The Ins and Outs of Trade Show Follow Up For Retail Brands

The Ins and Outs of Trade Show Follow Up For Retail Brands
Retail trade show follow up | Shopify Retail blog
Image: Magic Trade Show

Planning and executing your next trade show is only one of the many steps you can take to acquire new wholesale accounts. And your follow-up strategy after the trade show is a crucial step to confirm those new wholesale orders.

Similar to the relationships that ecommerce retailers build with direct consumers, developing and nurturing strong relationships with potential and existing wholesale accounts is vital to growing your retail business.

Here we'll look at a number of tactics you can use during and after your next trade show to streamline the follow-up process and ultimately confirm your new wholesale orders.

Meeting Pool trade show | Shopify Retail blog

Image: Meeting Pool 

3 Things To Do During The Trade Show to Make Post-Trade Show Follow-Up Easier

These three steps can help you stay organized during the trade show so you can be more productive when it's time to follow-up with those potential customers.

1. Collect Business Cards

Every single person that walks into your booth presents a networking opportunity. Whether they’re a potential buyer, fellow exhibitor, or a sales rep for another brand, have a conversation. You never know who you might meet.

To help keep all those new contacts straight, bring an envelope or a jar that you can use to store all the business cards you collect. I like to make a note on each business card I receive to jog my memory later on when I follow up with that person.

2. Take Notes During Buyer Meetings

Anything you can do to make the buying process more comfortable for your existing or potential wholesale clients is a practical approach. One way to organize information is to take notes on your line sheet while you show your products to buyers. I like to have one master line sheet that I keep all my records (for all accounts) on, but you can also use a separate document for each account that you meet with. These notes will come in handy after the show when you are following up with buyers to confirm their orders and collect payment.

Your notes may include information about:

  • Samples the buyer would like you to send after the show and their preferred shipping address
  • Product(s) from your collection that the buyer liked
  • Product(s) from your collection that the buyer didn't like
  • The desired delivery date for their wholesale order

FURTHER READING: Getting customer feedback, positive or negative, is useful information for future product development.

3. Use A New Account Form

You can create a simple Google Form that new buyers must fill out to receive samples and more information about your brand. Google Forms are particularly helpful because the data you collect automatically populates into a spreadsheet.

The form can require the following information:

  • Store name
  • Store address
  • Number of locations
  • Buyer's name
  • Buyer's email address
  • Buyer's phone number
  • Other brands the store carries

Asking buyers to fill out a new account form assists you in capturing information about the store, so you can decide if it's an account that is a good match for your product.

Wholesale sellers meeting | Shopify Retail blog

FURTHER READING: Learn more about how to try before you buy with product samples.

How to Get Wholesale Clients: 6 Things To Do After a Trade Show

Nurture and build relationships with your new or existing wholesale contacts with these six steps.

1. Create a Chart to Organize Your New Contacts

You can also use the data from the chart to determine the best follow-up practices for your next trade show.

Contact form | Shopify Retail blog

Image: Alexis Damen

Organizing data in this chart can help you keep track of buyers that you want to follow-up with after the trade show. The column titled "Follow-Up Date" can be used as a reminder of the last time that you emailed or called each potential client. Keeping track of each touch point can help you stay on top of each account, ultimately securing more wholesale orders.

2. Send Follow-Up Emails to New and Existing Wholesale Accounts

You can follow up immediately, but I like to give buyers a few days to get settled back into their routine before I start emailing them. In my experience, following up two to three days after the show ends works best. If the show ends on Friday, follow up on Wednesday of the following week. Sometimes buyers ask you to check in immediately after the show — in that case, go for it.

When you follow up, you can include the following items in your email:

  • A brief introduction mentioning that you met the buyer at the trade show
  • An attachment of your lookbook/line sheet
  • A list in the body of the email of products the buyer expressed interest in — you can link them to your website
  • A request to schedule a phone call to answer any questions they may have about your products
  • An offer to send them samples for their review
  • Your product knowledge guide

If you don't get a response to your first email, follow up three days after you sent the first message.

Wait a few more days, and if you still don't hear back from the buyer after those two emails, you can call them to see if they received the information from you.

Boomerang is one email application that you can use to see if your emails get opened. You can ask it to alert you if the receiver opened the email and you can request notifications for emails that remain unopened after a designated number of days. Boomerang also allows you to send emails later — bulk write your emails when you have time and schedule them for a later date.

On a few different occasions, making that phone call is what helped me confirm an order with a new wholesale account. You can take notes during the call and contact your client afterward with a purchase order (PO) form to confirm the order.

What is a Product Knowledge Guide?

A product knowledge (PK) guide is essentially a handbook for your product. It can briefly tell the story about your brand, but there should be an emphasis on your products.

Your PK guide outlines how your products are made, what materials are used, where manufacturing takes place, how your products should be used or worn, and why they're special. Product knowledge guides are also a great sales tool for your wholesale accounts to use once they receive your products and start selling to their customers.

One example is this product guide from children’s clothier Peekaboo Beans.

3. Send Samples to Buyers

Many buyers like to review samples from all of the brands that they're interested in while in the comfort of their office or store. Try to get notes from buyers about the products they'd like to see after the show. However, if the account did not give you notes on their favorite styles but did confirm that they'd like you to send them samples, put together a package of best sellers to ship to them.

When the package is ready to be sent, you can notify the buyer via email and provide them with a tracking number and an itemized list of samples you’re shipping. You can get delivery notifications sent to your email so you know when the account receives the samples.

Once you receive the delivery alert, give the buyer a day or two and then follow up to schedule a phone call to discuss the samples. You can explain each product in more detail over the phone and highlight your unique selling points.

I like to give buyers three to five days to review the samples before I ask them to be returned. You can include a return shipping label in the outgoing package to help ensure the prompt return of your sample products.

4. Suggest a Buy

Getting the buyer on the phone can be one of the most significant challenges you face with wholesale accounts. Once you've made the connection, make the process more seamless for them by suggesting a wholesale buy for their store. Based on the buyers’ feedback and your knowledge of your best-selling products, you can guide buyers and strategize the best assortment for their shop over the phone.

5. Set Payment Terms

Before you finalize your buyer's PO define payment terms. This step is critical and sometimes gets overlooked. For small or specialty accounts, you can require payment before the order ships. Larger wholesale accounts will likely request Net 30, Net 45, or Net 60 payment terms. Net payment terms refer to an invoicing payment term that is commonly used in the retail business world, where the number (30, 45, or 60) refers to the number of days that your client has to pay an outstanding invoice.Try for Net 45 at the most. Net 60 becomes a consignment deal.

6. Issue a Purchase Order (PO) and Confirm the Order

Immediately after the call, you can create a PO and email it to the buyer to consider the order confirmed. Walk them through the process and make it as easy as possible. You can use Shopify's free purchase order template or create your own.

Wrapping Up Trade Show Follow Up

Now that you've confirmed your orders, it's time to ship them out or start production. Keeping track of all of this information can be overwhelming, but I hope these tips will help you plan and execute the best wholesale strategy that works for you and your business.

About the Author

Alexis Mera Damen is a​ ​product developer with 10+ years of fashion industry experience. She launched her own activewear line on Shopify in 2015 and works as a​ consultant,​ freelance writer​,​ and photographer in Brooklyn and Seattle.

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