It’s a brave new world of landscaping trade shows in the post-pandemic era. After a brief hiatus, some of the most prominent landscaping trade shows are making a come back. However, is your landscaping business ready with a strategy to get more out of your trade show investments? The GoMaterials marketing team synced up with the Florida Nursery Growers and Landscape Association, organizers of the biggest industry trade shows in Florida, for tips on how to maximize ROI from events.
Read our full conversation below with Billy Deal, Director of Associations Services at FNGLA.
Thank you for meeting us Billy, can you tell us about your professional background and role with the FNGLA?
I’ve been within the industry since 1990. I’ve studied horticulture and marketing. Along the course of the journey, I worked for a very large grower of trees and shrubs based here in Florida and predominantly sold them and brokered them in the central Florida market. Eventually I came aboard the FNGLA, and I’ve been here for about 7 years. My role is that I put together all the puzzle pieces to make sure that the association becomes that bridge that connects buyers, suppliers, and everyone who is a part of the industry.
Since events are so crucial for bringing the industry together, can you tell us how the pandemic changed it?
When the pandemic hit, of course that was a major bomb. Even though it was possible to technically have a show here in Florida, we knew that it wouldn’t have been the right thing to do. It also wouldn’t have had the look, the feel, or anything we’d normally expect with FNGLA landscape shows and events – it just wasn’t the right thing to do for FNGLA’s attendees and exhibitors. So, we had to pivot and make adjustments because the events also play a large part in funding our other initiatives. We chose to do a few things online to keep revenues going. I think overall, the industry has been extremely strong, and our members were deemed essential, so they were able to keep supporting FNGLA through the pandemic.
s businesses reopen, what advice would you offer to landscapers still trying to decide about attending events this year?
We are seeing a lot of anticipation from the industry to get together and put themselves in front of a big show. Speaking about just The Landscape Show, we are observing a greater number of registrations this year compared to 2019. So, if somebody hasn’t been to the event before or is still unsure, this is the year to try it. I think you’re going to see a lot of people attend events, especially, because they haven’t been able to do so for some time.
With more people attending, does the event strategy need to change for landscapers?
No, I don’t think so, if you consider a couple of recent industry trends. There was already pressure within the industry back in 2019 as far as locating and finding plant supplies was concerned. The pandemic compounded the situation with supply chain disruptions across multiple areas such as fertilizers, pots, and of course plant materials. Landscapers planning to attend events should consider it their top priority to gain knowledge and understanding about how all these different forces are hitting each other all at one time. It’s different when you talk to suppliers in person – some of the nuances are hard to capture on phone or email.
This brings us to an important question. How should the attendees prepare for the event?
As a business you always want to focus on the pain points of your customers, but it’s also important to keep an open mind about other factors. It might be a little off track but try to look at the events’ interactive floorplan to see with whom you might be interacting. I also recommend looking at the event website to see which topics/sessions are planned to get a sense of the chatter.
Your plan needs to account for small but important things like business cards. It’s interesting because business cards aren’t carried as much today with the younger demographics as before.
Workforce shortage issues are the next big pain point for the industry right now, how do the events help with that?
Well, we have a job board online, but perhaps attending a landscaping career fair can be a better option if that is your objective. It is mostly geared towards bringing in high school students and groups to come in and look at potential jobs within the industry. For example, FNGLA now has an apprentice program where we are literally taking new people wanting to get into the industry and connecting them with different businesses and employment and careers.
What tips can you offer to landscapers hoping for a better ROI from the event?
Before we come to ROI, it’s important to ask yourself about your objectives. Consider questions like:
What are you trying to do?
Why are you coming?
Are you coming just to walk around the floor and look at pretty plants?
If you are bringing multiple people, think about what a good “plan of attack” would be as a team. You can set individual objectives and then measure results as per that.
Let’s not forget the personal growth opportunities as well. For example, we have education programs, some of them cost only a little bit more than the ticket cost of the event. One to two hours of paid sessions in areas such as business management or pesticides and diseases can get you your CEUs.
There is another thing to consider which is ROR – return on relationship. Look at the relationships built at these events year after year and think “hey it cost me $20 to get in this show, what did I get in return?”. Chances are your strengthened relationships are well worth the attendance costs.
Specific to FNGLA and The Landscape Show, what support do you offer to the attendees?
The big one is knowledge. Within the event itself you have plenty of opportunities to update your knowledge on many diverse subjects. Another is the sense of being together as an industry. This ties in with our theme of being “together again” – we haven’t been together as a full group for a couple years now. The peer-to-peer and the business-to-business connections are very much what we try to facilitate.
Is there anything you want to add about The Landscape Show?
This year’s event is going to be very special. We are planning a “forest-bathing” area inside the show floor. The best part is, all the materials will be contributed by exhibitors, to form this green centerpiece. We also have a big lineup of events on Wednesday and Thursday evenings apart from The Landscape Show’s opening night reception, and the FNGLA tapped-in for young professionals etc.
Will you be attending any landscaping tradeshows this year? Meet GoMaterials team at the landscaping show!
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