NAMM Tradeshow Preparation Volume I: Before You Go

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With our three-part series, we’ll get you ready to reach your top consumers, connect with retail buyers, and prep your business for growth.


We’ve compiled some of our top tips and tricks for getting the most bang out of your tradeshow buck. Some of these we’ve had to learn the hard way, and others we’ve had the good fortune of getting right...so save yourself the headache and some extra expenses, and take these tips to heart!

  1. KNOW YOUR TOP LEADS INSIDE AND OUT. Study the retail buyer, distributors and general consumers that will be attending well in advance, and understand how your product or brand could be a good fit within their offerings. Make sure you’ve asked yourself these critical questions, and have some answers prepared in case they fire back:

    • Is your pricing clear and concise?

    • Do you offer volume discounts?

    • Do you know your margins per product?

    • Why should they buy your product instead of the booth next to you?

    • Do you have a document ready for follow up inquiries?
      Also, try to customize your pitch as much as possible, and craft a story so they can clearly visualize your brand in their arena.
       

  2. MAKE THE MOST OF YOUR MARKETING MATERIALS. We cannot stress this one enough. Letting a buyer walk away empty handed is the single biggest mistake you can make. The next biggest mistake is letting them walk away with the wrong information. Make sure you create a compelling, concise sell sheet highlighting your top selling points and key brand messages. And don’t forget to include your contact info! Simple tip, but you’d be surprised, drummers...
     

  3. APPEARANCE IS EVERYTHING. Everything you create is an extension of your brand, and product sell sheets are no exception. These handouts are the only thing a buyer has to reflect back on your brand, so don’t make the design an afterthought. The design needs to be clean, on-brand, and not too text or image heavy (yes, there’s such a thing as image heavy!). Keep the design within your brand colors and only use your brand fonts. When in doubt, use only one serif and one san serif font. Overusing fonts - or worse - bolding everything, looks inexperienced and cheap.

  4. DON’T SKIMP ON THE EXECUTION. Brochures, pamphlets, business cards and postcards are a great way to distribute your information to key audiences like buyers and consumers. And great design is a necessity (see #3^). But it’s also important to have these assets professionally printed on a nice paper or cardstock. We love Moo for all of our printing. They are fast, inexpensive, and offer super luxe options.
     

  5. KICK ASS AND TAKE NAMES. Umm, hello! You’d think this goes without saying, but we like to cover our bases. Create a system for capturing buyer information and interests. Oftentimes you’ll receive a business card, which is great. Immediately after your convo, be sure to write down exactly what you discussed, what the buyer was interested in, and next steps. After chatting with dozens of people throughout the day, it’s easy to forget the specifics of each conversation, but personal follow-up is key. So have a process for collecting notes after each conversation. If you want to take it a step further, create a simple questionnaire that you can complete after each conversation so that you can take more detailed notes. Oh, and bring more business cards than you think you’ll need!
     

  6. CREATE A BOOTH WORTHY OF INSTAGRAM. Your booth is going to be the very first thing a buyer sees of your brand, so it’s got to make a great impression. From your product displays to your tabletop accessories to signage, everything should tastefully convey your brand. Put thought into your design and layout; select consistent and on-brand colors, fonts, materials and patterns. But don’t be afraid to have a little fun! The most engaging booths are ones that have an element of surprise.
     

  7. LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION. If you’re going to purchase an exhibitor space, make sure it’s going to work for you. The last thing you want is to be in a dead space with crickets instead of consumers. Also consider the table size and overall booth square footage, and make sure it’s going to be big enough to accommodate your products and brand signage. If you’ve opted for a larger booth, make sure you fill it up. You don’t want it looking too sparse, which looks unprepared or inexperienced. If you have a smaller booth, keep your design to the basics, including signage and your product. Save the accessories and fun trinkets for next time.
     

  8. START GENERATING BUZZ, YESTERDAY! It’s never too early to get on the radar of some of your key audiences. Start tagging brands, buyers and influencers in pics, use the conference- and industry-designated hashtags, and follow key regional influencers and attendees to pique interest. Even consider sending care packages to local influencers introducing yourself and inviting them to visit you at your booth! This is especially important and effective if you are launching a new product or have other exciting news to share. Let people know that they can get the inside scoop if they swing by. Don’t forget to include details on your own website, including your booth number, the dates, times and location of the tradeshow and other important information.
     

  9. BRING YOUR A-GAME. They say that people can make or break a company, and this couldn’t be more true at tradeshows. Make sure you’re bringing the right people, and the right amount of people, to work your booth. In our experience, some of the best traits tend to be friendly, approachable, always smiling, happy and well put together. And that’s just to get the buyer’s attention. Your support team also needs to be knowledgeable and trained on your products and brand. They need to have the key talking points down to be able to at least engage initially. Also make sure your team knows when to pull you in. If a buyer is interested and keeps pressing with more questions, then your teammate has done their job and it’s time to involve you - the builder, founder or owner - in the conversation.
     

  10. THE EARLY BIRD GETS THE WORM. You’re spending time and money to build a booth, ship your product and travel to a tradeshow. It’s expensive to exhibit! So make the most of your time at the show. Connect with some of your top industry contacts in advance, and try to schedule a time to chat with them one-on-one. Opt for a quick coffee chat, or a brief meeting in the hotel lobby. They are busy and getting demands from every angle, so be cognizant of their time. But just a couple minutes one-on-one can help leave a lasting impression in the minds of your targets. And always have your game face on. You never know who you’re standing next to in the line for the hotel Starbucks or riding to the airport in the hotel shuttle.