10 valuable tips for preparing for a B2B trade show.
You've done it. Congratulations. You've booked your first trade show ever! Or maybe you've done your first or second trade show and you feel like you could get more out of it? Well in my ten years of trade show experience, I learnt the hard way on how to really get the most out of a show. Keep reading and take these tips to max your $$$ and experience.
There are two types of shows wholesale: B2B and retail B2C. So I will address them separately.
Trade show Wholesale B2B
You've got something you want other businesses to buy and sell or use? You need to make sure you have the following with you.
1. Most importantly Pricing and Information in clear concise format.
Know your pricing off by heart. Know it inside out, backwards and sideways. If a business owner asks you about pricing and you stumble, they will instantly lose confidence in you.
Have it clearly available to them to take with them to look at. Have a professional email already to go, that you can straight away email them all the details. Also have hard copies available on the day so that no matter what you can somehow give them the info they need to mull over.
2. Collect Data
Not all B2B trade shows do business on the day. I ran a swimwear company and sometimes would attend trade shows in the wrong season for buying but needed to be in front of the buyers to keep my brand fresh in their mind. It is super important in this case and every case to collect as much data as you can so when you are chasing leads two months later, you can remember who the buyers are and how you can hook them in.
I generally did this the old fashion way with a notebook and pen. After I'd finished my discussion with them at the trade show and they'd moved on, I would quickly take notes on what we had discussed. What they liked, what they didn't like, why they were interested, when they were thinking of ordering and what their budget was like and if we had any other connections, like if we'd started chatting about our kids, or our interests in sky diving. This information is gold two months later as it reminds me who I am contacting and the connection we made. This helps the buyer too when you call them, to subtly remind them who you are and gently remind them what they liked about your brand or service.
If the trade show offers you a lead capture machine, take it, if you are super busy it might capture someone who you really want to see. It will also help you collate everyones details for follow up after the show (but that is another blog post altogether).
Another way is to run a competition, where they need to sign up and so you then have their contact information. You could give away a free one to one lucky winner, or offer 1hr free service to one lucky entrant. For the price of one item you could collect 1000's of emails that are gold later in the year.
3. Present your stand, service or product in a way the buyer would be able to imagine how they would present your product or service in their stores.
For example: If you sell necklaces and you have them scattered across the table for better viewing at the show, the buyer may like the necklaces but in their heads be thinking "I don't have the space to display these in my shop". However if you had the necklaces in their packaging and displayed on a small compact point of sale display stand their thoughts would be " oh I could fit that on the counter top easily".
Think really hard about the different ways to display. Consider how many people will be in your stand and if your products and information can be visible on show day with a stand packed with people. I found it best to sketch my ideas on paper and do a walk through of what the buyer would do.
4. Have something to hand out and stay positive.
Don't stand at the entrance to your store and look bored. I cannot tell you how important it is to stay upbeat and positive at your stand. I know trade shows can be long and hard, but remember each new customer is experiencing your stand for the first time. even if you've been standing there for four days.
One ways of doing this is to have something to hand out. A flyer, a freebie, a promo gift of some kind that people will take home and think of your brand at a later date. It will draw people in, it will give you an excuse to talk to them and it will break the ice. It will also give you something to do, so you don't go bonkers.
5. Gauge the type of buyer and act accordingly.
This is tricky but you really need to start learning about types of buyers at trade shows. There are the people who don't want to speak to you but just want your information and to see your product. If you stand next to them and hover they will freak out and leave.
In saying that, there will be buyers who want to be spoken too, treated well and be given the grand tour. If you just sit there and ignore them, they will get offended and leave.
Then there are the tyre kickers, who are just there for the fun of it and have no intention of buying anything. In fact some times they are there to sell you things. These people may add value in some ways but they can get in the way of a real buyer and you need to make sure you clear these people off quickly and politely to make way for who you are really there for. I have in the past been stuck talking to someone trying to change my freight system for an hour and I just know I missed three sales.
6. Try and get commitment at the show
This can be super hard, but it is worth it if you can swing it. If you can get a buyer to commit to buying or stocking or using your brand at the show, you lose the risk for them never contacting you, or changing their mind or finding an alternative.
How can you get them to commit? The easiest way is to have a show special or a show deal. For example: make your order at the show and get a free display stand. Alternately you can have a show discount that runs only at the show.
Once you have them ready to commit, the best way is to get them to put a non refundable deposit down. Nothing commits a buyer better than money already spent. It is really important that you have the facilities available so they can do this on the day. Don't freak out and get a eftpos machine, you can use a square reader, or PayPal etc. Whatever the solution, make sure you can take their money.
7. Let them know you are going to be there.
The worst thing in the world is going to a trade show and not seeing anyone. You need to actively hustle people to come to you. Find out who your dream buyers would be. Make a list. Hunt them down on linked in. Send them a friendly message via email, linked in or call their office and tell them that you will be at the such and such trade show and your stand number is 123 and you would love to book them in for a viewing. They will respond to the special treatment and will drop buy if they are attending. If they are not attending they might offer you come for a meeting, wouldn't that be awesome.
8. Do not attend a trade show without talking to someone who has done it first.
No matter how pro you are at trade shows, if you are going to a new one, you NEED to find someone who has done it before and talk to them about how it works. Some trade shows are super fancy and people spend $$$ on their stands. Other trade shows are normal and it is expected people will just have black table cloths and black velcro walls. Other times the trade show might be in a really tricky location and they might have recommendations on where to stay. Or sometimes it might be a dud trade show and you can bargain the price. Make sure you find out a person who has been before and ask questions. You can usually look up the year before exhibitors and give them a call or email. Most people are happy to give you some feedback and tips for particular trade shows. If I had not spoken to someone before the ABC Kids Vegas show I would have assumed everyone spoke English. I was lucky to have spoken to someone who had been before and I was prepared to negotiate and sell in other ways other than just through words and that paid 10 fold over.
9. Make friends with the other exhibitors
Don't be a dope and ignore everyone else. Of course during the actual event you need to focus on your goals and connecting with buyers, but during set up (bump in) and in the afternoons when ever one has gone home, make friends.
You will find over time these will be the same people at all the trade shows you attend and it is a great way to find extra support. The amount of times I've been stuck and needed help carrying something, or wanted a lift in a strange city is countless. The amount of times I and my trade show friends have been there for each other and helped each other out is countless. Even after the trade shows are over, we still help each other out in collaborations, and support in business. You don't get the opportunity to meet people in your space of business often, so use it to network like a champion and make some friends along the way.
10. See if there is a government grant or government support for you attending the show.
If you are going overseas, or even if you are trying it for the first time in Australia, there is government support. Local councils, state and federal government is invested in helping start ups and SMB's get off the ground overseas and locally. I was able to secure an EMDG grant that paid for half my expenses in going overseas to America for a trade show.
Call your local council too as they have sister cities and envoys that like to help introduce your brands to other countries. Whilst sometimes you might not get any help, it is always worth checking.
I will do a post in the future about follow up from a B2B trade show. Because it is also what you do when you get home from the show that is just as important if not more so then when you were attending it. Keep checking in for that one soon. Good luck on your trade show.