I'm Leslie Yang, owner and designer for feistyelle. We offer jewelry and home decor pieces made from super light, eco chic materials like wool felt, bamboo ply, and vegan suede. I love telling people that we make statement pieces with all of the drama and none of the weight! I've been doing tradeshows for the past couple of years for feistyelle and have shown in Las Vegas and New York. Below are my six feisty tips for tradeshow success.
First, you need to do your reseach and make sure a show is the best channel for you to get more business:
- Ask yourself, "Is a tradeshow the right next step for me?"
Tradeshows are an expensive investment so while you may have exhausted all the shopping events and craft fairs in your city, ask yourself if there's anything else you can do to bring in more wholesale accounts. For example, you could focus on getting more online and print press. Also, you'll need to budget for being able to do tradeshows at least twice a year. I know of a fellow jewelry brand that does shows five times a year. Tradeshows are not a one-time investment. Lastly, wholesaling (and presenting at tradeshows) will be a different branch of your business, so be sure you can effectively handle this additional workload on top of your e-commerce sales or other work.
- Walk the show.
Not every show will be the right fit. Learn as much as you can about how trade shows work AND about what each show is looking to present to buyers. Some shows will only include established brands, others cater to a specific age group, and some shows will include everyone that applies (making for an uneven assortment of brands). Also, show runners are invested in filling their booths so they'll be helpful but you'll get more insight if you ask fellow vendors--selling comparable products--about their experiences: How many times have they've done the show? Would they recommend vending at this show? Do they plan to return? What do they wish they'd done their first time? Try to catch them during a slow period, try the last or second-to-last day rather than the opening day. If they look busy each time you swing by, grab a card and email them with follow-up questions. Also, take note of booth designs. You can take some pictures but always ask for permission first.Alright, so you've done your due diligence, applied to a show, and hooray, you're been accepted. Time for pre-show preparations:
- Prep your booth design.
You need to meet the aesthetic standard of the other booths at your show. If your booth design isn't there then you need to take it up a notch. Since it's your first time, spend a couple months thinking about and working on your booth design. Make sure everything you bring can be collapsible and as light as possible. Don't forget to factor shipping fees, to and from the event, into your tradeshow budget.
- Outreach to buyers.
Email and mail buyers a month in advance that you'll be at the show and your booth number. Have your catalog, line sheet, and order form available as PDF links in your email blasts.You've done your prep and now that you're at the show, your goal is to meet buyers and get them interested in your brand:
- Meet the buyers.
Buyers act differently than regular customers. They're assessing if your brand will sell well in their store. They're not always going to be friendly because their goal is to shop for profit and not for themselves. Say hello, tell them a few great selling points about your line, but give them a little space. If they're around longer than a minute, you can say more about your brand and later offer them a line sheet and contact information. Ask for a business card from them or have them sign your guestbook.
- Follow up with buyers.
After the show, you're wiped, but you've got orders and a bunch of business cards. Within the week, add buyers' email addresses to your wholesalers' mailing list and email them a quick hello with the same links to your website, catalog, line sheet, and order form. Trade shows can have a long tail, you may receive an order two weeks later or four months later.
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Leslie Yang, owner and designer for feistyelle, loves designing jewelry, accessories, and home décor products that are eco chic and made from the lightest materials around. Founded in 2005, feistyelle offers statement jewelry with all of the drama and none of the weight. A graphic designer by training, Leslie has a deep love for bright colors and bold accessories to wear and to share.