We've now taken part in two trade shows: TopDrawer in September 2013 and Pulse in May 2014. They were great experiences and we learnt a few things. We've decided to share the things we learnt here in case you find them helpful too...
Managing your costs
After picking our stand and signing the contract, we had to fill in some forms. One of them is for your business details which will appear on the event website.
Our recommendation for you is not to put your phone number because there are plenty of companies who will start calling you as soon as your details are up. We also got plenty of spam emails so eventually we decided to only have our website address visible. The event team will tell you that this will be used by buyers who want to contact you but think carefully - are you willing to deal with a massive number of unsolicited calls?
Usually the minimum is around £1,000 for 1.5x2 meters. The stand dimensions might vary, though, and this doesn’t include lights, electrical sockets and any special wall colour or flooring options.
For our last trade show we paid an extra £240 for 4 spotlights and one electrical socket.
The earlier you book these extras the cheaper they're likely to be thanks to early bird deals and options.
To present our socks we bought some boxes in Homebase which didn’t cost much and looked great but some stands have carpenters which build everything custom made. We also got some stools from Habitat so we could take a break - you'll be on your feet for most of the day at a trade show!
We used a seven-seater cab to take what we needed for the day which costed around £35 each way.
Most people get their logo printed on vinyl so they can pop it up on the wall. Ours was a meter wide and cost £54.
Applying vinyl to the wall is a terrifying job as you have only one chance to get it right! We watched some YouTube videos to learn how and managed to get it right in the end. It's a good idea to have at least two people for the task unless your logo is really small.
We also printed two images of our Sigmund and Don Cottone socks in a large size and attached them to the walls with velcro.
It took us some time to get our stall ready and it's challenging to get it right. One of the key things we learnt was that the product needs to be visible and accessible. People want to hold it in their hands so they can make up their own minds. When you are there try to test the setup you have before the show opens and then if you notice anyone's struggling to reach things or any products are being neglected you can move things about or test new layouts.
You will need to list all your products and leave some space for calculating the total price. Here's an example of an order sheet so you can see what we mean.
We invested in a payment device from Payleven which allows you to accept card payment with a mobile app. The device costs £60 and then there is 2.75% fee on each transaction.
To be honest we didn’t use it much. There are usually cash machines nearby and not everyone wants to pay immediately.
It is recommended that you send invites to buyers who you would like to see so preparing a list is a good idea. You will usually get a template with the event logo that you can use when sending these emails. Don't forget social media either - tell your Twitter and Facebook followers where you'll be and encourage them to come and say hello!
At the event
One of the most common conversations you will hear is whether there are enough people coming to your stand or not! It’s a constant struggle to get people's attention and at both of the events we felt that not enough people came. There is a fine line between getting people's attention and annoying them. We said hello to some people who passed by because they looked like our product could be relevant to them - if we saw someone wearing cool socks that would be an obvious sign for us that it was okay to approach! Some other sellers did things like commenting on what people were wearing to start the conversation. You're trying to make a connection with people as well as being strategic with how you spend your time and energy!
You'll be on your feet for many hours so bringing good shoes is a must. We broke this rule because we sell socks so we had our shoes off to let people see our socks in action.
Food-wise, if you don’t want to go to the common mega chains that are available at the event, do some research about what is around. It is nice to take a break and take a walk somewhere outside to get good quality lunch. Obviously, if you are there by yourself that would not be possible so having two people at your stand helps a lot as you will have to take a break at some point.
At the end of the show some sellers will exchange their product with you or sell at wholesale price which is a good opportunity to get really nice deals.
At both tradeshows we got orders that we could count with our two hands. It's safe to say we were hoping for more. Every product is different but we felt it was important to share our experience in case you were wondering whether to attend a tradeshow yourself and wanted to know what it was like for someone who had done so.
This hasn't affected our passion for our socks and we are still keen to try other tradeshows where we can experiment more and see what works. We're thinking of trying to attend one per year.
If you want to ask us something specific about the tradeshows we have attended and the experiences we've had, please get in touch here. Good luck!