When you are first starting out in your new creative business, one of the best ways to get yourself noticed is to attend fairs and events. Since I set up my own design business selling illustrated products at the end of 2014, I've attended over 40 events in various locations and price brackets. Outset Cornwall asked me to run a workshop on my experiences and offer top tips to the business start up clients, and so I thought I would share my views on what I think makes a successful show.
It is really important to work out which is going to be the best event for your business, your products and whether your customers are going to be visitors at the fair or show. Do your research beforehand, attend the event as a visitor, get chatting to stallholders and check on how much buying and selling is going on. There are also lots of Facebook groups for creative businesses, which you could ask the question whether anyone else has exhibited at the event, and what their experience was.
Once you have made the decision, paid the fee, start making plans!
You usually will receive an Exhibitors Guide, with details of the space allocated to you, and what facilities will be available. Take the time to read through the guide, so that you don't miss out on any important details about setting up, Wifi, access, electricty, risk assessments etc.
Plan out your stand in advance - measure up and practice set up at home. How are you going to make your products really stand out, and make people notice you. I always go up! Don't lay your products flat on the table, as they won't be seen from across the room. Places like homebase have handy rectangular shelfs that you can use to prop up products.
Props. Make your stand look interesting and attractive to encourage people to stop, but not too much that it becomes confusing on what you are actually selling.
Signage - what is allowed? - what is suitable? Think about what signage is appropriate for the venue you are in. If you are in a small hall then a large exhibition banner is going to look out of place, and encroach on your neighbours space.
Business cards and promotional material. Get some eye catching business cards printed that fit in with the branding of your stand. A cohesive look will really set you apart from less organised companies, and make you look professional and trustworthy. A quote from Patricia van den Akker from The Design Trust : " People will buy from people they know and Trust". If you have a strong identity, and keep attending various events, people will get to know you and see you as a professional business that they would like to buy from.
Share on social media. Let your existing customers know. Use the event hashtags to help people find you in advance of the event.
Get payment method in place. I highly recommend that you get a card reader, so that you can take card payments and catch those impulse sales. Get a sign printed to let people know that you take Card Payments.
Mailing List - get those potential customers on your database, so that you can contact them for future sales and events.
Order book - Have wholesale forms ready.
Pens, note book and stapler (trade fair - staple business cards with notes of conversation) keep a notebook write down conversations to follow up leads later.
How far is journey between car and stand? Do you need a trolley to carry heavy stock?
Make sure you have appropriate Public Liability Insurance cover
Choose Outfit - comfortable but professional looking. Look 'on brand', does your image fit in with the products you are selling? Comfy shoes or change of shoes
Paper bags / packaging / tissue paper presentation of sales? Gift? Do you need stickers or printed bag design, or a special jewellery box with your own branding on it. If your products are bought as gifts, make sure you can offer gift wrapping service, make your product look absolutely beautiful when it is packaged up. It just gives an extra value to the item. How many times have you taken pleasure in opening a beautifully wrapped package.
Float - coins and notes. Take a lot of £1s as the first person to buy something from your stand will buy a card with a £20 note!
A Toolkit of Blue tack, velcro pads, scissors, screwdriver.
Print labels for prices - If you are at a Trade show make sure you include RRP and wholesale prices.
Do you need a helper? If you do, make sure you get someone who is going to be helpful, not get in the way. Don't let them sit behind your stand with a bored look on their face, or start eating their sloppy sandwich around your stock! Sometimes a helper can become more of a hinderance.
Tips at the Event
So you are all set up, your stand is looking beautiful, you have got your signage and business cards ready, card reader synched up to your phone and ready to start selling!
Social media - do in advance of public arriving. You need to look friendly and approachable
Signage - price labels, Card Payments accepted.
Trade show - price with wholesale & RRP makes it easier for your potential customers.
Make friends with your neighbours. (handy for comfort breaks)
Stand if possible, but don’t look threatening. (Have a chair handy so you can sit during the quiet times.) Table & Chairs if Trade.
Be chatty, friendly and approachable, but not pushy People get put off by sales talk. Have a conversation and engage with people.
Don’t eat on your stand.
Bring your own sandwich and drink.
Make notes of conversations, so you can follow up afterwards.
Trade show - take details so that you can follow up
Keep your stock replenished.
Don’t over-pile your stand - make it easy to see and pick up products. Too much looks like a jumble.
In quiet times change stock around a bit to freshen it up, and it makes you look busy.
Don’t be on your phone looking bored
Be professional and confident.
Have fun. Most of these events are exhausting, but fun. If you look like you are enjoying it, you will appear more approachable and friendly.
Don’t pack up before the event closes.
Be friendly to the organisers.
After the Event
Email people to follow up any conversations/orders/potential orders
Mailing list - add new contacts - GDPR
Send out Wholesale price lists if required
Analyse sales. What sold well? Best sellers.
Share on Social Media.
Follow the people you met - potential stockists, stall neighbours, any particular interesting conversations that might lead to future possibilities
Provide feedback to the organisers
Reflect on the event. What was good? What wasn’t. What could you change to improve it. How were the Event Organisers? How to improve for next event. Any product suggestions from customers? What feedback did you get at the time?
Examples of stands on Pinterest : https://www.pinterest.co.uk/alisonbick/setting-up-your-stall/