Top trade show tips for start-ups

Business expert and writer Zoe Efstathiou provides some top tips for start-ups and SMEs looking to make an impact at trade shows.

Trade shows are a great marketing tool for many businesses, as they give you a platform to showcase your product or services to a huge number of potential customers. Yet with so many companies vying to generate business at such events, how can you ensure that your brand stands out from the crowd? After all, appearing at a trade show isn’t cheap so it’s important that you make the most of the opportunity.

trade show

Writer Zoe Efstathiou caught up with Kate Bunyan, marketing director of Finders International, to find out how the spa products company has gone about differentiating itself when exhibiting at busy and competitive trade shows over the years.

Be theatrical

To attract the attention of passers-by, Kate Bunyan’s top tip is to incorporate some form of ‘theatre’ on your stand.

“When exhibiting at cosmetics trade shows such as Love Natural and Love Organic Show, we had three forms of theatre,” says Kate. “We do things such as quick demonstrations in which we apply our spa products on the back of people’s hands or we offer mini spa foot treatments. We also do full spa treatments in our gazebos, offering back massages, facials or hand treatments with our Spa Magik Organiks products. All three created interest from customers and helped us to engage people with our new product launches.”

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Be proactive, but not pushy

Striking the right balance between being proactive without being pushy can be a tough call at trade shows. But even worse than being too in-your-face is to end up acting standoffish.

“The main trick is to be able to judge body language and to listen,” Kate stresses. “If a customer says no verbally, or their body language says no, then thank them for their time and move on to the next potential customer or client.”

Set targets

To get the most out of your time at trade shows, always set targets that you and your staff can work towards, whether that’s data collection, PR, sales, or sampling targets.

“Targets give focus to staff behaviour at a show,” says Kate. “If the target is purely sales, then you will need strategies to convert sales, such as strong promotions. At Love Natural and Love Organic, we had a small selling stand with a very strong sales offer.”

“The target on our treatment stand was to raise awareness and get good PR so our team were focused on communicating the brand and product USPs to give customers a great first impression of our company.”

Incentivise press

Trade shows present a great opportunity to get your brand in front of dozens of journalists and bloggers, but how can you get their attention when there are so many other brands competing for coverage?

“We offered VIPs and press members free spa treatments and VIP goody bags at the show. If your company does not have physical products to give to VIPs, you could always consider buying in gifts from third parties that fit with your brand,” Kate recommends. “For example, if you are a travel agent you could put together a beach bag gift with travel essentials in it, like a branded beach ball and sun cream.”

Have fun

With so much promotion squeezed into such a short space of time, trade shows can be tiring affairs, but it’s important to keep a smile on your face if you want people to leave with a good impression of your brand.

“Have fun and enjoy it,” Kate says. “Customers are attracted to companies with a positive outlook so enjoy your work and the rest will follow.”

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