You may have seen from our Instragram account that we did our first trade show a couple weeks ago. Yay us! You're not here to cheer for me right now, so I just went ahead and did it for you. Hope that's okay. Anyway, the trade show...
We attended the Rocky Mountain Gift Show at the Denver Mart here in Denver. The highlights? We signed up some great new wholesale accounts, we got a lot of positive feedback on our cards, we learned what to do... and not do... at a trade show. And it was actually really fun! This trade was show unique in that we found out a couple weeks before the show that this would be the last event at the Denver Mart before they closed for good. The Denver Mart went into foreclosure due to the losses they suffered as a result of the pandemic and the restrictions on public gatherings. Many of the attendees were really bummed to see the Denver Mart close its doors and are hoping to find a new venue to keep the Rocky Mountain Gilft Show alive. We hope they do because it was a great event and we met some great people there.
So, what did we learn?
1. Location is key!! We signed up a little late for the trade show, not knowing how quickly it fills up, so we didn't get an ideal location. We would have like to be in the main forum area with all the smaller booths and lots of foot traffic. Instead, we had a separate showroom not far off the main forum. While we weren't far away, there weren't nearly as many people coming through. What else is important about location? Your neighboors. If you're a new company and you don't have a lot of return customers coming to the tradeshow to check out your goods, you have to rely on the other businesses to bring in traffic, and it has to be the right traffic. We were right next to a furniture trading company who brought it a ton of traffic but most of the store owners were furniture store owners. When is the last time you saw a furniture store that carried greeting cards? You can't sell bikinis in Anarctica, no matter how good you are!
2. Display is everything. Our cards are awesome but they're not huge so you can't see them from a distance. Luckily we have one huge banner with one of our cow graphics on it, but I was wishing we had more big displays with all Svea's cool drawings and paintings. Once we got people into our show room to look at our cards, almost all of them wanted to carry our cards in their store. But getting people through the door of the show room... that was tough! Next time I want more large graphics to display so we can get people to browse our cards. In the end, giving out free samples of our cards seemed to do the trick.
3. Just talk to everyone and don't care if you sound lame. This is the most important thing we learned and we got better at it as the show went on. At first we were a bit shy about stopping people walking through the hallway but we got over that pretty quick when we realized no one was just going to wander into our showroom. So... when there was a couple walking by with an empty stroller, I said, "Hey! You lost your baby!" They laughed and we started a conversation and they came in and looked at our cards and placed an order. They could have walked right by.
4. Know your pricing and your products inside and out. When you start having multiple people asking you questions and wanting to write orders at the same time, it's easy to get flustered. I gave one new customer a huge discount on accident. I of course honored the discount but at some point I'll have to explain to her that I can't continue to give 30% off on all of her orders! Plus, when you can rattle off all the numbers off the top of your head, you sound like you know what you're talking about.
5. Don't be afraid to say things like, "I don't know" or "I'll get back to you." This is our first debut in the greeting card industry and our first debut in the wholesale world. We definitely don't have all the answers yet. When someone asks you something you don't know, it's easy to get nervous and want to make up an answer but it's way better to just admit you don't know. People are actually quite helpful if you just admit you don't have an answer. And don't feel bad about it either. Everyone starts somewhere. If we already knew everything, the journey wouldn't be much fun.
All in all, it was a great experience and the first of many trade shows. We're thinking the Dallas Total Home and Gift Show in June, but we'll keep you posted!