I've received some great feedback to my last post on should you or shouldn't you do a trade show as a start-up brand.
I've heard from designers who had similar bad experiences to mine, others that are contemplating if they should do a show and others who decided not to do one after they ready my article.
Since some of you felt that doing a trade show might still be the way for you, I decided to add a part two to the post...one that is more positive with tips on how to do a trade show successfully.
So, here are my 8 tips for having a successful trade show with your fashion brand:
1. Research & careful planning - choosing the right show for your brand is half the battle. There are many fashion trade show, big ones, small ones, ones that are geared towards specific markets. Some that are in big cities some that are in smaller cities and so on. You should do your homework and research them. Look them up, see if you can ask store buyers or your exciting accounts what shows they visit and why. Check your competition and see what shows they are doing. Look at the exhibitors list for the shows and get a feel of who is showing and/or if this is the right market for you. Contact the show if you have any questions, make sure you understand the costs and above all go and walk the shows that you are thinking of doing. that is a must! Keep in mind that finding the right show starts with you being very clear about who is your target customer/stores. So make sure you have that down first.
*Tip – if this is your first show and you are still a start up my suggestion would be to focus on find a small show that fits your market.
2. Define your expectations – a key point to evaluate if a show was good or bad has to do with what you expecting. See, in my first show big part of the disappointment was that my expectations were not realistic. So, managing your expectations can make the experience a lot more positive for you. btw, and especially if it is your first time make sure expectations are not only $ amount because you might not recoup all your costs at your first show. Therefore your expectations can be for examples: a number of stores you want to show it to, any pr or new leads that you would like to get or even as simple as learning how do I get buyers to notice my booth, what works and what doesn’t in a show etc.
3. Get appointment – this point is a big key to the success of the show. It is assumed that being in a show that generates lots of traffic from buyers all you need is to have a booth and buyers will stop. As I mentioned in my previous article buyers know exactly which brand they are going to visit so the chances that they are walking the whole show looking at each booth are zero. Therefore, what you want to do is contact your existing customers and to set appointments to meet them at the show, (your existing customers are the ones you want to definitely buy again). And also contact your list of potential stores and try to set up some appointments with those as well. Knowing that you have few appointments will make you feel a lot better about the show and many times will be worth doing the show even if just for that.
*Tip – you should contact new stores at least 3-4 weeks prior to the show and don’t be shy to follow up and contact them few times until you get an appointment. In fact you will need to be persistent and create a marketing plan to contacting them. this could be a combination of mailers, emails and calls.
4. Line presentation – once you have a buyer at the booth you want them to feel that this is not your first time and that you are professional, you know how things work and what you are doing (yes, even if you fake it), therefore your presentation should support that. you want to make sure that your samples look good, steamed with proper info/hangtags on, a line sheet with all the info a buyer will need to place an order. For more on that part read this.
5. A welcoming booth - your booth should be clean, approachable with easy access to the samples, and enough room to present the line and work with a buyer. Avoid having heavy furniture that blocks the buyer from reaching out to the samples or from interacting with you. Store away any packing materials, food etc. And always have Smiling faces greeting visitors and buyers. Making a buyer welcome and comfortable will set the tone for their impression of you and the line. As one of my dear friends says: Be interested (in them) not interesting! Get curious about their business/needs it will help you gear your presentation to fit that.
6. Get noticed – In a crowded show you’ll need to find a way to have the design of your booth and your presentation stands out to get the attention of buyers who running from one booth to another. Off course this should be done in a way that is consistent with your brand identity and within your budget. Cool gimmicks are an option to consider as well, for example a model that wears your product walking the show handing a giveaway that will get buyers curious to check your booth, or any other creative ideas that I’m sure you can come up with.
7. Know your stuff – Not to add pressure, but you have one chance to convert when a buyer walks into your booth. Make sure your presentation is polished! You (or whomever you have working your booth) should be familiar with the line very well, know what are the key points about it and how to sell it. If this is the first time you are doing it than practice it beforehand. Again, you want to make the buyer feel that you know what you are doing.
8. Follow up – The show went well, you had some nice orders and some new leads, but your job is not done yet. Now you should follow up with those who visited your booth, thank them, confirm the orders with buyers and follow up on any new leads.
One thing that was hard for me to do is have fun at these shows. I always thought of these shows as stressful and I didn’t know how to enjoy them.
I regret that.
After all it is an event where you get to interact and meet a lot of different people from different places and different aspects of the industry and it can be a lot of fun, (and you really never know what it can lead to).