Making the Most of a Trade Show

Making the Most of a Trade Show

Attending a trade show is one of the most effective ways to reach your audience as a craft business. Trade shows gather all your customers and clients together in one space for a targeted event focused on brand recognition, brand awareness, and face-to-face networking. Trade shows allow you to directly address your customer’s needs and pain points in real time. Also, there’s no better place to gauge your competition in the marketplace and determine how your own business measures up.

However, trade shows are costly affairs. They demand time, money, and a lot of effort to attend and receive results, so it’s important to attend trade shows fully prepared. You want to wring the most out of the event you possibly can. Today, we’re going to offer some tips and tricks for making the most of trade shows.

 

Start Early

To get the most out of attending a trade show, make sure to engage with your audience early so that they know where you will be and what you will have with you. 

  • Send emails to your wholesale customers. In the months leading up to the show, send reminders to your customers about the show and encourage attendance. 
  • Send an appointment reminder email. A month before the show, send a newsletter reminding your subscribers about the upcoming show that includes the opportunity to schedule an appointment with you at the show. 
  • Remind your audience about what they can expect to see from you at the show. If you are doing giveaways, contests, revealing new products, or handing out any fun swag, be sure to tease the information in your missives.

Determine Your Desired Outcome

What do you want to get out of attending trade shows? Decide your goal for attendance ahead of time. 

  • Do you want to increase sales? 
  • Do you want to promote brand awareness? 
  • Do you want to network with other businesses and customers? 

Think about your goals, and be realistic about your expectations. Once you know what you want to get out of the trade show, it becomes easier to assess how best to approach how you spend your time on the trade show floor.

If you want to increase sales, take a look at your offerings and decide the products you want to promote. If you want to promote brand awareness, plan ahead to create and then bring branded materials (and remember: depending on the distance, traveling to a trade show may inhibit how much you can bring). If your focus is on networking, then you may want a person or persons in your booth dedicated to speaking to potential customers—the last thing you want is customers eager to speak to someone, but not enough people in your booth to handle the trade show flow.

A Branded Experience

Even if brand awareness is not your top priority, remember that branded items make it easier for trade show attendees to remember your business long after the show is over. Determine what kinds of branded materials you want to bring to the show—and remember our note above, about how you will get those materials to the show (either shipped or carried on your person). 

The goal should be for attendees to remember your brand, your booth, and how they can get in touch with you in the future. It helps, too, if the items are useful—that way, people who pick up your items will be using and looking at them often! Here are some small ideas for branded trade show materials:

    • Pens. Include your booth number if you can!
    • Postcards.
    • Enamel pins.
    • Temporary Tattoos.
    • USB sticks.
    • Small notepads.
    • Tote bags. Drawstring backpacks are a nice alternative!
    • Craft items. Depending on your business, this could be a tape measure, stitch markers, notions bag, etc.
    • Keychain.

Prepare Early for Networking

You should expect to hit the ground running at a trade show, so don’t leave anything you can do before the event until the last minute. Planning your networking ahead of time will create space for last-minute meetings and necessary diversions. 

There are certain aspects of networking at a trade show you can prepare for early:

  • Look over the other trade show attendees and exhibitors. Make a list of the businesses and potential customers you’d like to connect with at the show.
  • Review new contacts on your list and try to set up meetings with them now. Trade show floors can be hectic spaces and calendars tend to fill up quickly, so if you can book your time with people early, you won’t miss out on the chance to speak with the top people on your list.  
  • Look at the trade show social events schedule. Trade shows are all about networking, so don’t miss out on the power of chance encounters at the trade show’s scheduled social events. The opportunity to make new connections is an experience you can’t properly quantify, so don’t let it go to waste.

 

Take Notes

Unless you have an eidetic memory, do not trust your brain to remember all the information it’s receiving at a trade show. Convention floors bustle with overlapping conversations and new people, and it can be impossible to keep track of new contact names and information.    

Here are some tips to combat the overwhelm that naturally occurs when navigating the trade show floor:

  • Bring a notebook and pen(s)! Take notes every time you meet someone new. Try to go beyond just their name and business to capture a few personal details that can help flesh out a follow up message (more on that later). Make notes about any products or services they inquire about. If you plan on sending a follow up message, add a mark to the notebook page so it’s easy to identify when flipping through pages later.
  • Bring a pocket stapler. Staple any business cards you collect into your notebook. You will collect more business cards than you can possibly carry and this will make them easier to keep and ensure you don’t lose any. 

 

Post to Social Channels

Don’t forget to post images from the trade show to your social channels. A potential customer could see your booth and floor photos and realize they don’t want to miss connecting with you. 

Some post ideas:

  • Your booth dressing – products, signage, etc
  • Your booth number
  • The times you will definitely be present at the booth (and potentially when you might be elsewhere)
  • Any giveaways or branded materials you have at your booth
  • Any people or businesses you’re excited to connect with

Follow Up

Don’t let all the hard work of attending the trade show go to waste—remember to follow up with the connections you made! This is where your notebook and the information you secured will really come in handy. Try to email your new contacts within a week of attending the show, when you’re still fresh in their minds. Remember to include any personal details you picked up at the show, including information about your products or services that interested them.

If you’d like to hear more about preparing for trades shows, including the up and coming h+h americas show this summer, check out Season 3, Episode 2 of the Business of Craft.

 

We hope this primer on making the most of attending trade shows helps you on your next trade show adventure. If you’d like help devising a social media strategy around your trade show attendance, contact us today!

 

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