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By Ellie Richards

Are trade shows still relevant for your brand?

So you’re deliberating having your company represented in a trade show this year. What are the conditions vital to its success? Trade shows were primarily seen as a way to increase sales and to open new markets, however its essential to first analyse if this will work for you and your brand before investing. Whether your company is fashion, artistic or lifestyle based, trade shows can be an effective source of gaining industry contacts, clients and promotion for your brand.

Considerations including your branding and pre-show advertisement are fundamental to keep it fresh, relevant and to get clients to engage and participate. Whether its sourcing or selling, trade shows are still making an impact on how new brands are raising their profile and awareness, opening up markets and increasing sales. The biggest task to face in a sales climate dominated by e-commerce and mass sourcing is, making your stand a worthwhile financial investment.

Previously, clients and buyers would use shows to view the newest collections and products up close and in person and then proceed to order, however moving into the digital age, purchases are progressively being relayed off of strong online look books and email conversations. This cuts out the in person, middle man, creates mass accessibility of your company and most importantly, decreases your investment. By using photoshoots, campaigns and advertisements online for new collections, the comparative expenditures of a trade show stall is a no-brainer. So why are big brands still involved in the ritual?

Notable trade shows remain more as a tradition in the industry rather than a necessity, therefore established brands will be strategic about when and where they showcase their collections. These shows in particular are something potential clients may be more inclined to visit, so its worth doing your research on who will be represented at the show you want to invest in.

Further essential considerations before investing your time and money include minimum orders (what limit will attract your widest audience), delivery times (will your production schedule be able to fulfil an order), artistic decor for your stand if any, samples (will new product samples be ready on time to present), physical copies of lookbooks/previous campaigns, marketing material and giveaways  for clients (one way to encourage business) and the set up and breakdown of the stand itself. Hotels, catering of staffing and travel costs are all expenses too. Staffing for the duration of the event, design (artistic direction, plans of set up) and implementation (getting items delivered to the show, set up of the stall and transport away) can add up to as much or more than the event stand price itself.

However, the lasting effect of a well executed show can boost your brand’s profile and awareness far more than simply a digital approach and strategy.

We have asked for more insight on Trade Show success from expert sales rep Tim Parker, from Design for the People, who’s experience comes from years of work with numerous brands like Pantone, Marimekko, Brio toys and Iittala. Here is s a brief understanding of how to make it work for you.

How have trade shows changed over recent years?

The focus is less on making or taking orders. Stores use the fair to plan their forward buying and to look for inspiration and trends.

How do you measure a successful show?

On orders placed and leads gained, but success can only really be measured over the following year. For example the current Nomess pop up in Selfridges is a result of the previous two Maison et Object shows in Paris.

Does the sales model still work?

You mean in terms of selling at the show? In which case, we don’t really make significant sales through the fairs, but we would hope to cover some costs through show sales but as previously mentioned its over the following months that results should be seen.

Might be worth medium to large brands having in house sales people or agents as opposed to shows, better return on investment with greater follow through.

Final key points to consider:

  • Branding is everything. If you haven’t got a clear idea for who or what your brand is, how will clients know?
  • Identify your target customers. Using this, strategically design your PR practise, appointments and pre-show advertisement around this.
  • Make sales appointments with key buyers, so you can develop a relationship and hopefully secure an order!
  • Make yourself stand out. Make an impact on potential clients and be memorable.
  • Once you’re planning the direction of your stand, consider graphics, vinyls, visuals, signage and the most effective way to merchandise your product for buyers and further onto social media.
  • Always follow up on any potential leads or opportunities raised from a Trade Show (failing to do so would ultimately lower your investment)

If you liked this blog, you might be interested to read about Branding