How to Prepare for a Trade Show

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Header image from MY Furniture

Trade shows, which are also known as consumer fairs or exhibitions, offer brands an effective way to get their products seen by potential customers. These shows are particularly effective for interior, design and gift brands as they allow potential buyers to see and touch products first hand. Colours and textures can be fully appreciated in reality compared with just seeing it online or in print. Trade shows also provide a good opportunity to gain feedback from others in the industry about product ranges and can help brands learn and understand their customers’ needs and preferences.

Attending these events as an exhibitor requires a great deal of organisation and forward planning. In this article, we take a look at the steps you need to take when preparing for a trade show, including what to do before and after the show to contact show attendees and to ensure you’re press-ready.

Which trade show?

Firstly, you need to decide which trade show to attend. There are numerous trade shows held each year in most countries, that are relevant to the interior, design and gift industry. Depending on your budget, you may only be able to attend one or two so it is important to do some research into available shows.

Here’s a checklist of questions you should ask a show’s organiser to help decide if it is a good fit for your brand and worth the investment in cost and time to attend.

  • Is it a well-established show or a new show?
  • What is the profile of a typical show visitor/who is the organizer’s aiming it at?
  • What are the attendance figures from the previous year’s show or the predicted attendance figures for this show?
  • How will the show be promoted?
  • Which Trade Bodies support the show?
  • Which press and media attend?
  • What is included in the cost?

Preparation ahead of the show

When you have chosen and booked a show to attend, you need to start preparing for it well in advance.  

Decide on your objectives

Objective examples include:

  • Launching a new product
  • Raising brand awareness
  • Contacting a new market
  • Carrying out market research
  • Assessing the competition

Book your space and arrange your stand

Book your stand space at the show as soon as possible. The earlier you book your site, the better the position you’ll get. Try to get a central location or a position near the entrance or exit as that’s where it will be the busiest with the most visitors.

When designing your stand, consider what furniture, lights and product displays are required. Your stand will need to be branded so you may need to get posters and other displays designed and printed.

Organise staff for the show so that there is a rotation every few hours. Ensure staff are fully briefed about where they should direct enquiries that they are unable to deal with themselves.

Be press-ready

Ensure you are press-ready by having a press kit ready in advance. Brief staff to hand out the press kit to any press members that visit the stand and also leave a few at the show’s press office.  Include a link to your press office in show material such as brochures and other handouts and business cards. It is also a good idea to create an email signature in the run-up to a show that includes a link to the press office.

Pre-show marketing

Consider marketing opportunities offered by the show such as placing adverts in the trade show brochure or adverts around the show. There may also be sponsorship opportunities.

Inform your existing customers, prospects and partners that you will be at the show by sending an email in advance.  Also include it in your regular newsletters in the lead up to the show. Trade shows present a good opportunity to meet existing customers as well as getting new customers.

At the show

Brief staff

Carry out a briefing session to staff to motivate them and guide them. Define team responsibilities such as managing the front of the stand and walkabout duty Inform staff where to direct queries and what to hand out to different visitor types such as prospects, existing customers and press staff. Advise staff to give out business cards with the name of the show and stand number written on it to serve as a reminder to event attendees when they are going through collected business cards back at the office.

Collect meaningful data

Brief staff to not only collect business cards but to make notes when possible so that the business card is meaningful. Information to collect includes:  Which company were they from? What was the conversation about? What were they interested in? Could they be a potential customer?

Collect visitor contact details

Get the most out of the show by collecting as many contact details as possible to include in your email marketing and newsletter lists.

Take photos

Brief staff to take photos that can be used in newsletters,on social media platforms or for potential PR initiatives following the show.

Follow up

Email and call show contacts

Within 2-3 days, email all contacts collected at the show to remind them about your conversation and about the products you were exhibiting.  It is advisable to send out tailored, more personal emails to each contact you had a conversation with where possible and just a general thank you to others that you didn’t engage in conversation with.

For the best leads, follow up the email with a telephone call. On average it can take up to 11 contact attempts to secure an order so keep trying.

Post show PR

Send out photos from the show showing a busy stand full of customers and a press release including customer stories and quotes.

In conclusion, organisation is key to being successful at a trade show. What you do before and after the show is just as important as what you do at the show and is it vital to make the most of pre-show and post-show PR and marketing opportunities.

Header image from MY Furniture

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