Alliance, Ohio-based Robertson Heating Supply used to save its Expo and Buying Show for big occasions such as its five-year anniversaries.
“We did one every five years going back into our 83-year history,” Robertson Heating Supply Vice President of Marketing Scott Middleton said. “They were traditionally a single-location event at our distribution center in Alliance.”
Thanks to having branches in football-crazed areas, that strategy changed 10 years ago. “We started taking the show on the road annually,” Middleton explained. “We liked the Au-gust timeframe because football is big around us, the preseason is getting started and my (Cleveland) Browns still are undefeated.”
And the rest, as they say, is history. Robertson once again enjoyed huge success with its expo and buying shows this summer, which were held at the University of Michigan’s Michigan Stadium (The Big House), Heinz Field in Pittsburgh (home of the NFL’s Pittsburgh Steelers) and FirstEnergy Stadium (home of the Browns).
In previous years, the road shows have gone to Ohio State University and the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, and PPG Paints Arena, home of the NHL’s Pittsburgh Penguins.
“Our goal with these shows is value and partnership,” Middleton said. “It gives customers a place to come and interact with reps and vendors ranging from vendor regionals up to senior management. It’s certainly a great buying opportunity plus there is that interaction. We bring key decision-makers together from both sides. Our vendor partners are able to meet key customers face to face. It’s a strong annual event for all involved.”
Middleton said a typical expo has 60-70 manufacturer booths and attracts 400-500 people. “For us, it’s a good-size event,” he said. “It’s one afternoon. We have found them to be incredibly successful. It’s a show our customers and partners wait for and plan purchases around.”
Some expos also have offered training opportunities and guest speakers such as former NFL player Chris Spielman and former Ohio State football coach Jim Tressel.
Middleton added the purchasing part of the show continues to be a key attraction. “We try and have a strong mix of both A-moving items as well as displaying new items,” he said. “It’s a very good educational opportunity because all our partners are in one location at one time. It’s a buying show first and we set goals to achieve, but the true success is in the interaction; the questions, the answers, the follow-up and developing deeper relationships.”
A number of customer incentives also are part of the shows, ranging from the opportunity to earn Yeti coolers, NASCAR race tickets and even getaway trips. “It’s an exciting time of year,” Middleton said. “Football is starting up. Customers come to these events, talk football, get good deals on products and are able to interact with our staff and our vendor partners. We see these as a win for everybody. It’s a day of camaraderie and partnership.”