ORLANDO/CENTRAL FLORIDA The Orange County Convention Center is filled with more than 40,000 golf professionals and retailers from 90 countries for the P.G.A. Merchandise Show, the industry’s annual global summit for the business of golf that wraps up tomorrow. In addition to an extensive education conference, the event offers a huge trade show floor where buyers can see the latest golf equipment, apparel, accessories, and technology from more than 1,000 brands. Organizers know that the show—covering almost 10 miles of aisles—can be overwhelming, so they have developed a comprehensive program to ensure their most influential buyers have a positive experience.
“It’s not just about getting them to the show and offering perks and amenities and doing things to make them feel special. That’s stuff I assume a lot of groups are doing,” says Marc Simon, event director for P.G.A. Golf Exhibitions. “But it’s taking that next level at the show to foster connections and really introducing those key buyers not only to the larger brands in the industry but to some of the smaller and new companies.”
The program, dubbed TAP for Targeted Attendee Program, is based on a combination of preshow communications, on-site amenities, and custom matchmaking with exhibitors for the approximately 1,400 participants. A dedicated team of show staff communicate with TAP members starting in October through emails, phone calls, and in-person visits. “It’s a very personalized program. We ask them what’s going on with their business. What kind of products are you looking to see? How can we make the show as valuable as possible for you?” Simon says.
That information is combined with exhibitor data to generate recommendations of companies the TAP buyers should meet at the show. In addition, buyers have an opportunity to meet one-on-one with some exhibitors before the show opens. “These are just 15- to 20-minute meetings, no product pitch, just getting to know the people and the company. So when they go to the show the next day, they have that familiarity and it makes business getting done a lot easier,” he says.
TAP buyers also receive a preshow “look book” filled with profiles of new products being launched at the show. Once the floor opens, these buyers vote for the most interesting new products, and the winning exhibitor receives a “buyers’ choice” award. Simon says this program, which began last year, has fostered excitement among exhibitors vying for the award and makes it easy for buyers to find the newest products. Organizers also offer TAP participants hosted tours of the show led by a show staff member that has expertise in that specific segment of exhibitors.
Simon says while the TAP program began with a focus on providing value for buyers—and their satisfaction rates are more than 90 percent—it has become a clear benefit for exhibitors, too. “We’ve seen our new exhibitor satisfaction go up and return rates of exhibitors go up. Feedback has been extremely positive,” he says. In addition to the communications and matchmaking, TAP participants also get access to an exclusive lounge at the show that offers breakfast and lunch and a concierge staff.
Simon says one thing organizers have learned as they have developed the program is to request that TAP participants take full advantage of the opportunities they have. “When you offer amenities and a customized program, don’t be afraid to then ask your top buyers to do some things for you,” he says. “We don’t require, but we can strongly suggest, they participate in the programs that drive exhibitor value, such as a networking reception. And once we’ve gotten them to do that, the feedback is often: ‘Thanks for pushing me to do that.’”