*PLUS a Business Info Sheet Template for You!!
The first time I went to market was SO exciting! I felt like a REAL designer. 🙂 But, I had no idea what in the world I was doing!
So, I learned a lot of things the hard way. I was recently asked if I had any tips for designers attending market for the first time…or maybe it’s the second or third…always room to learn, right?
So, I have compiled a list of a few simple things I wish I’d known right away, in no particular order:
Have a plan.
What is your goal for market? Are you shopping for specific clients? Are you sourcing to open new trade accounts? Looking for general or specific categories like accessories or bedding? Based on this, make a list of what you hope to accomplish and specifics you need to find. If there are specific companies or reps you would like to see with a guided tour and/or place an order with, then schedule an appointment with them ahead of time. I schedule a few appointments but then enjoy having the freedom and time to explore showrooms and vendors on my own the rest of the time.
Review the market catalog and vendor list ahead of time.
Make a list of your must-see companies. This way when you receive your schedule and the map of locations, you can navigate in a way that makes your steps count.
Download a reminder app.
Many of the markets have an app you can download ahead of time that will alert you with reminders of appointments you’ve made, cocktail hours happening, etc. They also contain a map of the building, or buildings, to help you navigate.
Download this ahead of time and get familiar with it. Some even contain features that help you connect with other attendees which can make market that much more enjoyable and productive.
Perhaps even carry a spare pair in your bag. And you might get a kick out of tracking the miles on your feet with a pedometer or FitBit!
Bring a small rolling bag.
Not only can you keep your wallet in it, it’s also useful to stash the printed material and free gifts you will be given in various showrooms.
Create “packets” of documents ahead of time with all your info.
Like your name, business name, address, phone, email, resale number (and copy of license), your state’s resale certificate filled out except for the vendor info, references if you plan to apply for credit, other vendor accounts if any, and your business card. Each vendor will need these if you want to open an account, so having packets will save you lots of time. Some companies try to insist that you fill out all of this on their forms there, but I’ve had great success in explaining that I’ve got everything for them and am happy to sign their application if they’ll just attach my documents to it.
Have all of your info saved as a PDF on your phone or tablet.
Taking the last step a bit further, have a PDF of this packet saved in your Google Drive, on your phone, or in an email draft. In recent years, most companies have become much more digital and paperless, so don’t be surprised if they don’t want to take your paper copies. Instead, you can just email all of your stuff to the company or rep as you’re speaking with them. It’s a great timesaver to no have to go back and do this later!
Here’s a Document Template that I’ve found helpful for having all the info typically on all vendor applications ready. I also add to this a brief overview of my business on letterhead, a copy of my sales tax certificate, etc.
Request to meet your specific rep in each showroom, if they’re there.
Or at least obtain their direct contact info for each vendor, so you can start building the relationship right away. If you didn’t make appointments ahead of time, it’s likely they won’t be available but having the contact info is a great step towards establishing those relationships.
Travel with plenty of business cards on you.
Download a business card app or figure out a method in your smart phone.
Set yourself up in your device as a contact you can share, logo and all. You will meet a lot of people and get a lot of business cards. If you store their info immediately you will save yourself loads of time later and can make the most of networking. Tag everyone with something that identifies the market you met them at, ie. “VegasMarketSummer2017”, and possibly with a second tag of their category, ie. Furniture, lighting, designer, etc
Draft an email template before you travel.
You can draft more than one, depending on the category. For example, you may want one for other designers you meet, brands you’d like to collaborate with, and vendor reps. It will make sending a follow up to new contacts that much easier, and lightning fast! This will foster deeper networking and relationships. I find adding your headshot to this email signature is helpful because people can often remember your face easier than your name. Make it a point to send this follow up email within the first two business days after returning from market.
Have small printed adhesive address labels with your name, business name, phone, and email on them.
Many vendor showrooms will have sign in sheets for drawings, newsletters, etc. Having this will save you loads of time as well as avoid hand cramps from writing it over and over. 🙂
Consider buddying up with someone for travel.
It can make market more fun and economical. Plus it offers you both an extra hand when you might need it…win win! My recent trip to High Point Market was so productive and enjoyable because I traveled and roomed with a dear friend and colleague, plus coordinated with another designer that I only knew in Facebook groups up until then. We were able to discuss business practices and tips, give insight on vendors we each knew, and travel and eat together. It was wonderful!!
Have a backup charger or two for your phone.
You will be using your phone non-stop for photos, maps to navigate, notes, email, etc. It will drain fast so don’t be caught without power to communicate. Side Note: Also, make sure to clear your phone if needed so that you have MORE than enough space for photos!
Photo tip – As you enter each showroom, snap a pic of the sign above the entrance or on the glass next to it.
You can thank me later! 🙂 This way you can easily tell which items came from which showroom to go back for more information or pricing later. I see posts constantly after market of designers hoping someone else can tell them where they saw this or that. I did it before too! Then, I realized by taking the two seconds to do this would save me so much headache. It really is a lifesaver because, trust me, it all becomes a blur by the second day!
Along this line, I create an album on my phone to store all the photos to.
Last, but not least, HAVE FUN & SMILE!!
Do you have ideas to add to this list? Or an experience of a new client from implementing any of the suggestions? Questions? I’d love to hear from you! Feel free to comment, tweet, facebook, or email anytime!