Are you leveraging trade shows to your advantage?

One of the most asked questions I receive here at Resourceful Designer is “how do I find design clients?” I want to share one way with you today and that's trade shows. Below is the general outline of the episode but I go into greater details in the podcast so be sure to listen.

For the purpose of this topic, I'm using “Trade Shows” as an all-encompassing term meaning any organized gathering where businesses get to showcase themselves to the masses, such as network events or convention. These gatherings may be niche specific or they may be more general, such as a spring or fall show. What they all have in common is a gathering of interested people looking for information.

Trade shows happen just about everywhere, small cities have them and so do large metropolises. If you're lucky there may be a venue close to where you live that specializes in trade shows and offers them on a regular basis.

Trade shows are a great place to drum up new clients. Those attending are there to either discover something new or to find ways to improve something to do with their current situation. That something could be you.

Attending Trade Shows

There are two ways you can leverage trade shows for your business. By attending as an exhibitor or by attending as a guest.

Attending as an Exhibitor

One of the bests things about exhibiting at a trade show is potential clients come to you. If someone is in need of your services they will stop by your booth and talk to you. Anyone who does is genuinely curious about your business and are good targets to become clients.

When someone stops by your booth you only have a minute or two to explain your value and why they should work with you. To make the most of this sparse time, pay attention to what they say and compose your comments and question towards them. If you show them you have answers to their problems It will go a long way to winning them over.

Drawbacks of being an exhibitor at trade shows

Trade shows are a great place to meet new clients. Unfortunately, having a booth at a trade show costs money, sometimes a lot of money. You need to make sure the cost justifies the results and that you can attract enough new clients to cover that cost.

One option is to share booth space with someone else to cut down costs. Reach out to peers in a related field and split the booth with them.

Attending as a guest

Attending trade shows as a guest gives you more freedom to come and go as you please and move around freely talking to whoever you want. Conversations can go longer since there are no pressures to move on to the next person in line.

Find booths of companies you would like to work with and make your pitch to the owner or manager. If the owner or manager isn't there ask for their name and contact information and then take some time to learn a bit about the business. This knowledge will be valuable when you do talk to them. Be sure to leave your business card for them.

Another option is to talk to fellow attendees. If you can, listen to the conversations they have with exhibitors to learn a bit about them and then approach them if you think they may be a good fit as a client.

Drawbacks of being a guest at a trade show

In order to pick up clients as a guest attendee, you have to be proactive. This may be difficult for introverted designers. As an exhibitor, you have the convenience of people coming to you asking about design. As a guest, you have to make the effort to put yourself out there to be noticed.

Etiquette when attending trade shows

Whether you are attending a trade show as an exhibitor or as a guest there are certain things to be aware of when presenting yourself to potential clients.

  • Use approachable body language by standing at your booth, never sit. Make sure you smile, and keep your hands at your sides, not in your pockets or folded at your chest.
  • Stay attentive. Don’t look at your phone or laptop.
  • Don’t solicit guests in the aisles. Let them show interest by arriving at your booth.
  • Be prepared to answer basic questions but make sure you listen and offer solutions to any problems you detect.  Don’t be afraid to say “I don’t know” and offer to get back to them.
  • Don’t eat or drink at the booth. Hide food, trash, and supplies behind a backdrop or under a skirted table.
  • Dress appropriately, and avoid wearing too much or too little. There is nothing worse than freezing or sweating at a trade show. Dress in comfortable layers that you can easily add or remove as needed.
  • Be aware of your personal hygiene. Use mints or gum to keep your breath fresh and avoid overpowering fragrances.
  • Avoid gaudy jewellery and flashy clothing. You want to be remembered for your personality and conversation, not what you're wearing.

Trade shows are a great place to meet new clients. If you approach the day with these things in mind you may come out of it new and exciting design work.

What's your experience with Trade Shows?

Let me know by leaving a comment for this episode.

Questions of the Week

Submit your question to be featured in a future episode of the podcast by visiting the feedback page.

This week’s question comes from Andrea

In an effort to get more local clients, how do you approach businesses with no prior relationship? how do you word your introduction/pitch?  Even with a strong elevator pitch, I always feel overly sales-y approaching businesses and asking if they need graphic design.

To find out what I told Andrea you’ll have to listen to the podcast.

Resource of the week Pretty Links Pro

Pretty Links enables you to shorten links using your own domain name (as opposed to using tinyurl.com, bit.ly, or any other link shrinking service)! In addition to creating clean links, Pretty Link tracks each hit on your URL and provides a full, detailed report of where the hit came from, the browser, os and host. Pretty Link is a killer plugin for people who want to clean up their affiliate links, track clicks from emails, their links on Twitter to come from their own domain, or generally increase the reach of their website by spreading these links on forums or comments on other blogs.

Episode Sponsor

Thank you to this week's sponsor, Storyblocks. Save on Millions of stock photos, vectors and more at Storyblocks.

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I want to help you.

Running a graphic design or web design business all by yourself isn't easy. If there are any struggles you face running your design business please reach out to me. I'll do my best to help you by addressing your issues in a future blog post or podcast episode here at Resourceful Designer. You can reach me at feedback@resourcefuldesigner.com

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