On the 12th of September we exhibited at the Merchandise World in Farnborough, considered to be the top trade show in the UK for the promotional merchandise Industry.

We had a great time meeting a lot of interesting people and getting to know better the merchandise scene in the UK. I would like to share some thoughts and ideas that I found useful while attending.

Let me share our take away from this years Merchandise World.

A smaller stand isn’t necessarily worse

Merchandise World was our first B2B trade show in the UK. We went with the primary goal to finding out as much as we could from agencies and distributors who attended the show. The second, launch Filo into the promotional market in the UK while at Merchandise World.

Our goal was to meet and discover how the market worked, we opted for a small stand to enable us to showcase and talk to agencies, distributors and many other players in the promotional merchandise industry.

We got the conversation going, with a stand of 1m x 1m large, exhibitors next to us got a laugh out of us but missed a small planned factor that drove us a lot of interest.

Our tiny stand, with just 2-3 people stopping and talking to us at a time, filled up quickly and gathered a crowd in front of our stand and naturally arouse curiosity in others.

What really matters is the execution

From our past experience in trade shows we found that there isn’t any correlation between the stand size and a successful trade show outcome.

What really mattered in the end (as always) was our proactive execution.

As in most trade show, including Merchandise World, there where a lot of stands bigger than ours, but with their staff chit chatting between each other instead of engaging potential by goers and clients.
Many waited for people to stop by themselves and to spontaneously start a conversation.

We decided to use some simple and efficient strategies to proactively interact with people passing by our stand:

  • Starting a conversation with every person that went by.
  • We distributed flyers and invited people around the trade show to meet us at our stand.
  • Gifted our new Filo Tag to agency contacts and distributors that were in target.
  • Pre-scheduled meeting before arriving at Merchandise World during and after the event.
  • Followed up within hours after meeting and receiving business cards.
  • Taking notes to offer the most personalised experience when following up.

At the end of the event our neighbours at the other stands next to us complimented us for generating a lot of interested with such a small space.

Talking with other exhibitors is as important as talking with visitors.

Many exhibitors undervalue the idea of talking to other exhibitors. They believe that talking to visitors is the most important aspect for a trade show. Talking to other exhibitors would be considered a waste of time or as a simple way to pass time.

This couldn’t be further from the truth.

In every trade show you exhibit in, other exhibitors will have in common the same target audience as you. This could imply that they could also be a great fit for a potential partnership or other business opportunities.

At Merchandise World, we took the opportunity to meet every stand to present Filo and to learn what they were offering.

Many didn’t seem to be a good fit with our business, but with some we started a conversation and are exploring further collaborations and partnerships.

Quality is better than Quantity

The competitive nature of the promotional industry in the UK was very obvious to us. Therefore we where after quality and long term contacts instead of gathering as many business cards as we could. We paid special attention to build long term relationships with potential clients.
This year we attended many b2b events, where the norm was by the end of an event to have gather more than 400 business cards.

This time Merchandise World was different.

MW was a one day event and the attendance was north of 400 visitors. We noticed right away that visitors where on target and of high quality coming from all backgrounds in the promotional merchandise industry.

I would definitely recommend attending Merchandise World.

Find out more about Merchandise World and check out Filo Tag to offer as a corporate gift to clients and employees.