So first off, I am SO sorry for taking so long in getting this up. I've been completely swamped with NHCO, but I guess that only means I have some really great stuff to share with that as well!
I remember seeing an Instagram post the other day from a lady who did a different trade show in February, and she mentioned that she totally felt the love from the show attendees. She also shared a video of the crowd around her booth. Her booth was minimalist just like mine, but I didn't feel any love from this show.
We left off part 1 talking about ordering your items well in advance, and making sure you know what you need to buy. In this post I'll talk about choosing the right show, and things I learned from the show itself.
Know the Show
Don't take the recruiter's word for it because basically, they'll bend the truth. They're trying to make a sale, and they'll tell you anything to get you to commit. If it's possible, attend the show yourself. If you can't, do as much research as you can online. What are other people saying? Who is attending? What companies will have booths there? What are their past experiences? You want to pick the right show. Even though this wasn't the right show for me, in a way it was, as far as using it as a learning opportunity.
Now this is TOTALLY my opinion, and my own experience, but I believe I was not told the truth. Some other show vendors (from other floors, too) said the same thing. I did my research, but I couldn't find much, and I didn't put much weight on it since it was just around the corner from my house.
We (other vendors and myself) were told that over 25,000 buyers attend the show with the intent to buy, and blah blah blah. But when we got there, nearly EVERY vendor was concerned at how slow it was. It was a ghost town. We saw maybe 2,500 buyers the entire show. The recruiters kept encouraging us, saying that some of the buyers were stuck in traffic, some were delayed due to the weather, etc, and that show traffic would pick up Saturday and Sunday (the show started on Thursday). I had no reason to believe otherwise, so we remained optimistic. Until Saturday came (more details in Part 3!)
Volume did pick up, but not by much.
Find Out Who The Buyers Are
Living in Dallas, it was easy for me to assume that young buyers would be at the show, looking for modern/contemporary wares. Dallas is full of new high rise apartments, young professionals, fashion, and design. But that's not who attended the show. Have you ever seen the show Burn Notice? You know Michael's mom? That's who attended the show. Same hairstyle and all. It was literally a lot of older people, mainly women, looking for traditional-looking things.
They weren't looking for anything modern. They weren't looking for my contemporary brand, and I wasn't looking for them. I was told by the recruiter that buyers would be coming to find products just like mine. But no, they weren't. And this was the consensus across the floor. A guy selling beard oil just up and left.
As you can see, my booth was smack dab in the front, was well designed, and well planned. But how many orders did I write? Zero. Not one order written at the show. We got some great leads, but no orders written. But I could have done some things better myself, so I won't blame it all on the buyers. I talked to a lady selling exercise-proof makeup who had spent over $70k on materials and ingredients for their product line, and they hadn't sold anything. They ended up writing 3 orders the last day and a half. A young lady selling architecture-inspired jewelry finally wrote an order the last day. Our booths were similar with the color scheme and boxwood panels. A lady and her husband selling grandma-themed soaps, with no booth design, only tables with table cloths, made their booth fee back the first day.
You may be thinking, "Wow, you wasted a lot of money". But I don't think it was a waste at all. I needed that show to see where the standard was, and align my business where it needed to be. Since the show, I've perfected a lot of things. Things I thought were the bomb dot com, I look at now like, "UGH!" lol. I needed that slow show to give me time to get fully prepared. If I'd done a bigger show, I imagine it would have been overwhelming, and a lot of missed business. There were things I didn't know I didn't know until after this show! And I wouldn't want to be unprepared at a show that had a lot to lose. This show didn't have a lot to lose if/when I messed up. It was low risk the first time around, and I like that.
When the first person walked into my booth, I tried to give them my sales pitch and my voice was shaking lol. I was so nervous, and probably sounded a mess. I know I sounded a mess (insert face palm here). Over the next couple days my husband and I picked up methods from other booths on engaging people without acting like a used car salesman, and made it our own.
We started asking if they would like to try some body oil. If they showed interest, we would pump a little in their hand and explain the benefits as they rubbed and smelled their hands. My husband is handsome, so he tends to get the attention of all the cougars lol. One older lady even commented that he was a nice "buff" size!
There's a LOT of small things here and there that you'll need to know, but I'll just get to some of the big ticket items.
Tips, Tricks, and Lessons
I had my iPad ready to take orders and scan business cards, and also some clipboards with carbon-less order forms. We always asked for business cards from people who appeared interested, and if they ran out of cards- I was ready. I made some little papers the size of business cards that read, "Oops, I ran out of business cards!", and they could fill it out. I made sure all my bases were covered.
If you've ever worked in retail, you know to greet everybody that walks by and looks your way. You want to be friendly, but don't act like the mall kiosk guy (yes, we actually saw someone doing that).
Our outfits mimicked our booth colors- combinations of green, black, and white. I learned that in college from doing interior design presentations- you want to become an extension of your finished product.
We had some hidden storage so as not to clutter our booth, but it wasn't much. Next time I'll add more hidden storage for things like coats and hats, depending on the weather.
In the desk drawers I had:
Although I was going for a minimalist look, I wish I'd had more products out. After the show was over, and I got a clear look at everything, I can admit it looked a little skimpy. There was more booth than product! Since the show, I've tweaked and added more products.
One really nice vendor, Clint, told me to set things us to give the buyers an idea of how the products would look in their shop.
I learned from another vendor to include displays (if you're selling a physical product). They offered a free display on wholesale orders of at least $300. That's smart- I didn't think of that, let alone what type of display my products would go with. That's something I worked on after the show.
I would recommend having one other person with you. Having three people was overkill at this show- we were just standing around. Two people was only necessary so someone could watch the booth while you went to the restroom.
At trades shows, the buyers pretty much already know what they're looking for. There was only one or two buyers who was just "browsing". They may not know the exact item, but they know what types of products, and what style. For example, they're looking for traditional style art work (but not modern or abstract art). See the difference?
Always have samples and business cards to give out to the buyers. Obviously every product or service can't have a sample, but have one if possible. Give them something to remember you and come back. We also had some product catalogs- I ordered tri-fold catalogs because they were more cost effective. There's a method to a trade show that lasts a few days. On the first day or two, the buyers are just walking the show, seeing what's available, taking it all in. This is when they're figuring out what they want to re-visit. Buyers aren't going to rush and buy stuff because that's just not wise- especially since order minimums are typically $200+.
Another vendor taught me that buyers really like show deals- especially free shipping. Offer free shipping on all orders written at the show. Offer 15% off all orders written at the show.
We'll end the post here! Stay tuned for Part 3!