I have a pet peeve: Leaving a message for someone and then the person doesn’t return my call. Nothing makes me more frustrated!
Have you ever tried making a call to someone you want to do business with, and you just can’t get them to come to the phone? You leave a couple messages, and STILL they won’t call you back. Finally, you give up and assume they don’t want to do business with you.
But, what if you had met them at a trade show? Then, when you called they would be more likely to talk to you, because now it’s personal. You aren’t just a stranger on the end of the wire. You two have already met – heck, you’re practically friends now!
And that leads me to this question that I often get from my readers: “Should I spend the money and time to exhibit at a trade show?”
My answer is “YES, if you want someone to pick up the phone when you call them!”
I know many creative entrepreneurs who claim to want to find success, but aren’t willing to make an investment in their own business!
And by investment, I mean, they are reluctant to spend money to make money.
Trade shows can be costly, but they can also catapult your business to success.
If you are in a business where you have something to sell (art, technology, yourself), then yes, you should attend trade shows.
It’s a golden opportunity to meet the people you need to meet.
We live in a global marketplace, and no longer can you survive by doing business just with customers in your own area.
A trade show brings people from all over the world to do business together.
Often other artists will ask me “wow, how did Drew get a deal with Converse” or “how did you guys set up that sweet license with Hinano Tahiti clothing?”
The answer is always this: we knew someone who opened the door for us. Most of our license deals have came from knowing someone already, or meeting them at a trade show.
If you’re serious about doing what you say you want to do, you have to spend the time and the money to get face-to-face with the people who you want to do business with.
Three reasons to attend a trade show in your intended field:
EDUCATION: You learn what’s hot, what’s not, and what’s happening in the world of your industry. You are free to ask people in the same field as you what their opinions are, to help you provide a better offering.
You have conversations where you learn something about the people you want to do business with, that leads to partnerships down the road.
Often there are seminars you can attend to learn new skills. There’s no better way to get the scoop on what’s happening without being there in the middle of the action.
SHOW OF COMMITMENT: By exhibiting, you are able to show the value of what you’re offering. Just by being there, you are demonstrating to possible clients, agents and licensees that you are committed and that you’ll be around awhile.
NETWORKING: This is the most important aspect of a trade show! A show gives you the opportunity to rub elbows with manufacturers, agents, sales reps, and anyone else involved in your field. Most of the big deals we’ve done came from meeting someone at a trade show.
Why? Because people want to do business with people they have met. It’s all about trust and who you like, and who likes you.
If you’re hidden away in your studio in the middle of America, you won’t be taken as seriously as you would if you networked at shows.
Here’s just a few of the many deals we’ve made that came directly from exhibiting at Trade Shows:
- Walter Foster signed on to publish our HOW TO DRAW WITH DREW book
- Palisades Skateboards signed on for a complete line of Drew Brophy decks
- Mattel offered us a deal to redesign their “street sharks” line
- Skin-It signed Drew on for a great license for electronic skins
- South Pacific Licensing Agent: We signed on with an agent who has gotten us many deals in Australia and New Zealand.
Being in the business of surf lifestyle art, many different trade shows apply to us. We often attend Surf Expo, MAGIC and CHA, because many of our licensees and potential customers are exhibitors there.
If you want to create stronger, better partnerships, get out of the safety of your work space and go meet people!
Determine the best trade show for you, and the first year just walk it. Research what is working for the exhibitors, take notes and ask a lot of questions. That way when you exhibit the next year, you’ll be ready.
I’ll see you at the next show!
PS: I co-wrote the book on Art Licensing Contracts. Click below for info: