In May, we attended Surtex without exhibiting. You can see my impressions of the show here, and other posts about when we exhibited here. Even though we weren’t exhibiting this year, we were still able to make contact with several art directors and companies that we want to work with.
In this post, we want to share our favorite ways to acquire new buyer contacts at Surtex.
1. Walking the National Stationery Show
During my visit to Surtex, I did a lot of networking at the National Stationery Show (NSS) and got several new contacts to follow-up with. I have done this also as an exhibitor in past years.
The way I do this is by approaching the booths of companies I would like to work with and asking for the person in charge of art submissions. This, of course, is assuming you are interested in licensing your art for the stationery industry.
Many companies are already prepared for artists approaching them during the NSS because Surtex is right next door to the show. Some even have an art submission business card ready to give out. Many times that person just comes right up and introduces themselves. I do the same and communicate my interest in sending our artwork for consideration.
Most of the time they are super excited about it and give me their card and specifications right away. At other times they ask to see my art, so I usually show them images through my Dropbox account on my phone. There are definitely those times where the person in charge is not available or momentarily away from the booth. When this happens I come back later or the other persons working the booth are nice enough to give me the person’s card and contact info.
In our experience, this is a great way to make new contacts, it’s also great practice if you feel intimidated about pitching your work. I’ve done this in many different shows or events, however, it’s important to make sure you are not violating the show rules or stepping on anyone’s toes. Also, a lot of these companies already have specifications on their websites on how to submit art. Having met the “go-to person” at a show is great but we still make sure we are following the guidelines.
Before I send a follow-up email with our art, I make sure there aren’t any guidelines that I’m missing. It shows that we can follow instructions and it makes their life easier as well.
There could be many reasons why a buyer from the NSS never stopped by our booth during the show. The two most common are they didn’t have time and/or they didn’t see how our art could fit their brand. However, sometimes we can have a vision of how our work fits the company that they haven’t seen yet. I’m always for taking chances and making sure we try before we assume without knocking on their door.
2. Attending the educational sessions
I always learn something new at these sessions. Even presenters learn from what the other presenters say.
This industry is evolving faster than we think and it’s a good idea to stay open to new ways of connecting.
In my experience, expert art directors and buyers leading the sessions are more open to meeting you and getting to know your work after you connected with them in class. This year, I met and talked to 4 different art directors that we wanted to start working with this way.
3. Making appointments ahead of time
As an exhibitor, promoting the show as far ahead as possible will make a difference. This is something we didn’t follow through as well as we wished we had when we first started. And I think most artists are so focused on their art that it’s challenging to manage the marketing aspect of the show at the same time. Letting people know we are open for appointments is crucial. We really never know if they would’ve stopped by the booth or not. So, reaching out ahead of time gives us more possibilities with those prospective buyers that we know we want to work with.
Marketing and networking can be very intimidating especially for artists. I’m sure we can all learn from each other’s experiences. This industry is very unique and it becomes challenging to adjust and translate general marketing and conference tips to how the surface pattern licensing world works. That just makes it all the more important to share our experiences so we can all learn from each other!
Have you ever experienced difficulties or successes from practicing any of these three? Do you have any other tips or favorite ways to make contacts? Let us know in the comments!
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