Trade shows - How to get noticed!

I spent much of my early twenties with retail pop ups all over the UK. From having a sales pitch in the middle of a field at Burghley Horse Trials, to having a trestle table in the middle of a school gymnasium... It is a simple concept - you pay for a pitch at an event, turn up, sell stuff, go home. If it's good you have made some money and have a nice empty van. If it's bad, you go home grumpy and say 'I won't do that event again!'.

retail shows - burghley

So what about fashion trade shows?

We are now coming to the end of the AW15/FW15 sell in, with Moda having finished this week. At these shows you get a mixture of buyers, press, intrigued students, startups scoping out the sector and often a lot of would be suppliers seeing this as a cheap way of approaching brands.

Unlike pop ups/retail events, it is much harder to measure a successful trade show. You might get no orders and feel it a disaster, until you get a follow up email two weeks later, which could be an order making the whole event financially viable. Or you might be writing lots of orders at the event, from your usual customers and little time to focus on leads. As we all know there are hundreds of these shows globally, and many may simply be the wrong match for a brand. Assuming you have found the right trade show for your brand, how do you optimise your chance of success?

Here are some of my top tips to getting noticeD

- Position - when you book a stand, book clever. Visit the event prior to attending - where are the key attractions, most trod paths, what are your brand adjacencies? You need to be close to stands your prospects will be visiting...

Stand Design - Make sure your design helps create an impact for your brand. This is the best marketing you can do, once you have chosen your positioning. Also make the stand open enough, so people can walk on with ease and don't feel intimidated. Often venues have a limit on the height you can build a stand, but look for any loophole that allows you to get your branding above the others and visible down the aisles. Also, incorporating A TV/monitor into a stands design usually works well if you have some quality video content.

- On Stand Marketing - Like any sales channel, don't just expect people to come to you. When I visited Pure London last week I was amazed at how many brand were just sitting down, offering no proactive marketing. What a wasted opportunity!

We used to wander the aisles giving bags out with freebie goodies and range postcards in them driving visitors. At times we would have 200 of these bags walking around the venue in a day. It was great visibility for minimal cost. If you can I would advise putting your stand number/social handles on there to drive more traffic. Others often go for food/drink/sweets on stand as a freebie ice breaker. Another more costly tactic is to employ models to walk around the shows promoting your brand... There are lots of options!

- Pre Event Bookings - If you are worried about not being busy enough at an event, make sure you book in meetings prior to the event. Send out an invite to those hard to book in mid season, for their convenience. 

- Use The Event Organisers - Almost all events offer catwalk opportunities as well as press releases to be promoted in the event press room. Use them... It is amazing how many brands do not.

- Pre Qualify - Make sure you filter out the time wasters early on, by asking the right question e.g. what shop do they represent, what position are they, what is their target customer etc. This can save a lot of wasted attention.

- Be Busy - A busy stand attracts a lot of interest. I have been known to get friends to pop along at strategic intervals...  A busy small stand can be 10 times more appealing than an empty showpiece. 

- Operations - From the order writing process, to the data capture of all would be customers, to sales documents and follow ups - have a slick and easy process to make the stand efficient and seamless.

What not to do...

- Don't sit on chairs - Use stool if you must. It is much more intimidating someone getting up out of a chair to greet you, than sliding off a stool. Don't ask me why!

- Don't be grumpy! Events are long and knackering, but be as chatty, smiley and positive as you can in the circumstances.

- Don't over staff - Too many staff on a stand can make a stand too intimidating to come on. Send people off for regular breaks if a trade show is quieter than expected.

- Don't be tapping into your phone all event - It is amazing how many people are glued to their phone when on a stand. I think checking emails on lap tops / tablets over phones looks more professional and approachable for people walking on a stand.

For those interested in finding out more about wholesale and hear from the buyers themselves, you might be interested in our RISE Buyers Den event. Tickets are available HERE.