Planning a successful trade show? As a former retail buying and product development director, I have spent a lot of time at trade shows. Across the UK, in Bologna, Cannes, Paris, Basel, Hong Kong, Dubai, Canton, South Africa the list was endless. I would visit trade shows to source the latest trends, discover new brands and draw inspiration for creating products and brands for retailers.
Trade shows are a great place to see and be seen. They come with a fair share of expenses, so the best way of managing your expectations is to view a trade show as a means of generating orders coupled with building brand awareness. It can be accounted for as a sales, marketing, a PR cost as well as a product development cost as it is all about innovating and seeing what your competitors are up too.
Whatever the reason for exhibiting at the trade show – whether a new product launch, packaging refresh or a year on year sales opportunity – there should always be something that you are ‘releasing’ for the first time to your customers at a trade show that generates anticipation and excitement. More importantly than finding the perfect spot for your sales stand is understanding where you are positioned within your industry and how you are innovating within it.
The idea is to generate footfall, excitement, some orders and to stand out against your competitors so that people remember you as a ‘star’ in your industry. Balancing business development versus PR exposure.
You should be booking appointments into your diary prior to the event for people visiting your stand, if you are not doing this think about your pre-sales technique and how you are driving footfall to your stand. I have been to trade shows where some of the biggest beauty companies in the world are ‘unveiling’ their next product launches, campaigns and training techniques for the coming year. Whilst your reason for exhibiting may not be as big as a new product (it may be a service or a new way of working) it should build excitement for people, encouraging them to speak with you.
So, you have finally decided to book a trade show. You have secured your spot, done your marketing, have all your stock and you are ready. And now you have a buyer on your stand who is genuinely interested in listing your product. What do you do?
Make sure you are well prepared, they will ask you all the questions you may have expected to answer had you scheduled in a meeting with them (read our post about what to include in your retail pack).
They may have said that they will contact you following the show, but after leaving the show you still haven’t heard from them. So how should you follow up with them?
Remember buyers receive many emails and are inundated after attending trade shows, so it is unlikely you will hear back from them straight away. Make sure that you have their business card and you can email them directly. Send through a follow up email reminding them about what they liked about your brand.
Buyers go to trade shows with a specific agenda in mind. They generally have range reviews coming up soon or they may be delisting a few brands and are potentially looking for solutions to replace these lost sales. They make ask you questions when speaking to you that spike your interest and alert you to their problems. Remember the questions they asked you, try an angle based email that solves their immediate problems, include this in your follow up email suggesting this as a solution to their problem.
Perhaps during the show, you received feedback from retailers that you pricing was too high. Or your packaging wasn’t right for their stores. Firstly, take this feedback on board and decide how you want to proceed. Was this a one-off comment or did a few people make the same comment. If so, how do you want to proceed? Turn a negative into a positive. If you decide you want to act on this, call them to let them know your viewpoint and how you are going to make the required changes and arrange a follow up meeting so that you can present your solutions to them. Be open minded and accepting of their views.
If you don’t hear back from a buyer, don’t worry. Buyers calendars are very booked up with range reviews, product development, managing suppliers, brands, staff and pricing. They may have liked you but are so inundated that they haven’t had time to barely breathe. Be newsworthy about your brand and your future events. Keep yourself on their radar by regularly posting invitations to events so that you remain top of mind when they need you next.
Trade shows are a great part of your marketing calendar. Treat them as an activity rather than the only sales solution and you will reap benefits from them over the years, both sales and PR related. It is not just about your sales and your customers, but also about securing your network and building your visibility in your industry. You are there to see and to be seen as an innovator and a valuable contender amongst your competitors.
Do you need support with managing your trade shows? Get in touch to discuss how we can help you.
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