Last month we went to Scotland’s Trade Fair 2021. It was Sandwick Bay Candles’ first time outside of the launch gallery and our biggest stall yet.
We had so many new products to showcase, and it was amazing to hear from people who had seen us before who commented on how ‘elevated’ and ‘grown up’ the brand had become.
As you all know, we are always about collaboration over competition – so we thought we’d share our top ten tips to make you feel more confident than ever to take the leap into Trade Fairs.
First things first – plan ahead! If you’re in a team, make meetings in advance and do not reschedule them. Slow, steady planning makes the admin-heavy organisation manageable and will mean you’ll be on top of things that take time.
In the Lead Up To The Event
1. Choose Where To Attend
Decide what Trade Fairs to attend. Consider what trade show will attract the right people – your target market. Popular for its handcrafted products and proudly local makers, we knew Scotland’s Trade Fair was right for us. We also decided on an Autumn Fair as the perfect time to show our new Christmas packaging and fragrances to the world.
If you’re still unsure about whether a fair is right for you, you could initially go as a visitor and decide whether to take a stand the following year.
2. Make the Best Use of Your Stand
All stalls start with the same bare bones which means you get a chance to stand out if you plan your stall well. In the initial stages, making sure you know the exact dimensions of the stand, including the height of the walls and material. We found it helpful to tack down the length with handy measuring tape!
Our stand had a lot to display; our white label portfolio, our Christmas range, our signature range and the refill station. We wanted our stall to reflect our branding with light furniture and fittings exhibiting lots of products without being cluttered. We even included some lifestyle set-ups to help the buyer imagine our products in homes and shops.
Stand Location is also important, we’d recommend choosing a space that is near the entrance or catering area. We found being opposite the launch gallery was so exciting and we find the exhibitors are always excited to see the new brands nearby.
3. Market Market Market
In the coming months and weeks to the fair make use of the opportunities of being involved. Use social media to raise awareness. Many organisers will provide a Media Pack, use it! This might include graphic templates and email signatures.
In return, find out what marketing opportunities they have. Are they showcasing new exhibitors on their channels and websites? Can you feature in local press?
We’d also suggest you document the planning on your stories, it’s a journey people are usually excited to see you take especially as a small business.
4. Know your Products, Prices and Terms
Especially in relation to wholesale. It’s important to know the inside out of your price list, ingredient list, varieties and USPs for even the most inquisitive visitor.
There is also a lot of business jargon that is worth learning before the stalls if you don’t use them in everyday trading. A few for example:
Minimum Order Quantity: the fewest number of units required to be purchased at one time.
Lead Time: the amount of time that passes from the start of a process until its conclusion. In our case it would be the time estimated to produce candles for the wholesale order and send them.
Carriage: the cost of transporting goods into a business from a supplier.
Minimum Order: minimum total to place a wholesale order.
Don’t worry about knowing everything; layman’s terms can be just as effective but it’s always worth a quick Google of any term you haven’t heard before in the small print.
Extra Tip: Consider having a ‘Show Special’: a discount, or sample pack to encourage visitors to place an order at the shop.
At the Event
5. Take Business cards in exchange for Brochures (and/or goodies)
Making brochures and line-sheets in advance can help your products stick in their mind as they consider their options.
Many people still carry business cards and they are great for following up. If you have a brochure or sample, exchanging them for a business card means you have a lead in return.
Merchandise can also work but make sure they make sense for you, e.g. if you’re an environmentally focused, is handing out dozens of branded tote bags or plastic pens in line with your brand?
Extra tip: note down detail to help remember the conversation: lady in nice dress, chatted about favourite coffee shop – it’ll help make the follow up emails more personable.
6. Build relationships with everyone, including other stalls!
Strike up a conversation with your nearby exhibitors. It’s great to hear their stories and sometimes the best collaborations can come from stall holders teaming up (special mention to Cheryl Jones Designs!)
It can often take months or years for some trade show leads to develop into a business relationship, so don’t be disheartened if orders don’t materialise straightway.
The Lovely Ladies at Daisy Chain Prestwick
7. Dress smart but comfortable.
It’s important to look smart but there’s no need to dress corporate. Leave the stilettos at home, there’s plenty of running around to be done and trainers are a must! You’re not going to be your best self if you’re worried about blisters.
We had t-shirts printed by Laura at Big Blue Hebrides that helped us look the part. Paired with smart jeans, we were all comfortable and uniform.
8. Have Good Body Language
Remember to treat your stall like a shop floor. Be approachable, friendly and smiley so exhibitors feel welcomed into your stall.
It’s difficult being customer-facing all day, so if you can – alternate your team breaks or bring along someone to switch in allowing you to take a break. Just make sure they are as clued up on the products as you are!
9. Enjoy it
There’s so much hard work that goes into the preparation of a good trade fair show. After spending lots of time and effort, you’ve finally made it.
You are prepared, your stand looks fantastic, you know your terms and so it’s time to enjoy sharing your products with the world.
After The Event
10. Follow up: write email templates and customise for each.
For many following up is what seals the deal and keeps you relevant. Email within the first week if possible while still fresh in their memory. Keep the email brief and friendly with many a link to your brochure and a few bestsellers.
After the initial email, a follow-up in three weeks re-iterating your previous points. Don’t be disheartened by no’s or if connections doesn’t materialise into an order straightaway. We know firsthand some relationships take years of developing.
Even in the digital era, the one-on-one opportunity to connect with potential buyers in person can’t be underestimated.
Similarly, meeting likeminded business owners of the can be a huge morale boost and keep you focused the long-term future of your business. On top of that, we can all agree it’s good fun. Good luck!
If this was helpful we’d love for you to get in touch and let us know. What other small business behind-the-scenes would you like to hear about?
If you’re a stockist looking to get SBC in your stores register now on our wholesale site or email us at email@example.com for further info.