Trade shows are a fantastic way to get your products seen by (and into!) shops across the country, as well as gain valuable feedback about your product. They're also a great chance to meet like-minded creatives who understand the business. But there is a downside: they can be notoriously expensive, stressful, and a costly mistake if you don't make the most of your time there.
Thinking of giving one a go? Here's how to leave with a smile, rather than a big hole in your bank account.
1) Get your product right. It may seem obvious, but it's crucial factor before you spend any money on a flashy trade stand. Do some research first; take your products to local markets and get feedback from your customers. You want to be able to talk about your product with confidence, and know it will sell.
2) Work out your ROI. What do you hope to gain from the show? How many orders do you need to take to make it worth your while? Starting with a target in mind is a great idea, so you can measure your successes, and improve your approach next time. It's always nice to be able to achieve the cost of the stand by orders directly taken at a show, but also be mindful of the long-term view, and try and value each connection based on this. If a shop repeat orders regularly over a number of years, then the benefit of opening an account at a show is worth a lot more than just the initial order.
3) Pick your location. Where you are positioned in a trade show can impact how effective your stand is. Consider the following:
1) Consider 1m depth stands - long and thin. Most likely, you'll be wanting to display your product on the walls so you will not want to pay for depth. Long and thin means buyers will spend longer walking past your stand.
2) Consider corner stands, which are more visible than stands with 3 walls - as they are visible from more locations, and feel more spacious and open.
3) Some tradeshows have specific areas for start-up businesses, which are a more affordable way to get your products seen. Definitely worth asking about!
4) Create a beautiful stand! (At a reasonable price). Visuals are so important at trade shows, and when you're next to hundreds of stalls selling similar products, you want to make sure yours stands out. The design should capture the essence of you and your product, and display your designs clearly. But keep it cheap to begin with. If you start doing more shows, you'll have a good idea of what is working for you and can invest in more sturdy stands. It helps to make friends with someone who's good at DIY!
5) Record data. This is one of the most important aspects of the trade show. Keep a book within easy reach to staple in contact cards and write down the shops you speak to. We could write a whole article just on the post-show tactics, but the main thing is to keep in touch! They might not buy today, but in six months when they're looking for Christmas stock, you could have just what they're looking for.
6) Be prepared. Be ready for any question that may get asked of you. Know your prices off by heart. Know your margins in case some negotiation is required. What is your minimum order size for free delivery? How many of X product is it to achieve that? How is business doing? What are you best sellers? When can they expect delivery?
7) Bring your own food. We've yet to buy a reasonably priced sandwich at a trade show, so if you want to save a small fortune, bring your own packed lunch! Be sure to eat away from your stand if possible though.
8) Be patient. Don't be disheartened if you've not got all the orders you were hoping for by the end of the show; it can be a slow burn. It might be months before you see any return on investment. Keep hold of your contacts!
9) Marketing. Make the most of the online marketing materials provided by the trade show, such as adding photos and information to your web listings. Have something to hand out to interested parties - flyers, a catalogue, samples etc. Use social media. Make a noise!
10) Have fun. These shows are long. If you are happy and enjoying the show, buyers will sense this and be drawn to you - compared to those sitting down, tired or bored. Make friends with your neighbours! I'm sure they've got plenty of stories and experiences that are not only interesting and will pass the time, but you can learn from. Enjoy your time there!