This is a guest post by Nadine Lerner, the owner of BlueDogzDesign, freelance designer, business and branding consultant and blogger. I love how she used trade shows to grow her business and I’m thrilled to have her share her smarts. Read her story here (for inspiration) or follow her on Twitter.
In early 2001 I called the largest Canadian gift association to enquire about how to get a booth at their show. They told me I would need to be “juried-in” and expect a waitof several years. I hung up the phone and called New York.
Three months later, I came home from my first show with over 200 children’s rocking chairs to hand paint, a new client list and a crash course in business, selling and getting paid. In August of 2010, I spent the better part of a week at what was usually my best show of the year trying to figure out what my next business move should be.
I have yet to meet anyone who will tell you that they LOVE trade shows.
There is preparation, stress and yes, the expense, but most of us who design and sell, will likely need them at some point.
Doing business today is not the same as in 2001, but if you want to sell your products to many retailers in one place at one time, do a trade show (maybe even many).
Which inevitably always leads to, “When am I ready to do a trade show?”
I have thought long and hard about this one and I always end up here: “You’re ready, do it”.
If you are quite certain that you can actually produce what you are selling, price it where you can make some money and have retailers price it where they too can make some money you are definitely on the right track. If you can then get your products to clients within a reasonable/agreed upon timeframe, I say go for it.
I have seen booths swarmed with buyers literally fighting to order a hot new product to later learn that the company couldn’t produce or never shipped. I have also seen booths seemingly empty at one show, come back time and again and grow into some of the most popular, cool companies in the industry.
I believe in the whole “journey” thing. I believe in putting yourself out there, I believe in learning on the job.
And, I believe that there are so many talented people creating amazing things that need to be seen and sold.
Having said all this, just before you make the leap, do some homework.
It will definitely save you money, and possibly some heartache.
There are all kinds of trade shows. Here are a few things to think about before you chose one:
Large international shows vs smaller regional shows.
Most major cities have some sort of trade show or trade, center that sells wholesale to retailers. The 2 largest US Gift Shows are in NewYork and Atlanta
General gift shows vs niche market shows.
Will it be better to have a larger audience who may or may not need your product, or a smaller more focused group of buyers?
Little booth vs big booth.
Sometimes a large booth in a regional show can be less expensive than a small booth at a large international show. Can I make an impact with less square footage, or do I need more?
Close vs far.
This might seem like a detail, but seriously, think this one through. You are starting out, think about what a week-long trade show is going to do to you. If you can do a show close to home, sleep in your own bed, see your kids, your spouse or your best friend at the end of the day, or even simply pack up your own car with your stuff, and not worry about flights, shipping, restaurants and all the extra details, you might decide on “close”. If you want to get away, love the adventure, the unknown, not knowing exactly where the closest fedex drop off or quick copy center is in relation to the show venue or your hotel, definitely choose “far”.
Regardless of what you choose, where you decide to start or when you decide to do it, you are going to learn a lot, so go in with a smile on your face and confidence that no matter what happens, you are going to come out of the show knowing a lot more than when you went in.
Ten years later, I still get that giddy feeling when the buyers from Bergdorf Goodman or an In Style Magazine editor walks into my booth, it just never gets old.
Image property of BlueDogz Design
This is the sixth installment of our ongoing IndieBusiness101 series.
If you’ve missed one, find it here: