Phew, April was FULL of big trade shows and events for me here at Verstara! I’ve been attending trade shows for about 10 years now, and while it feels stressful preparing everytime, I feel like I’ve come so far in my prepping skills!
My first show ever I was TERRIFIED I wouldn’t have enough stock. I wasn’t thinking that I was literally going to sell out of everything, I was worried people would be bored and have nothing to look at! So for months I worked my butt of, creating hundreds of pieces of horsehair jewelry to sell at this trade show. Well was I ever in for a big surprise…. You see, I KNOW that most of my clients want custom work, I KNOW that 99% of my work is done as memorial, tribute or keepsake pieces, so why I thought it was important to have ready to sell pieces, I’ll never know, but I ended up bringing most of them home with me from that trade show. I wasn’t disappointed though, I had enough custom orders to keep me busy for a while!
After that, I started to make a list of what I really needed to bring, what people really wanted to see, and the must-haves to take with you. These are my three top tips for heading to your first trade show, hopefully they will help you avoid some of the grief I experienced.
Set clear goals for yourself.
Are you wanting to sell products? Are you wanting to build brand awareness? Do you want to generate leads, network, or launch a new product? Once you know your goal, you can plan around it. Do you have a best seller? Bring that! Do you have stock you’d like to clear out? Have a fire sale at your booth - I saw one booth a few weekends ago that looked like a black friday frenzy in the US - it was crazy! Their deals were so good, and they hit their objective, they cleared out their stock!
Signage, Banners and Promotional Products
Signage is your most important asset at a trade show! You have 3 seconds to grab someone's attention before they move onto the next booth… THREE! Make your banner big, make it very straight to the point and not busy. I made this mistake and put hours into a highly detailed banner, lots of pictures etc. No one took the time to read it, it was very frustrating! The next year I brought a 10’ long banner, a simple picture on a white background, my business name and a very clear - JEWELRY MADE WITH YOUR OWN HORSE’S TAIL HAIR - tagline. Simple, straight to the point and easy to read.
While it may be tempting to spend money on promotional items such as pens, bottle openers, etc, think for a minute, where is the last promo item you picked up at a trade show? Did it end up in a junk drawer or trash? If you want to hand out something, make little packs of candies with your business card attached, order branded stickers or magnet calendars, or invest in something that is related to your field of business. For example, Verstara could give away scissors for cutting horse tail but it would be useful elsewhere too. If you were in the pet industry, hand out branded fur brushes, pet treats or leashes etc.
Be Friendly and Present and engage!
Be friendly first! Say hello, make eye contact, offer a candy, or offer simple information such as a brochure, business card or promotional gift. Engage with them, ask them how they are enjoying the show, ask if they’ve come looking for something specific. Ask if they have heard about your business before. Generally people are very nice and will stop to chat, if they are not interested they will then leave, or if you’ve intrigued them, they will come in and see what else you have to offer! Most importantly, be PRESENT. Don’t sit staring at your phone, put it away for the day, I promise you’ll be ok! If you have a helper in your booth, don’t give off the appearance that your in a serious conversation, keep it light and know that if someone walks by, your conversation will be interrupted by one of you greeting them.
Trade shows are a lot of fun, and an excellent way to generate sales, leads and brand awareness. With a little preparation you can have a very rewarding and profitable booth. I hope these little tips help you when your considering your first trade show.