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March 6, 2014

I’ll never forget my first time.

It was several years ago and I had just left a cable news network to accept a position as a social media coordinator at a public relations firm. On the side, I started writing about pets, various adventures with my dog, Toby, and had a few freelance social media clients in the pet industry.

I had a taste of it, but knew I wanted more. A lot more. So, I started to cover the pet industry like I would any other journalism subject. That’s how I found out about the Global Pet Expo, and decided it would benefit me to attend this industry trade show.

My guess was that it would give me better insight into the business, allow me to make professional connections, and let me more accurately assess if I wanted to make a career modification.

It was scary, expensive — I used built-up miles and hotel points to cover my travel — and overwhelming. But, it was also the best career decision I could have made at that point.

I left Orlando with a much clearer understanding of the pet industry, new contacts, a head overflowing with product information, story ideas and opportunities, as well as some very sore feet.

And, you know what? I haven’t missed one since.

If you haven`t been, Global, just like other industry trade shows, is ginormous. Being from the Northeast, I always hear from colleagues how I am so “lucky” to be going to Florida in the middle of winter. I just laugh, and try to explain what our schedules are like at Global.

“You are in a convention center from morning to night with back-to-back meetings and press conferences, while also trying to update social media, writing stories for the website and when you are not doing that, you are entertaining clients or networking. It’s not as glamorous as you think.”

Global, or any of the shows we attend for that matter, are greatly beneficial to us. We get to check out all the latest products, get ideas for stories, gain a better understanding of exactly what challenges the industry is currently facing, where the trends are headed, and see in person the people we talk to over the phone on a daily basis.

Speaking of talking to people in person, Global is the perfect opportunity for retailers to get face time with the companies they buy their products from. Many of you have sales reps that you talk to, or see, on a regular basis, but now is the time to meet the people behind the product.

Most companies send a majority of their team to Global. Yes, they tend to be very busy with meetings, but I suggest picking out several of your favorites and make it a point to at least ask if the person you may want to talk to is around.

If you do meet them, explain why you enjoy their product and how your customers like it. It will help create an impression and you never know what it could lead to. The next time your sales rep is trying to get you a special discount, or when they are looking for a store to test a new product in, you might just be at the top of that list.

Plus, it’s just nice. In a world where we are so quick to complain about something, it is a sweet gesture to tell someone something positive.

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