Interior Insights: Preparing for Trade Show Season

Mar 11, 2013

Car show season is on us once again! If your shop is anything like mine you are working what seems like around the clock hours. Tons to do and not enough time to get it done. The phone rings off the hook, people bombard the front door and the emails and social network alerts don’t allow for a moment’s rest.

Getting ready for the upcoming show season brings high levels of stress but also promises the benefits of reaping the rewards for being properly prepared for it.

I have two distinct types of shows I prepare for: open public hot rod events and trade shows.

Open shows are wonderful events to place your work in front of potential customers in the highest concentration setting possible of a target audience. This is where potential clients have the opportunity to shop for service providers and likewise, it’s a place for you to advertise your abilities. These shows are great and they are bread-and-butter opportunities. Trade shows, however, are a completely different animal.

You as a business owner or employee have a unique opportunity to sharpen your skill set, knowledge and working relationships with manufacturers/suppliers you use in your business.

Far less pressure and stress in this environment. Most trade shows offer some avenue to learn from industry professionals.

For instance our very own Hotrod & Restoration Trade Show offers several specialized classes educating potential clients on specifics of product in their perspective audience.

The nice thing about Indy is it is a very personal experience with direct attention to questions or needs of individuals attending the classes and seminars.

I personally have done live demos on the trade show floor now for several years demonstrating the use of new products for sponsors as it pertains to my trade as an upholsterer and hot rod builder. I can tell you I am never too busy or preoccupied to answer any questions or address any business concerns as it pertains to the demonstrations. Mostly the demos have a very respectful and attentive crowd. Questions are received and answered as they come. I am glad to address every question – whether from day-one novices or from lifetime professionals.

This is a great personal opportunity to learn from an industry professional.

Take your time. Walk slowly through the sponsors’ booths. Let them show you new products. Ask questions and don’t accept generic answers. They are there to help make you better as a tradesman. This is a great opportunity to arm yourself with knowledge to help instill confidence in you as a shop owner when potential clients approach you for the first time in your shop.

Collect information from vendors on products that can make your business stronger and more capable. Get contact info and create personal handshake relations with the vendors you already use. This is a rare opportunity to put faces to names of people you do business with. Networking on a face-to-face level is one of our most powerful tools in business.

Trade shows are not intended to be a place you are trying to procure work. That being said I have gained new clients every year I have attended. Whether due to potential clients catching my live demos or having my work displayed in several show vehicles set up, I always am approached with folks wanting a little time on the schedule.

Like I said this isn’t the intent of attending a trade show but it’s a nice benefit that accompanies it.

The most powerful tool in expanding your business is word of mouth recommendations. This is a prime location to field those referrals. Industry pros that know you and have experience with your service will introduce you to people needing your offerings. Don’t let that opportunity pass you by. Don’t forget to relax and have a good time in this low stress environment. It is business but there is no reason you can’t enjoy it. Several builders display some killer work for the upcoming year that the public hasn’t had the chance to see yet. Look for inspiration and keep an open mind. No matter how good you are there is always an old-timer out there that can teach you a trick or two.