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07 June 2016

Top-tips for new exhibitors...

As a former retailer and agent, Maternity Buyer's Liz Pilgrim knows a thing or two about trade shows. We asked the brains behind Bubble Bump to share her top tips for first-time exhibitors...
Liz Pilgrim

Bubble London is fast approaching - gulp! You’ve made the decision to exhibit, booked your space - now what? Exhibiting for the first time can be quite daunting. Sometimes it’s the very first opportunity for you to meet your customers, the buyers, face to face. I was a buyer for my own retail business, and a regular visitor to trade shows. I’ve also been an agent, so have exhibited many times myself. I’ve had a think about advice I would give newbie exhibitors – what would benefit buyers and how to make the best use of exhibiting - and come up with these top-tips:

Smile: No matter how you're feeling, you have to engage with buyers. If you’re taking a colleague, family member or friend with you, remember that you are working! If you have visitors, look as if you want to be there, and engage if you can. Make any visitors feel welcome; always greet them, and be warm and friendly. There’s nothing more irritating than not being acknowledged on a stand; treat everyone with respect, even if they’re just a small start-up. 
Be passionate: You are there to sell your brand - you have to love it. If you don’t, your customers won’t. Think about how you will describe your brand, and practice if necessary.
What’s your pitch: Practice saying who you are and what you’re doing – no buyer wants to listen to endless tales about how you set up your business (unless they ask, of course!) Give them the key facts, in a succinct and coherent way.

Be prepared: Do your homework; know your key dates, prices, ranges, and collections, and keep notes handy for quick reference. Buyers often have very little time to wait around.
Bubble London, Business Design Centre
Be professional:
Ensure you have business cards - ideally with an email address that sounds professional, rather than a gmail or google account. Most domains offer free mailboxes. What information are you able to give out on the day? Remember you want to capture the buyers details - so, if you’re able to send digitally, it’s a good way of engaging and following up. Think about flyers, postcards, small booklets/brochures, or even pricelists. In addition, try to memorise your prices to show you really know your product.
Listen: Before you reel off your sales pitch, ask your visitors who they are, where they are from, and for a business card - you can then tailor your words to their specific requirements.  It may be appropriate to ask them what they’re looking for, but they might just be curious about your brand. Ask the buyer questions - this is a chance to fully engage with a buyer interested enough to stop and look at your stand. And, finally, don’t ramble on too much!
Fashion buyers at Bubble London
Don't miss an opportunity:  While you’re talking to a buyer, keep an eye out for other visitors; sometimes this is where it’s helpful to have an extra pair of hands on your stand. You don’t want to miss anyone - so, if another retailer arrives, make eye contact, gesture to acknowledge them and explain that you will be finished shortly. Always make an effort to help as many people as you can; it’s just not courteous to ignore potential buyers, and you might lose business as a result. 
Manage your expectations: Don’t have high expectations when it comes to orders – this may be the first time a buyer has seen your brand. Independent retailers can be more flexible than larger retailers/department stores, and may place an order with you. However, it's much more common for buyers to want to learn more about you; they will go back to the office, research your brand, and then ask for follow-up meetings. A trade show should be seen as part of your trade marketing strategy ie. an opportunity to build awareness and establish your label. Some buyers will want to see you exhibit regularly before committing to working with you; this is to ensure that you’re not a one-hit wonder, and to establish that your business can cope with volume and lead-times.

Fashion buyers at Bubble London
Keep business cards:  If you have managed to get the visitor's business card, staple it into a small book and write notes about the conversation you had. It will make after-show follow-up so much easier. Sometimes buyers are reluctant to give out their business cards, purely because they don’t want endless cold calling.
Stand design: Remember to KIS: Keep It Simple. Sometimes less really is more, and you shouldn't cram everything onto your stand. Do a dummy run and see what it looks like, asking yourself the following: Does it look professional? Does it show the best features of your brand? Does it look cluttered? Does it convey the brand identity?

These are just a few suggestions - and, if you can remember some of them, you'll be off to a great start! Wishing you the best of luck this season....

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