Trade Show Guide – How to Stand Out and Tips for Converting Visitors to Sales

Softline’s Trade Show Guide

Capsule, FFANY, The Chicago Collective, and, of course, MAGIC in Las Vegas. Designers, manufacturers, and retailers alike utilize these fashion trade shows and others to grow their business, expand their clientele, and network among industry professionals. When utilized wisely, these shows are some of the best marketing tools around. However, mere attendance does not equate to marketing success. A business must plan before, act during, and follow up afterwards to maximize the outcome of having a booth at any of these conventions. This trade show guide will explore the best practices for making a lasting impression at trade shows.

Plan Ahead

Trade show success starts before the convention center doors open. Smart preparation begins in the weeks and months in advance. Taking care of all possible details beforehand gives vendors more availability for interacting with visitors. This is paramount, as ample attention paid to each potential customer is the key to earning his or her business.

Reach Out To Clients In Advance & Make Appointments

Rarely do buyers attend trade shows merely to browse. The majority of industry professionals attend trade shows with set appointments and a list of specific booths to visit. Networking ahead of time is the best way to ensure your booth is seen. Reach out to contact the prospective retailers that match with your products or service in advance and make appointments to meet with them during the event. As the event draws nearer, continue to stay in contact to keep prospective buyers interested.

Negotiate A Location

Location is everything at trade shows. A booth near the entrance or adjacent to the food court is considered prime real estate, and acquiring these locations is often as simple as asking the right people. Negotiate with the event organizers to obtain the best spot and do it early.

Generate A Following

Utilizing a variety of PR and Marketing to announce your brand’s attendance is critical.  Employ multiple avenues of communication, such as postcards, print mailers, social media, emails, and phone calls. There are many avenues of communication (most of which are free) and this is one of the best ways to ensure a good turnout of prospective buyers. It will also generate a sense of urgency among and help facilitate a brand’s identity.

Book Accommodations Early

Sort out all travel, lodging, and travel plans ahead of time. Having these details worked out in advance will enable vendors with more attention and focus on the real goal during the event. Thoroughly research and plan an agenda for the trip down to parking at the event. Draft a budget ahead of time that accounts for all potential expenses that come with attending. Do this portion of the to-do list early on to avoid sold out flights or hotels and save yourself the stress of last minute booking.

At The Event

Cultivate A Unique Space

Create a visually enticing and eye-catching booth to attract the your ideal clientele. Spaces are often small at trade shows, but that doesn’t have to affect the impression you make. Vendors sometimes aim to replicate the ideal storefront that would carry a brand’s product.

There are a wide variety of other smart options available for designing a booth, but always keep it clean and clutter-free, and make sure every detail sends a succinct message that defines a brand’s image. Simplicity and clarity are crucial. The goal is to attract the right customers rather than trying to attract every customer.

Messaging & Image

Stick to concise copy – often as simple as the brand name and a brief, one-sentence tagline – and aim to convey one main point to potential customers. Many vendors fall victim to the belief that more is better, when in fact, too many visuals or graphics often times overwhelm and deter visitors.

Have a Standout Booth

A great booth is a reflection of a company’s image and product offering. It should also be a friendly place that encourages and attracts customers. Below are some potential options to achieve this goal:

  • Include seating for visitors who have likely been walking all day.
  • Offer candy, food, and refreshments.
  • Make sure there is ample lighting.
  • Set up a free WiFi zone or a spot to charge electronics.

These types of added amenities might just bring in otherwise disinterested patrons. Quality beats quantity, especially in the fashion industry.

Staff & Stock The Booth

Even the most visually astounding booth will fall flat if the staff seems disinterested, distracted, or disorganized. Enforce an electronics-free zone during the show and make sure each staff member is knowledgeable and passionate about the brand. Also, be diligent in enforcing that everyone involved practice his or her pitches ahead of time and emphasize crafting every speech to the specific nature of each and every client. Nothing is more deterring than a routine monologue. A smart salesperson aims to make every interaction a personal connection.

After The Event

Keep In Touch

Have a system for collecting business cards and contact information. Follow up after the event. It is essential for successfully turning visitors into customers. Remember that the attendees have spent hour upon hour visiting booth upon booth, and it can be easy for them to forget the details of a pitch or confuse the product being offering. Direct contact made after the event shows initiative and personal investment in potential customers.

Gear Up For Round Two

Trade shows may only occur every few months, but the end of one event means it is time to start preparing for the next. As soon as the doors close, take notice of what worked well and what could use improvement. Spend a few moments during the event to observe other popular booths. Note the successful tactics they use and consider implementing them in some way at the next event. Always be willing to try new strategies and ideas as preparations begin for future shows.

Other Sources:
Fashion Trade Shows 
Booth Design Ideas