A few weeks ago, I asked if you had any trade show questions. Here are the ones I received, and my thoughts. If you’ve got anything to add, or any additional questions, feel free to leave ’em in the comments.
My products are pretty small. Do you have any suggestions on filling up the booth space? I could decorate the booth but I don’t want the buyers confusing my props with my products.
You want the products to be the main focus of your booth, so I would recommend using some product photography to help fill space. This is also a great way to showcase your products in other settings, in use, etc. If you have the inventory, you could also bring multiples of each item. This can help buyers visualize how to present a larger selection in a retail setting.
Do you usually set up and manage your booth on your own or do you have help?
I usually do shows myself, but it is grueling! If you can afford to hire some help, it can be well worth it – but only if you can find good help. For set-up and tear down, its great to grab a friend or family member. But for show selling hours, you want someone who is going to be comfortable talking to buyers, answering questions, writing orders, and representing your company. If you can’t find someone to do that extremely well, than its better to man the booth yourself and keep a friend on reserve to bring you coffee.
Do wholesale buyers ever ask for samples of your work to take home with them from a show? Do I need to have samples available?
You will sometimes get buyers asking for samples, but whether you want to give them out at the show is entirely up to you. At some shows, it is actually against the rules for buyers to leave the show with any kind of merchandise. If someone asks for samples, I usually tell them that I can ship after the show. When you ship at a sample, its important that you send an invoice as well. You can stipulate terms – for instance, give them 30 days to either pay for or return the sample.
It seemed like many of the handmade booths at the NYIGF used curtain walls. I’d like to have hard walls. Do you recommend a particular material for this?
Before you look into building hard walls, you should check with the show organizer to find out what is offered in your booth package. Some shows may include pipe and drape or even hard walls as part of the booth fee – so make sure to ask first! If you are building your own walls, I recommend something as light weight as possible. In the past, I have build a wooden framework and attached sheets of plywood to it. It also depends on how much weight you need your walls to hold – if you just want to hang pictures or have a clean backdrop, you may want to consider using large sheets of foam core or cardboard.
We already have business cards, a wholesale pricelist, catalog for one line of products and postcards. What else do we need? Should we put together a catalog for the rest of the products or just concentrate on one line of products this time around?
That’s a pretty good start. I think you can get away with a catalog for just one line as long as you have a price list with images for the other product lines. If you don’t have a list with images, be sure you have an online image gallery that you can send them too. Oh, and don’t forget order forms!
Approximately what quantity of catalogs should I have available at a trade show?
This can vary greatly depending on the size of the show. If you’re on a budget, you can get away with somewhere between 50 and 100 (just make sure you’ve got extra line sheets in case you run out of catalogs). If you’ve got a limited number of catalogs, don’t put them out for anyone to grab. Keep them hidden, and only give them to buyers when they ask – in exchange for a business card.
What about a media kit? How are they given out at trade shows, and to whom?
Most trade shows will have a press office where you can leave your press kits. This is usually the first stop press make when attending a show, so you want to make sure they can grab your information up front. (Not enough exhibitors take advantage of this, so by putting your media kit there, you are more likely to stand out.) You should also keep a few kits in your booth in case anyone asks for one. Just make sure you get a business card in exchange!
Can you explain the pricing vocabulary – like “keystone” “net 30″ ?
Keystone refers to the amount of markup from wholesale to retail – a keystone markup is a retail price that is twice the wholesale price. Key and a half means 2.5 times the wholesale price, and triple key is 3 times the wholesale price. Net 30 is the amount of time a buyer has to pay after receiving an order – in this case 30 days. You may also see Net 60 or even Net 90. For first time buyers, you don’t want to offer Net 30 – instead make sure they pay via credit card before shipping the order. You can then extend Net 30 to repeat buyers with qualified credit.
Have you ever been burned by a buyer? As new exhibitor how can you vet potential buyers without seeming rude?
Once I had a buyer that I could not contact for a credit card – she just would not return my calls. Fortunately, I had not shipped her order, so I lost nothing (other than a little time.) This is why its very important that you receive payment before shipment on all first time orders. Its also completely common to ask a buyer for a credit sheet with references. Most buyers are used to this, and many have them ready to hand out when writing orders at a trade show.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Have more questions about trade shows? Check out my best selling class on Creative Live, Sell Your Products to Retailers.