As a small business owner, I know too well the investment required to attend a trade show. But if you present the right products to the right buyers, just one trade show can be sufficient to grow your business more than you could in weeks of driving about, emails and phone calls.
I attended my first show back in 2002 and I've never looked back since. As I prepare to attend both NY Now in New York this weekend and the Autumn Gift Fair in Citywest, Dublin next weekend, I thought I'd share with you my 5 ways to get the most from a Trade Show:
The number one success factor at a trade show is your display. You want to make sure you're creating an impact with your stand and that people stop to find out more. I've found over the years that the most impactful displays are simple and clean so that in a moment, a buyer can get a feel for your brand. You want to put yourself in the shoes of that buyer and have a display that will draw in potential customers in their shop too.
2. Something New
Every buyer wants to know what's new. This is particularly important if you've met a buyer or shop before. But equally, if it's your first trade show, potential buyers will ask if you've got something different or special for this trade show, be it a gift set or something for Christmas, in the case of the Autumn Fair. Even if you only have a prototype of this new product, bring it and have it on your order forms..
3. Offers & Samples
Buyers will ask for a show offer and there are a few options on this front. I usually offer a discount on offers over a certain amount and/or offer a free product. Additionally, I bring along some lower cost items to offer as samples for potential stockists. Many people like to go away and reflect on the different businesses they've seen that day and it's more likely they will order if they have a sample to remember you by. Many of our orders come in after trade shows thanks to this.
But even if you don't secure that many sales, a trade show is a fantastic networking event. You can build relationships with businesses that you can call to visit or phone/email after the show. You can chat to other wholesale businesses and share best practice or contacts. Most importantly, you will see what competition you have in your sector. Don't be afraid to approach your competitors and admire their stand. Walk around and see what stands are busy and try to work out why - take notes for your next show so that you can be that busy stand next time.
You'll also be approached by other entrepreneurs who want to sell to you - graphic designers, social media consultants, point of sale businesses etc. It goes without saying, bring lots of business cards and brochures to spread the word about you and your business.
It goes without saying, a trade show is exhausting. Bring plenty of water and have a hidden space in your stand to store healthy snacks in case you don't get a chance to take a lunch break. Take breaks when you can - make the most of the lulls and if you're alone, have an arrangemnt with a stand nearby to watch each others stands for these short breaks. You don't want to miss an important buyer.
Wear comfortable shoes - oh I've learned the hard way with this! You need to look smart and presentable but heels are not a good idea. Dress in an approachable way - not too formal but not too casual either.
You can find details of trade shows appropriate to your business using a simple online search. The Display Wizard list on this link is probably the most useful one for UK based shows. If you're still unsure, it's advisable to 'walk' a show before you take a stand so don't be afraid to sign up as an attendee. Usually if you have a business card or headed paper and can prove you're a business, you'll be able to attend a trade show. Individual shows will detail the requirements on their websites.