Welcome to my little corner of the blogosphere to share the ups and downs of starting a craft business, with plenty of tips, mishaps and the odd glass of wine!

Saturday, 20 July 2013

5 Tips to a Successful Trade Show

Regular readers of my blog will know that I have recently exhibited at my first Trade Show, the Harrogate Home & Gift Trade Show 2013 and wowee, have I learned a lot!

I felt the show went really well, especially given it was my first one and I had no real idea what to expect - the people I met were lovely (both fellow exhibitors and the buyers) and the exciting ideas I have come away with are enough to make my head burst!! If you can afford the outlay (it's not just the price of the stand, but also kitting it out, travelling expenses, accommodation and food whilst you're there) then the contacts you make and the leads it generates definitely make a Trade Show worthwhile doing.

I'm going to share the 5 most important things I've discovered this week on my emotional roller coaster ride!

1. Plan out your stand - do a mock layout and take pictures. Come back to it an hour later. How does it strike you as you walk up to it? Would you stop and have a look? Are your items getting lost? Or do they jump out at you? Think about the items you want to be seen most, or that will draw the buyer in for a closer look. Make sure they are placed at eye height with any lighting you are using focused on them.

2. Prepare for the questions you'll be asked - think about what a buyer would want to know and have your answers ready and written down on a sheet of paper that you can easily refer to. You may know all the answers backwards, but if for any reason you get thrown off track (imagine a buyer from John Lewis stops to talk to you!) it's essential to have the facts at your finger tips! So all you need to have all your retail prices and the trade prices you are offering. What volumes of orders can you cope with? If like me you hand make all your pieces and someone (that pesky buyer from John Lewis again!) asks if you could handle an order for 1,000 of a certain item, what would you do? How long would it take you to fulfill? Do you have backup in place for that situation? Do you have a minimum purchase amount? Do you offer free carriage? Do you drop ship? (terms explained in a minute) What are your terms?

3. Expect the unexpected - our exhibition hall was air conditioned, so although the temperatures were soaring last week, I didn't expect to have any problems with overheating - however the air conditioning packed up!!! We spent two days completely boiling, which made it very difficult to concentrate and as a result the pepped up start to our 4 days of exhibiting fell rather flat in the middle. It also meant that our buyers didn't stay very long and weren't all as enthusiastic as we'd have liked! We were being given bottles of water by the exhibition organisers on a regular basis, which was a relief as if you're manning a stand on your own, you can't keep nipping off to the cafe to buy water!

4. Making friends with your fellow exhibitors - as I just mentioned, if you're exhibiting by yourself on your stand, you need to make friends with your fellow exhibitors... not only will they help keep you sane over the course of the exhibition, but you can also then take turns at keeping an eye on each other's stands while you take loo breaks, lunch breaks, fresh air breaks, etc. I had some wonderful neighbours, specifically the most gorgeous couple ever, Jayne & Ged from Jola Designs who make beautifully clever cushions & canvases and Denise from Denise Moloney Ceramics who designs amazing plates, mugs & tea pots. We had a fantastic time - getting to know people under circumstances like this make for very intense friendships which I hope will last a long time!

5. The most important - GOOD SHOES! You are going to be standing up (something most of us are not at all used to) for up to 9 hours a day... I happened to bring with me 4 different pairs of shoes and I was VERY glad for it - a seasoned exhibitor recommended 2 different pairs of shoes per day. One lady did resort to wearing her slippers on the last day because she'd worn inappropriate shoes previously!

I mentioned different terms above... I thought I was fairly au fait with the terms I would encounter at a trade show, but there were some I'd not come across before, so I'll give you a brief summary of the most common terms used this week:

Minimum Amount - you can decide if you will place a minimum value on wholesale orders, so each order has to exceed a certain amount to qualify for wholesale prices

Free Carriage - Will you offer free shipping? Or does the buyer have to pay 'Carriage'

Drop Ship - where the manufacturer ships direct to a customer when an order is placed - this is particularly requested by online shops, so they do not have to hold large amounts of stock. It's also popular where the items require an element of personalisation (like the majority of my items) so this can be done once the order is placed.

Pro-forma - this is when the exhibitor sends the buyer a detailed breakdown of the items purchased and the prices, along with the terms (i.e. payment must be made within 30 days, payment must be made before items dispatched, etc) and the sellers bank details, which then allows for the buyer to make an online payment for the goods.

I hope all of that has been useful - I learned so much this week that I could just go on for hours (but I won't bore you all any further!) instead I'll just leave you with some pictures of my stand and now I'm off for a mooch around the other Handmade Monday posts with a cuppa and some cake!

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