up.


6. Pick a Partner

This is great advice for all attendees, but it is essential if you don’t have the time or resources to perform marketing and correspondence on your own ahead of time.

What you should look for in your prospective partner is a company or organization that is a complement, but not a competitor, to your business. An optics manufacturer can partner with a rifle maker; a company that manufactures footwear can easily pair with an apparel manufacturer, and so on. Offer to pay a fee to hold meetings in their booth, or, at a minimum, bring food and drinks for all who are staffing their booth at the show. You’d be surprised how far a few sub sandwiches and some cold beverages can go when someone hasn’t left their booth except for a quick bathroom break.

If you are a retailer or firearms dealer, find someone who is attending the show but is in a different geographical area than you are. Offer to share contacts and connections and divide your total list among each other. Take their contact info, flyers and business cards with you to pass out, and give them some of yours. I’ve seen this work wonders for smaller operations, and it can allow a lot more time for follow-up visits and conversations both at and after the show.


7. Throw a Party

Evening events, dinners and parties can do wonders for your bottom line. Make sure that whatever you choose to do is sent to a highly targeted list, is easy to get to, and is of the highest quality in order to be appealing to attend. Free food and drinks should be a starting point, not the entire point. Have some premium promotional items to give to attendees, or, at a minimum, have some high-quality giveaways as a reason for people to attend. I know someone who won a training course from Gunsite at an event, and he still talks about the party, the company that was hosting, and the fact that they continue to do business years afterward.


8. Bring in a Hired Gun

Celebrities large and small can get you a lot of attention in a little time. I am often surprised both at the lines to see some of these folks as well as the bargain price many of them can be had at. Having a celebrity at your booth or event can make a huge difference in its attendance and success.


9. Relax

This is very important. Stress can have a negative affect on you, your employees, and your ability to close deals. Following a plan, executing it well, and being flexible enough to take advantage of opportunities that present themselves and to address challenges or issues will go a long way toward your success.


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