Growing Your Business: Preparing for Trade Shows series

grow your own business preparing for trade shows

Hello! It’s Avis from Avie Designs again with my series on Preparing for Trade Shows for my post called “You’ve made it to the show, now what?”. I am right off the plane from my trip to the National Stationery Show in NYC so this subject is fresh in my mind.

At a trade show, you’re pretty much tethered to your booth for a few days and it becomes your home. A better way to think of it is your very own retail store. And as with any retail store, there are a few techniques to make sure that you sell the product successfully.

1. Look alert and attentive:

I can tell you that I walked by booths at the show where people were reading magazines, sitting down and looking disinterested. This does not help to make your booth look inviting to passersby. You do not need to stand the entire 4 days, but standing or sitting, you need to look alert and ready to answer questions.

2. Anyone can walk into your booth so be friendly to all:

These shows attract all sorts of industry people. Press, buyers, artists, resources and competitors. It can be hard to tell right off the bat what role each person will play in your business so it’s best to be nice and greet everyone. At the National Stationery Show, badges are worn to differentiate the many industry groups but they can be hard to spot or read and it’s really not nice to look at someone’s badge before their eyes. Greet everyone like you would want to be greeted. You never know when someone from a major magazine or retailer is going to walk into your booth.

3. Be informative but not pushy:

When someone walks into your booth, great them, let them know you’re there to answer questions but do not overwhelm them. It’s a good idea to let them lead the conversation from that point on. You may feel free to add little tidbits of info as conversation starters but if they’re not into it, they’re not into it. Being too pushy can run someone out of your booth. You’ll learn quickly through trial and error during the show which information is exciting to buyers and which isn’t. When you stumble upon those magical words, you can then make sure you drop them with everyone that comes by. You should be able to answer all of the major questions that come up but there is bound to be one customer that asks you a crazy question and don’t be afraid to tell them that you’ll get back with them.

4. Listen more than you talk:

You can learn so much from the retailers at a trade show. They are your customer and you need to listen to them. If one person tells you something, it may not be relevant but if you hear is over and over again, it’s time to listen. This is a great place to learn about your customer so that you can give them what they want and in turn make more sales.

5. Have your materials ready:

Be sure to have your business cards, catalogs and order forms handy. There will be a lot of people that are seeing you for the first time and want to just take your information so that they can keep you in mind. You never know when this will turn into something later down the line, so freely give out that information but make sure to get their card too so that you can follow up with them. We’ll cover that in the next installment. Also, you never can tell when someone is going to say “okay, I’m ready to order” so you need to be ready at all times to take an order.

6. Be flexible:

Just this week, we realized pretty quickly that we needed to move one product to the front because it was a traffic stopper, so we changed everything around the first day. It helped a lot and many more people stopped than would have with our original display.

7. Be open to the possibilities:

You may think that you’re going to the show to sell your boxed stationery but you end up licensing your artwork instead. These are the types of possibilities that are available at trade shows and you need to be ready for them.

8. Write everything down:

There is so much going on at the show that you will not remember everything you promised everyone or the information you are given. Prepare a system for keeping up with notes and stick to it. Do not move on to the next item until you have documented what just happened.

9. Bring a chair, an extra person, water, food and comfy shoes:

A trade show is exhausting. Make sure you have someone to cover for you when you need to use the restroom. Make sure you have a place to sit down every once in a while and make sure you have provisions. It really is a marathon so be prepared.

Next time (June 7th) we’re going to be talking about “Post Show Follow Up”.

– Avis Wampler, the creative force  behind Avie Designs, writes the column Growing Your Business: Preparing for Trade Shows series. Read more about her on the contributors’ page.