It’s no secret that the furniture and fashion businesses are two of the toughest markets to break into. Gaining notoriety in the furniture and fashion businesses is no small task when competing with the big names like Ashley Furniture, Ikea, Nike, Adidas, etc., as well as multigenerational family brands who’ve cornered certain parts of the market.
Thankfully, there are a couple ways to grow your network and make a name for yourself. The first is online. Of course, this can be through your classic marketing and PR efforts, or through tools like the RevCascade Network, a marketplace where brands and retailers discover one another and connect for dropshipping purposes.
The second way to build your network is offline, namely through trade shows. While most of your business partners will probably come through some combination of those online practices, good old fashioned tradeshows still have a place in today’s business world. In addition to showing off your products, tradeshows facilitate the congregation of thousands of likeminded people in your industry.
They do pose a couple problems though. First of all, any show you go to, you’ll be constantly surrounded by hundreds, if not thousands of competitors. So how do you possibly stand out from that huge trade show crowd? Second, with so many events all across the country, how do you decide which ones to attend?
Luckily for you, we’ve enlisted the help of a few industry experts to give their take on their favorite events and how to succeed at them.
Sales Manager, LuxeDecor
“Casual Market Chicago is my favorite trade show. I really enjoy being the customer instead of the sales person! Every manufacturer spends time making sure I experience what is special about each brand. Also, the showrooms go out of their way to inspire with the various fabric and finish combinations. I always return with new inspiration for unique combinations that I would not have thought of.”
“It’s so important to strategically select which industry events you’ll be attending in a given year – there are simply too many shows, and you can’t go to every one. I personally prioritize events where I know most companies’ C-suite decision-makers will be in attendance and there will collaboration and innovation between the brands and retailers. Deciding where to exhibit or attend is only half the battle though. Once you’re there, you have to pull out all the stops to make your presence felt. Wear comfortable shoes, eat well, sleep the night before, drink plenty of water. Trade shows are the sport of retail. Whether you are a brand or a retailer, you must look at trade shows as the World Series, the World Cup, or Wimbledon, depending on your sport of reference. As such, you need to prepare yourself as an athlete.
The more important side of excelling at a trade show, however, is less tactical. The goal of trade shows is to deepen your relationships with your current business partners while exploring new relationships and opportunities with companies who are a great fit for your business and your products. But never forget, those products are bought and sold with the ultimate goal of ending up in consumers’ hands. Therefore, it is of the utmost importance that representatives at trade shows focus on how their products will resonate with consumers, not just potential partners. Ultimately, trade shows are an essential component of how brands and retailers can make sure they sell the right product to the right consumer at the right time.”
CEO, France and Son
“My favorite trade show is the High Point Furniture Show. It’s a great show because all the major industry companies are there and a lot of new product introductions take place. There are a ton of awesome displays and loads of free samples given out, which is always a good thing.
The first step in standing out at a trade show is to have a dramatic, eye-catching display. You want your showroom to be so stunning that people can’t help but stop to look closer and take pictures. Try to really set the scene for what it is you’re selling. Another great way to get people to your display is to have an event. If you’re able to get a celebrity or artist to work with you that will bring in people for photos and signings. But even just small events like raffles and other games will bring people in and keep them there long enough to check out your wares. Finally, you can’t go wrong with freebies. Everyone loves free stuff. But be smart with what you give out. You can give out a pen with your company name on it, but it won’t really be seen once it goes away in a pocket or bag. If you give out a tote bag for people to put their other freebies in it’ll get your name out there even to people who haven’t stopped by your display. Everyone who gets a bag will become a walking billboard for your company.”
Every trade show is different, but hopefully the above advice has given you some things to consider before your next exhibition. Remember the goals of the trade show – to network and market your products – and always work towards that in everything you do. Good luck on the floor – hope to see you there!