This month I participated in my first trade show, The Grand Market. I told my story, made some sales and most importantly, learned a lot about the process. Overall, it was a great success! For those of you considering applying for or exploring the trade show experience, I highly recommend it, but be weary of the necessary preparation beforehand.
- Do your research.You may think because there are pop up shops and markets all year round it’s a pretty easy process. In fact, the process usually starts several months beforehand. For this particular fair the application process started back in February (4 months before the fair). If you’re interested in becoming a vendor at a fair of your choosing, be on the lookout for vendor applications 5-7 months out or reach out to the organizers directly expressing your interest and providing your look book (define look book). Be ready to consider things like cost of participating, set up time and venue which are all important when considering your return on investment in participating. You should also take time to research previous years’ attendance and reach to ensure you are being exposed to an appropriate audience.
- Prepare yourself. Besides the essentials of tables, chairs and displays, there are several marketing tools you should consider creating (or ordering) to have at your stand.
- Sign-up sheets: Get those emails! A newsletter signup sheet not only lets you get information from potential customers more easily, but also allows you to strike up a conversation with someone walking by. You’re able to grab their attention and get closer to your products. In my case, touching and smelling the leather allows one to appreciate its quality and craftsmanship. These key brand pillars are easily experienced first-hand.
- Social Media and Business Cards: With Instagram and Facebook taking over the universe, it is important to have your social media handles accessible to prospective clients. Sure, those are usually on all your business cards, but for this trade show I chose to make specific small cards with only daph. contact information, instead of my personal cellphone and such. I wanted to focus on spreading my brand name instead of my own! I also brought some copies of my look books and product catalogs because you never know when boutique or shop buyers are perusing around these events.
- Your own small shop: At the trade show it felt like I was in a little mall, which is probably the point. So, like any store, you have to make the buyer’s experience as customized as possible. That includes providing them with a receipt, credit card payment capabilities and shopping bags with every purchase! Making sure the bags are the appropriate size and branded accurately, whether it is a stamp or stickers, make sure that when people carry around their purchase that onlookers will be able to know where they got the goods.
- Display: How you choose to display your items and which items is essential in every space but especially at a trade show, since space is limited and you are surrounded by several other shops. I looked for months beforehand, searching for a display that fit my brand. I found some that I liked, but not that I loved. I wanted to showcase all my products in their different color variations. Some look better hung while others look better propped up. I took to Pinterest to find some inspiration and ultimately decided that if I can’t find the perfect daph. display, I had to build it myself. The setup was pretty basic, hanging totes and crossbodies with a shelf to hold sitting bags like the anita. and clutches like the cristina. and mosy. Now I’m no carpenter, but lucky for me, one of my best friends is an architect with a carpentry expert as a husband. After a 9-hour day, building, cutting and staining, the finished product was not only exactly what I envisioned, but also portable! Which is another key aspect to planning your stand for any tradeshows! NOTE: Practice packing up and setting up your display before the day of the trade show. Things get hectic and everything moves fast, so pack things up as efficiently as possible to ensure minimal trips to and from the car to your store.
- Tell your story. Some may refer to this as sales, but I never want to call myself a sales person. Either way, I learned that when I told the story behind why I decided to start daph., I really grabbed people’s attention and formed a sort of connection with them. I told them the fur collection process of baby alpacas, which just made them more curious. I told them about the luck a holder of a huayruro seed received which just enthralled them further. People enjoy learning about new things and they want to get to know and learn from other people. Sharing one’s story is difficult, but it is a key way to gain a following which, in turn, can convert into sales.
Now not all fairs are a total success, but they are all a way to gain exposure, make your logo more visible and have your name heard more often. Honestly, the most exciting part of the whole thing was when someone chose to pick up a social media card and sign up for the newsletter. Knowing they are interested in learning more about the brand and what it’s all about was very thrilling and motivating. My first trade show was with a great experience and I would encourage anyone to use these opportunities to get your brands out there.