Trade shows are the place where we reveal new products and designs, meet new potential customers, and shmooze existing customers. If done right, we walk away with a stack of orders, if done wrong, we walk away...
Part of succeeding at a trade show is being fresh yet familiar, year after year. You want people walking by to say "wait, is this Tee See Tee? Oh yes! It is!" We have no problem with this, because every year, we retire half or more of our designs, and replace those designs with new ones. But this year, we decided to change the entire booth from the ground up, and in order to do this, I spent a few days MacGuyver-ing the craziest maze of chains and pvc pipes, which theoretically will hold all of our new products in a nice grid, literally filling the walls with t-shirts. If this ends up breaking under the weight of the shirts, tank tops, and hoodies, we are S-C-R-E-W-E-D.
The other part of succeeding is being friendly and outgoing. For Jenny and I, this was a struggle the first couple years. We are not introverts by any stretch, but not outgoing and "Salesy" either. We learned quickly that being shy equals no sales, and so two outgoing t-shirt salespeople were born. I find that offering Hershey Kisses, or when desperate, a small glass of wine really breaks the ice.
The last key to trade show success is obviously, closing the deal. This is done with a lot of smoke and mirrors and ego stroking. You don't think Captain Michigan would do well in your store? How about I tell you a story about another store owner who said the exact same thing, and how it is now her best-selling item! You only carry the best Michigan T-shirts? How about I tell you how I follow you on social media, and notice that you carry some of my favorite brands, like _____, and ______, and of course, _______, and then I tell you how I could only dream to be as great of a brand as those companies some day! But here is the thing, these are not lies. I do follow these stores, and I do hope to be as big as some of the other t-shirt brands out there(Life is Good, Michigan Awesome, M22, I am looking at you). I am good at stroking egos because I genuinely look up to these people, and respect the hell out of what goes into owning and operating a store.
But in the end, we could do all these things flawlessly, and still have a bad show. Weather plays a factor, timing does too, heck, even the economy plays a big part. Every year is a gamble, but we love gambling....starting Tee See Tee was/is a life changing gamble, and it paid off, so here come Lansing Gift Show, let's roll the dice!
Besides, it gives us a chance to explore our state with our family, eat at killer restaurants(Golden Harvest, here we come!), and meet tons of cool new people...all while "working." Not a bad way to spend a couple weekends out of the year at all.
*And yes, I know I basically just revealed all my "inside" strategies to make for a successful trade to show for all my competition to see. That's fine, I hope you were taking notes, and I hope you put these seemingly obvious tricks of the trade to use, because a trade show is only as good as it's weakest link, so let's all work together to give storeowners an AWESOME experience!