Canadian Music Trade - In Depth

Maximize Your Time at The NAMM Show

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By Michael Raine

The 2018 NAMM Show is fast approaching, ready to host the world’s MI, audio, and live production industries at the recently-expanded Anaheim Convention Center and surrounding hotels from Jan. 25-28. It’s always been a massive event, and this year, it’ll be even bigger.

As exciting and rewarding as it can be, the mega-show can also be a bit overwhelming and exhausting. To get the most out of it, attendees need to be prepared with a solid a plan of attack. To help out with this, we sought out a well-respected NAMM Show veteran to share his tips on how MI stores can get the most out of their time in California.

Jerry Hunt is the purchasing manager for Richmond Hill, ON’s MI megastore Cosmo Music. He estimates he has been to around 25 NAMM Shows, so he has learned a thing or two about how to be productive and comfortable during his four hectic days on the sprawling show floor. Each year, he leads the Cosmo delegation of 10 to 16 department managers and other staff to the show. Based on his experience and Cosmo Music’s best practices, here are his top tips.

Know your schedule before you book flights and hotels: “Before you even book your seats on the airplane or book hotels, I would recommend you check out any pre- and post-show events that may pertain to your store. NAMM always puts on a number of things pre and post, and then some vendors or manufacturers, such as Taylor or Fender, will also have special events for exclusive customers who have custom shop store outlets or dealers that specialize in Taylor guitars, for example. They’ll have these pre-show events that are only open to those dealers by invite to show guitars that they don’t even show at The NAMM Show. Of course, you have first shot at purchasing these, so this is a great buying opportunity if you plan ahead. If you book your tickets and you don’t know the dates, then you’re out.”

Arrange factory visits: “There are a number of factories and manufacturers who are around the Anaheim/L.A. area. Again, if you schedule ahead of time and plan ahead, you can visit them on your route either pre- or post-NAMM. Again, you’ve already paid for tickets, so you may as well maximize your time. Most of these guys are more than willing to show you around.”

Everyone should know their mission: “We meet with our team that we’re taking before we head out. We set goals, objectives, areas to visit, brands to capture, categories, etc. That way, we’re not all just running off to one booth and wasting time. We’ll all have an agenda and everybody sort of scatters and has a goal in mind.”

Contact suppliers ahead of time: “Before you go out, reach out to suppliers you want to connect with and the person responsible for your territory. This is important if there are no distributors in Canada and you’re dealing with outside companies, either in the U.S. or Germany or wherever. Email them first and get their contact information and who you’d want to meet with and set an appointment because that is hard to do once you’re there.”

Schedule appointments strategically: ”Schedule appointments with key and new accounts and not with everybody. Also, line up your appointments so that you minimize the walking time. Strategically plan it out so that you’re not running 15 or 20 minutes between appointments, because there goes your day.”

Book rental vehicles: “Pre-book rental vehicles well in advance. Those things get booked up really fast, especially if you need a van or two.”

Purchase special items immediately: “We know certain companies will introduce limited pieces. Whether it’s only one in Canada or 25, we try and get that kind of information from the reps ahead of time. If not, then we try and visit those vendors on the first morning. If you know some key vendors have been known to release limited pieces, then you hit those first. It’s very important because if you go the second or third day, they’re going to be sold out.”

Meet the right people: “While you’re there, speak with and get to know the marketing VP and CEOs, etc., so you can put a face to the email or phone call you have back home. This will come in handy once you return because now you know who you’re communicating with and if you need to pull some strings or ask for that other deal or marketing strategies, you know who to communicate with rather than just the rep.”

Ask for NAMM Show specials: “There are always show specials. For some unique products, sometimes they’ll say, “This particular item is only for NAMM attendees,” and sometimes it’s in the back room and they don’t even show it on the main floor. So always ask for that and make sure your rep is in the know. If you don’t ask, you don’t get.”

Have someone taking photos & videos: “Have a video or camera person or crew that takes still photos and videos that you can upload right there while you’re at NAMM and also bring back with you. They could coordinate that with somebody back at the store so when the information comes in, they can upload it right away to your site and now you’ve got instant information [for customers] right away.”

Meet regularly with your team: “[At the show] we meet regularly with the group and see what they found. If some of us need to go back to that brand, then we will so that we can negotiate whatever deal that needs to be done.”

Spend the appropriate amount of time with suppliers: “Say I want to see this new account, which we’ve never dealt with and it’s a large account, then I’ll give them a good hour because it’s going to be about discovery. They want to know who we are, we want to tell them who we are, and there might be five of us trying to persuade that client. It might be one of those ones that needs convincing why we should open you up and there are a lot more parameters involved.

If it’s a string line, no problem. It could be 10 minutes. Like, ‘Hey, how are you doing? My name is Jerry and I’m from Cosmo. Here’s my card.’ If it’s not a franchise line, I wouldn’t spend too much time on that. Quite often, if it’s something I am passing by and I see a nice product, I’ll just pick up the card and contact information, ask for the discounts, and then go on my way.”

Get a good Breakfast (of Champions): “As a group, we go to the Breakfast of Champions at the Hilton. We get there early, like 7 a.m., we all get a seat, and we have a good breakfast… Of course, it’s also quite informative. [At least] have some kind of nutrients to keep you going. Some people skip breakfast, but I think having a good breakfast is important.”

Leave extra time on Sunday: “We always leave extra time on Sunday. That way, anybody we need to go back to revisit, rehash, and also follow up on the Best in Show items that we missed, then we go back and hit those.”

Follow up: “When we come back, all the guys will give me their business card contacts that they have and any catalogs or brochures. Anything that they think is a must-have, they’ll put a little extra sticker on for me. Everything is done within the two to three weeks [after the show].”

Share with your staff: “When we come back – this is really crucial – we review what we saw at the show. What we do here at Cosmo is what we call a “post-NAMM preview” at the store for all employees, including cashiers, receptionists, office staff, warehouse staff – anybody is invited to this event. We put together a slide show of maybe the five top items that we saw at the show and new lines that we’re bringing in. We give them a slide presentation recapping the show, as well as ETAs and pricing of what’s to come.”


Michael Raine is the Senior Editor of Canadian Music Trade

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Michael Raine is the Editor-in-Chief at Canadian Musician, Canadian Music Trade, Professional Sound, and Professional Lighting & Production magazines. He also hosts the Canadian Musician Podcast.
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