Whether you’re planning to go to your first trade show soon or you’re a trade show pro – check out the five detailed tips below on how to take advantage of these events to help your business prosper!
1. Make connections with other vendors: Networking at a trade show is no big secret. Essentially, that’s the whole point of trade shows! But be sure to not only get the attention from prospective companies you’d like to see your products represented by, but also that of other vendors. It’s important to make connections with like-minded small businesses, and yes, even your competitors. Many vendors are happy to tip others off about interesting events, great contacts, or must-see websites to check out — and it’s always beneficial to see how other businesses work and to take a peek at their products in person. You might even be inspired to collaborate in some way or join forces together!
During downtime, make an effort to introduce yourself to the booths and tables next to you – and if you can – venture to other category areas to spark different ideas. If you do make a great connection with another vendor, show appreciation by letting them know about the great tips that you have hidden up your sleeve! #SharingIsCaring
2. Join social events before and/or after the trade show: Being present at the big trade show is, of course, crucial. But sometimes you can make stronger and more natural connections with others in a more intimate setting. (Mix and mingle parties, lunch or dinner dates, or networking events/conferences.) People tend to open up more when there’s food and drinks involved and when a more carefree vibe has settled in. You can find interesting events by asking other contacts, actually reading the newsletters you’re subscribed to, checking out meetup.com, or using the power of Google.
Extra tip: If you think you have a pretty promising contact list – maybe you can even throw a small gathering yourself! This would illustrate authority on your part and will strengthen the important relationships you already have. Don’t be scared to mix your vendor contacts with your merchant contacts, this will only encourage your invited guests to join.
3. Be sure you and anyone helping you knows your collection: Nothing is worse than asking questions at a booth and having someone who can’t talk about their own line! One thing I’ve learned here at UncommonGoods is that buyers tend to stray away from unorganized or flighty vendors, no matter how great the product is. Know the product name, pricing, materials, and any other important information that someone might ask you right on the spot. If you have any friends or family helping you at your booth, prep them with information about your designs and provide them a cheat sheet if you can. Even if the potential merchant knows that the person helping you isn’t the direct designer, they are still a reflection of your business.
Extra tip: Be sure to give out information beyond pricing to beef up anyone’s interest. What makes your product special? Is it where it was made, how it was made, or who made it? Does it give a cut of its proceeds to a certain charity? Are there multiple uses of your designs? Think outside the box, because this is how a buyer will pitch any of their potential items to their team. The more powerful and interesting the story is, the better. Sure, the buyer can dig through your website to find this information you’ve probably already beautifully explained in detail. But I still suggest to hook them on the spot when you can, because there’s no guarantee they’ll visit your website once they float off to the next booth. (Even if you give them a business card!)
4. Show appreciation and send follow-ups on social media platforms: The reality of trade shows is that merchants, buyers, and companies are looking at hundreds of booths for hours, days, and for some – the entire week! Your goal? Have them remember yours! Even if your product is amazing, it’s hard to stand out against hundreds of other innovative products. Besides following this display advice, you have to do more than just depend on your great products and hope that you’ll receive an email in the next few days. Take charge of the contacts you’ve made not only with a follow-up email, but also with giving them a shout out on social media a few days later, something short and sweet with a bit of personality will do.
Example: @prospectivebuyer – It was great meeting you and I’m so happy you enjoyed our new line. Let me know if you’d like me to send a sample!
When you and the potential contact are saying your goodbyes at your booth, ask if they are on Twitter, Instagram, or LinkedIn and write down their personal handle name so you know the message will go directly to them. If you’re feeling bold, ask to snap a photo with them (or them wearing/holding your designs) and share that photo when you send your tweet or post. Not only will this jog their memory of who you are, but that prospective buyer will feel extra special.
Extra tip: Be sure that your feed has some type of recent activity before contacting anyone. Post a few photos, retweet/post a couple of articles, and write out personable comments. A “dead” social media platform won’t exactly work in your favor.
5. Project energy and be positive: We all know trade show days are long! A constant smile on your face and an upbeat personality at all times might not be super realistic, but keep in mind that carrying positive energy is vital. It’ll make your day a lot more bearable and you’ll be more on your toes and alert. Think of it like you’re hosting a party – invite the buyers and your contacts, welcome them into your space, and keep them engaged! Also, remember to be supportive of your fellow artists and designers. Buyers love it when designers suggest other booths to check out, it shows a collaborative spirit and buyers have told me that it makes them love you even more. (And it’s good Karma!)