10 things I learnt about exhibitions

This month will be very busy. So many exhibitions and trade shows to visit. September is a crazy month for interior designers. So today I want to start a new biz mini series starting with some marketing and in particular exhibitions and trade shows and whether it’s worth taking part or just visit.

Before I start I want you to know that all my opinions are based on my previous business experiences and are related to home building and decor sectors.

As many businesses I started my second business online as a small importer selling directly to public. After about 6 months in we decided to take part in the biggest national show targeting self-builders and people who renovate their homes. This was exactly our type of audience we wanted to expose our products to. As the business grew and we changed from being a retailer to wholesaler we exhibited in more shows – trade and public.

Here my 10 things I’ve learnt about exhibitions:

1. Taking part in exhibition (trade or public) is expensive. You have to consider the cost of the stand or space, getting a stand design, props, furniture, printing leaflets, brochures, business cards and posters. Also you need to consider transport and storage costs and any staff hire. If you travel to a different part of country you will also have hotel and parking bills.

2. Because you will never get the cost back (directly from sales generated from the show) in short term sales you need to look at it as a long term investment.

3. Once exhibitions and trade shows are part of your marketing strategy and you took part once you have to keep coming back each year. People throw your leaflets away, they easily forget about your company. If you stop exhibiting your competitors will benefit and take your potential business.

4. It can take up to 3 years before your first initial contact will make a purchase from you. That’s why is important to keep coming back so your potential customers refresh their memory and eventually give you a sale.

5. Exhibitions are great for getting the word out and target your audience directly. You can learn a lot from speaking to your customers and find out their needs and wants. You can test a new product and see what the response is.

6. Exhibitions are great for getting new contacts and getting to know your trade partners and competitors. By offering a prize draw you can collect hundreds of new contacts which are great for building your own customer database.

7. At most shows you can sell your exhibition stock on the last day of the show so you don’t have to worry about transport cost back to your warehouse.

8. Trade shows don’t usually allow selling products but you can take orders and payments and dispatch and deliver your goods after the show.

9. You have to understand why people go to these shows in the first place. If it’s public they want to see products they need all under one roof and have some choice. That’s why your competitors are there too. Also they are looking for a best deal and special bargains (depending on the type of the show of course). Before you start any price negotiation you have to have a clear idea what your bottom line is and if you are trading with retailers or trade you have to have one price structure for all. If it’s a trade show there will be plenty of new customers browsing and remember they are also looking at your rivals. You need to have a clear idea of your business trading conditions. By that I mean ask your potential retailers what other brand / your competitors they stock so you don’t waste time if you feel your products wouldn’t stand a chance in that shop.

10. Exhibitions are fun to do but very exhaussssssting! Be prepared for whole body ache, late nights, lots of meetings and really weird people. Be patient, polite and smile!!!

Hope you find this helpful. If you know any other tips please join in and comment below.

Karolina Barnes


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