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How to "Do" Those Big Trade Shows

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You can easily spend thousands of dollars just to be an exhibitor at one trade show.
What's the best way to get the most bang - and orders - for your buck? 1.
Walk the trade show first before you decide to become an exhibitor.
This really is a must-do! And there really are no excuses because there are trade shows in just about any medium- to large-sized city for just about everything.
What you'll find out from doing this is if your product is a good fit for that particular show.
Fame in New York, for example, is usually for higher-end designer apparel whereas MAGIC in Las Vegas is for mainstream clothing and accessories.
You'll also get an idea of how much "traffic" the shows get - i.
e.
how many buyers are actually there looking to place orders.
  2.
Test drive your booth in advance
.
This may sound like a big "duh!" but you'd be surprised how busy and distracted you can get before the show and, at least for me, this was one of those things I put on the back burner because I thought I'd just figure it out at the show.
Bad idea! By the time you get to the show, have unpacked your boxes and set up most of your booth, your exhausted.
And then you still have to "merchandise" your booth, which means displaying your products so that they capture the attention of the buyers walking by - and also show them the best way to display your items in their stores.
This is actually one of the first things you should think about! You don't want to be winging it the night before the show opens.
This is one of those "do as I say, not as I did" sort of things.
Trust me - it's worth it to schedule a few hours a month before your show and set up your booth in your warehouse, office or garage.
You'll be so very happy you did.
3.
Have all your marketing "collaterals" at the ready.
"Collaterals" are all the things you hand to people to advertise your business: business cards, catalogs, price lists and order forms are the very least you should have for a trade show.
I've seen people offer catalogs they've printed out from their computer and stapled together.
So long as it shows off your product well, it'll work for a start.
But you definitely want to have things to give people to take away so that they'll remember you.
  4.
Most buyers don't buy the first time they're in your booth.
This is why you need the aforementioned cards and catalogs and such.
They're walking for miles - literally, sometimes - and seeing so many different exhibitors.
The smart ones walk the show one day and make their orders on another day.
Remember that they have budgets too and they usually sit in their hotel rooms at night doing their "homework," which is mapping out their orders.
Keep this in mind for two reasons: you don't want to pester potential buyers the first time they're in your booth and you don't need to panic if they keep walking away with your catalogs without placing an order.
Don't worry - many of them will come back or they'll order after the show.
5.
"Show Specials" and why it's good to have them.
What's a "show special?" It's a special offer or discount you give to buyers who write their order at the show.
Two years ago, some exhibitors were saying show specials were obsolete.
Not anymore! With the economic downturn, buyers want to save money whenever and however they can.
Free shipping, 10% off or a free gift - all these things are very much appreciated by buyers.
We've offered all three of these at different times and it's definitely helped our business.
Plus it shows buyers that you're taking their situation into consideration and that you really appreciate the time and expense it took to come to the show.
I actually look forward trade shows because I love seeing our customers face to face and, as the seasons go by, you get to know your neighboring exhibitors.
After a while, it feels like you're going on a trip to see good friends.
That way, setting up and taking down the booth merely seems like party prep and clean-up - with the added bonus of many new customers and a fistful of orders to take home with you.
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