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Preparing for Our First Tradeshow

Preparing for a tradeshow can be a daunting task. They are large, busy, and filled with companies who have been successfully exhibiting for years. We exhibited at our first trade show a few weeks ago at the Outdoor Retailer Winter Market in Denver, Colorado. This being our first time, we were excited but apprehensive as to what we were getting ourselves into.

The Planning Stage...

We did not have a lot of time leading up to the trade show to prepare. Therefore once we knew we were exhibiting and had out spot, we knew it was time to kick it into gear! We knew our biggest task items included; trade show materials, designing the booth, and pre show marketing.

At Shoe Defenders we always strive to have fun with everything that we do! As a result, we knew we needed a fun game to promote Shoe Defenders and our products at the tradeshow. Thus, we created the game we like to call, Find Your Match! We designed cards that we handed out to everyone passing our booth that they could then wear on their badge lanyards. On the front was a number. If a person saw another tradeshow attendee with the same number (ex: 727), they could both come back to our booth and great a free pair of Shoe or Gove Defenders! The back contained more information about our product as well as a coupon code.

We found this game to be very successful! It was interactive and got attendees connecting with one another and talking about our product. It was also a great way to promote our company as many people wore the cards on their lanyards. We will definitely be using this game at future shows we attend!

Next and very importantly, was our booth design. That included getting our popup displays, a product display case, and a meeting area. For our popup displays we used a local company that could do a quick turn around. The only hiccup was that we had to assemble them ourselves. That was an adventure in itself and a story for another time...

For the rest of the booth we got a great grey floor, bright orange chairs, and fun product display stand. We ended up in a central location on the exhibition floor and the vibrant colors really made our booth stand out. Designing the booth originally seemed like a big task, but thanks to fast shipping and great local businesses, it turned out great!

The last big task was pre-show marketing. Being a small business, we do not have a limitless marketing budget. Therefore, we know how to get creative while still being impactful! We created press releases and published them on several sites and on the Outdoor Industry Association site. Of course, we also used the ever most popular method of Instagram to make sure our followers knew we would be attending. Lastly, we updated our website with the conference information, out booth location and created a specific trade show page for all attendees to get more information.

The Trade Show...

After all the planning the tradeshow weekend had finally come! We had been to similar shows in the past as attendees rather than exhibitors and therefore were not completely blind in what to expect. All of our preparing really paid off as our booth looked great and the attendees loved our product! Throughout the weekend we created great connections with both attendees and fellow exhibitors. Our "neighbor" exhibitors were wonderful and it was great to learn about their companies, share tips, and experience the trade show alongside them. We also fostered relationships with attendees. From talking to owners of bikes stores, ski stores, gift stores, outdoor apparels stores and more, we loved meeting everyone and making new relationships We are excited as to what these relationships will bring for our business in the future.

Through our first trade show, we certainly learned a lot. A few recommendations to leave for any business considering attending a show would be:

- Start planning early

- Set clear goals for what you want to get out of the show

- Do what you can to make your booth interactive and stand out!

- Anyone can become a valuable connection (not just attendees and buyers)

Overall, we had a fantastic time exhibiting at the Outdoor Retailer 2018 Winter Market.

They put on a fantastic show and we hope to exhibit there again next year! It was a

wonderful experience and it certainly doesn't hurt that they allowed dogs on the show floor...

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