Trade shows are great places to make friends and influence people. But might it be better to take your own show on the road? Carl Aschinger, CEO of $28-million Columbus Show Case, knows it is.

Aschinger, whose Ohio company makes a variety of retail display cases -- some with fancy electronics -- for supermarkets, has been taking his show to customers and prospects since 1988, but he doesn't claim to have invented the idea. He does claim results, though. In his industry a sales call leads to success a maximum of 25% of the time. But when he began putting on his own show, his hit rate rose to 40%. Conventional trade shows yield a 10% to 12% return, he says, and staging his own, at midpriced hotels, costs him 50% less.

About seven times a year a Columbus Show Case team -- a salesperson, a marketing rep, and a mechanic -- visits supermarket headquarters from San Francisco to Boston and Los Angeles to Tampa (and last year, Mexico City) with a truckload of glass cases.

"We target exactly who we want to meet. It could be the head buyer or merchandisers or the vice-presidents of construction," says Aschinger. "It's a great tool, one we'll use for many years to come."