As a wholesale apparel brand, we love trade show season! It’s our opportunity to interact with customers face-to-face, show off our products in a retail-inspired way and share all the exciting new changes we have been developing since the year before.

But trade shows aren’t just for brands like us. They are also the perfect place for entrepreneurs and small businesses to go deeper inside the industry. And what’s stopping most people we talk to is the fear of cost. But we’re here to tell you, you don’t need to spend thousands of dollars on a booth to attend most trade shows, you actually can register ahead of time to get passes for zero to a nominal fee.

We worked closely with our good friend, YouTube influencer and entrepreneur John Santos to break down the reasons why you should attend trade shows and the best tips for navigating them.

Reasons Why You Should Attend Trade Shows

  1. Grow your Business
  2. Taking Classes
  3. Network with Buyers, Distributors and Suppliers
  4. Research the Landscape
  5. Stay informed and updated on New Trends
  6. Scope out the Competition
  7. Create New Business Opportunities
  8. Grow your Industry Resources

4 Tips For Navigating Trade Show Season

1. Create a game plan BEFORE you arrive

All trade shows will have a list of classes with times, room numbers and speakers that will be there. Make sure you review this information before arriving, so you can make two lists. The first is for classes/meetings/speeches you feel like you must attend. Then, make a list of events that you’d like to attend, if you can.

The reason you should divide the two is simple. The things you need to do in order to accomplish your goals should take priority, and you should not miss them for any reason. The things that you’d like to attend can be skipped, so you can obtain your other goals.

If you made time to pay (or pay with your time, if registration was free) to attend a trade show, you should be prepared to work the entire day. Take advantage of everything a show has to offer, and fill your days will only the most imperative activities.

2. Know where to go

Once you create your game plan, you need to map out how to get from place to place. Simple things, such as knowing where to park, where to grab a bite to eat in between events or to charge your equipment are important to research ahead of time. This will removes some of the stress and anxiety you may have going into it, so you can focus on the goals at hand.

At BELLA+CANVAS, we take our trade show planning extremely seriously. We look at every event as such a huge opportunity for us, so we encourage you to come visit! We have teams members available to answer any and all questions you may have. We have products and displays that showcase our color range, fabrication variety and new styles. This is your time to come and see samples to check out the intricacies of our styles and to touch and feel the products for yourself without having to take our word for it (but they really are insanely soft). You can connect with someone our sales or marketing teams, and you may even meet one of our co-founders!

As John mentioned in the video below, it might also be important to you to map out locations where you could “accidentally” bump into the people you want to talk to. “A few times I’ve met the main people I needed to connect with on their way out of the building! Remember to always be ready to close and sometimes that means knowing where the exit is,” he suggests.

3. Map out the Brands/People you want to Meet

Make a list of resources you need to connect with during your stay at the event. If there is a certain brand, person or service you want to learn more about, reach out to them ahead of time on social media or via a contact email on their website. Let them know you’ll be attending and would love to connect. As a brand, we love hearing from our customers or prospective ones and even better, we love meeting you!

4. Follow up with Everyone you Connected with

This might be the hardest, but the most important tip. Take some time after the event to follow up and reconnect with those you met. Whether it’s from the business card of a sales rep or the Instagram handle of a vlogger, aim for making them a long term connection, because you never know the opportunities that may come up where you’d want to work together in the future.

On that note, we’d love to see you this trade show season, so please check out where we will be on our calendar HERE, and don’t forget to watch our video with John Santos below where he discusses all these tips from his perspective.