The sole purpose for which Trade Shows exist is to give retailers, buyers and managers the opportunity to meet existing suppliers, conduct business meetings, network with others in retailing and investigate new products. Even if you run a small business, the benefits of attending a trade show sponsored by vendors or industry associations make it worth visiting.
Simply attending a Trade Show is not enough unless you know exactly what you’ll be doing there that’ll help benefit your business. For this, you’ll need to plan a strategy in advance i.e. recognizing exactly what it is you would like to accomplish before, during, and after the show will help maximize your time. Here are a few tips on how to do just that:
- Have a clear idea of what you want to accomplish, i.e. which vendors to visit, what items you need to purchase, which new product lines you'd like to see etc.
- Know your inventory needs before the show. More efficient purchasing will save you money by grouping your orders to take advantage of discounts and special offers, as well as keeping you within budget.
- Set prior appointments with any vendor you'd like to meet with during the show.
- Dress neatly. Remember, your look and impression will help greatly for a vendor to make their minds about you & your business.
- While some exhibitors provide complimentary bags, do bring a bag of your own for free goodies such as literature, freebies, and product samples. Make sure to have one large enough to bring back more than you can carry.
- First and foremost: Relax. Be casual and don’t be afraid to introduce yourself to others.
- Do remember to wear your badge at all times and make sure it is perfectly visible.
- Make sure to have a near-infinite supply of business cards. You’ll need them if you expect vendors to contact you directly.
- You’re bound to receive an updated show guide upon arrival which will give you all the necessary info on vendors, booths, stalls, seminars etc. Do study it and adjust your plans if necessary.
- Have a pen and notebook ready for notes and use business cards to jot down information on the back.
- Take advantage of show specials, discounts and sales where they are truly bargains and needed in your store. Check freight costs and delivery dates.
- Keep track of orders placed so you'll stay within your budget.
- If you are planning to purchase any custom merchandise, bring your artwork and other files on a flash drive. You’ll find that most vendors can quickly send data to the appropriate department via laptops etc.
- If any are available, then definitely attend seminars and workshops. These educational presentations enlighten you greatly.
- Don't linger too long at each booth and don't stay in a conversation with a company in which you're not interested in doing business.
Once the show ends, step back and review. Identify if your objectives were met and if the cost of attending the trade show has had a positive long-term effect for you and your business. An easier way to determine that is to analyze what exactly would have been the cost and time to achieve the same amount of business if you had NOT attended the trade show,. If you planned your attack, you will be confident in knowing the time you have spent at the show was worthwhile.