Trade show season might be over for now, but even though September might seem like a long way off now, before Easter is even upon us, it’s going to creep up on you, and if you are exhibiting at your first show this autumn, now is the time to start preparing. Top Drawer is a fantastic show for designers and retailers alike, as it brings together interiors, gifts, stationery, food and fashion under one roof.  It’s a fantastic showcase for the creativity and quality of UK design and manufacturing.

Natural History knows Top Drawer inside out, as we have exhibited at it many times when we designed products for Liberty, Graham & Green and Anthropologie. You can’t control everything that happens at a trade show, but there are definitely some tricks to maximising your return on investment at this exciting show and any other that you might be thinking about.

Here are our top 5 tips:

Be prepared.

You are going to meet a lot of people and you can’t expect to close a sale with every single person who visits your stand at the show.  But BEFORE and AFTER the show you have plenty of opportunity to build a meaningful relationship with your potential customers.  Make sure you have a professional website in place with strong photography so that potential buyers can get a great impression of you and your products before the show. Many show visitors research their visit extensively before they go, and know exactly what stands they want to visit – make sure that yours is among them by putting in the work now. A few weeks before the show, have high quality flyers printed with lots of big, clear images to remind them who you were and space to write notes – business cards on their own aren’t usually enough.

Gather Data.

Get a data scanner and scan the badges of all your leads.  They might seems like one more expense on top of the thousands of pounds you have probably spent getting to this show, but with a scanner you can keep a flawless record of every visitor to your stand, and have it emailed to you after the show, saving you time and making you come across more professionally. Don’t do what we did at our first show and spend days trying to decipher scrawled email addresses!

Get On Social Media Early.

Before, during and after the show, use your social media accounts to their fullest.  Well shot product and stand images on Twitter and Instagram are a great way to draw targeted attention to your stand, and well before the show you should start targeting your potential customers and engaging with their social media accounts, particularly if they are small businesses where the decision makers are likely to be the ones on their social media. Coming up to the show, use lots of relevant hashtags including the official handle and hashtags of the show you are at. If you mention the show organisers in your posts before and during the show, they will probably retweet or share the best of them. Follow Top Drawer on Instagram and Twitter now.

Be vigilant.

If you spot somebody taking detailed and close-up pictures of your products, don’t be shy to call them on it.  March up, smiling from ear to ear and offer to help them.  Openly scan their badge.  Introduce yourself.  If they scurry off, do your level best to spot their name on their badge, and email them afterwards to “say hello” and thank them for their kind attention.  Read up on the fantastic work of ACID – Anti Copying In Design and consider joining, because a trade show is a great place for people to steal your designs.

Follow Up Leads.

After the show, use your data from the scanner extensively.  The three days at the show are only one element of your marketing campaign, and you can, and probably will, make more sales in the weeks after the show than you did on the stand. When you get your data from the event organisers, you should follow up with an individual email to every single person you met.  Follow them on social media. Connect with them on LinkedIn. Take a few minutes to research each lead, because they won’t all be the same – it’s worth it because each and every lead is a warm lead potentially worth thousands of pounds.  Some will be journalists, some will great contacts who are a great fit for your products, and others will be unsuitable for various reasons and can be taken off your list.  If you know your product is right for a certain retailer, don’t take no for an answer! “Nevertheless, she persisted”, right?

Good luck!  If you need any help in your campaign such as building an eye-catching website or marketing outreach, get in touch with us and we would be delighted to help you make sure that you get the absolute most out of your trade show investment.