Who or what type of businesses are in your wholesale target market? How much "off retail" is the pricing structure you created that you spoke about?
I`m a Promoter for a Bead and Jewelry Show. I do 44 week-end shows a year in various locations around the US.
The key to your success is Location and Presentation.
Review the floorplan of the location and see where you are being placed. Paying a few dollars more for a prime location ( near the door but not the first one customers see when they enter) is worth the money.
Place incondescent lighting ( 3 per table at 120 watts per light) to highlight your merchandise.
Have a ton of business cards and brochures.
A TV monitor showing a "loop" demonstration of your product and, of course, your product so you can give live demonstrations.
Finally, bring your best smile and a mile of patience.
Good luck and if you have anymore questions, let me know.
One way to present the concept that you need full payment, at least to the smaller buyer, is to tell them that all new accounts are required to pre-pay on their first order. Explain that once you have developed a satisfactory relationship you may be able to extend terms on re-orders.
At least that way you can get the cashflow started. Re-invest profits into product so that you can at least move to a COD basis quickly.
Large volume orders are a different story. You may be able to set some sort of terms. It could be 50% with the order and balance on delivery. But many will want to pay 30-90 days after delivery.
All of this is negotiable and sometimes just being honest with the buyer about being a bootstrap start-up may result in some front money from them, especially if they really like the product and see a long relationship ahead.
If you have a good relationship with your bank you could possibly borrow against purchase orders.
Do you actually manufacture the units yourself or do you contract it out? If you contract, perhaps the manufacturer may extend credit based on valid purchase orders. If you are doing it yourself you might be able to work a deal with your parts and materials suppliers.
There is one tradeshow marketing technique that I have used for at least getting my brochures into peoples hands. Many booths will have a bowl of candy to draw people to the table. I would spend a bit more for TootsieRollPops and tape each one of them to a brochure. That way the "grazers" would at least get my marketing materials instead of just a free snack.
I may be misreading your post; my apologies if I`m preaching to the choir.
I`ve done tradeshows for a number of years, albeit not in your market. I get more out of these shows today than I did when I first started out because I`ve realized a very important thing: Tradeshows are not about closing business. Sure, it might happen - I`ve had it happen myself - that you close business during a show. But, if you go to a show with the idea of closing business, you`ll be missing out on what a tradeshow really offers -- the chance to make contacts now that you can turn into new business later.
When my mindset was closing business, I spent so much time trying to find and engage `hot prospects`, that I gave short shrift to those who were `just looking` or `possibly interested`. Result: few closed deals and few contacts made. When I realized that I was doing myself a disservice by concentrating on `hot prospects` and began instead to engage all comers, I ended up much farther ahead. Sure, I don`t close any more business than before, but I don`t close any less business either (as far as I can tell), and I make lots and lots of contacts, many of whom become buyers in the weeks and months after a show.