Thursday, February 14, 2013

Marketing; How to market and sell @ shows

     I probably have more experience in this area as any when it comes to marketing and selling.  I have always felt the best way to market my type of woodworking was through direct selling and that would be doing Home Shows or someplace I could have a display and talk to the prospective customer face to face.
     There was no way for me to have a retail store for my furniture.  Didn't see how I could build and sell that much furniture each month to afford to pay to have a store and hire employee's to run it while I was building. Besides, when you are designing and building custom furniture and high end cabinetry, I would rather be talking to the customer myself and not relying on someone else to know what I could design and build and sell.
     Even though I started off as a very shy and bashful type guy, I realized that was one of my weaknesses when it came to business so I worked very hard for years to overcome that and make selling one of my strengths.
      I would like to talk about actually selling at a show, whether it be something like a large Home & Garden show or a small outdoor craft show, you need to approach each with the same professional effort if you expect to get the results you are looking for.

     Pick the right show for your type of woodworking!  If you've never had a display at a show before, then I would suggest you attend a couple before actually trying to set up and sell at one.  Try to pick a show that you think would attract the type customer that would be interested in your woodworking. There are thousands of shows all over the country during the year, so pick a couple and attend.  You may have to drive a little to get to some of the decent shows, but so do prospective customers.  The better the show the further the Vendors and customers will travel to attend. 

     The reason I suggest you go to a show or two before you actually try selling at one is simply to go and learn.  Walk through the show at least three times.  The first time you walk through the show take notice of each booth (not what they are selling, but their booth in general).  Pay attention to what catches your eye, what you may like about their booth or don't like about it.  Does it look professional, does it draw you to it or did you just walk by it without paying it much attention.  Would you like to have a booth like that or do you think you could do better.  After a while, you will begin to realize that it only takes you about 7 seconds to walk by a booth and within that time, you decide whether you like what you saw or didn't.  I'll talk about that a little more later on.  When you have walked the entire show, take a break and think about each of the booths that really caught your eye and why.

     Now it's time to walk through the show again; this time I want you to pay attention to what they are selling and again if it catches your eye and why.  Is it simply because it's something you might be interested in or does it have something to do with the way things are displayed.  Is it easy to stop and look at things without feeling trapped or in the way, where the sales people friendly and inviting or did you find some that seemed like they really weren't interested in being there and you were actually bothering them while they talked on their cell phone or was reading a book or eating.    When you have walked the entire show for the second time, take a break and think about each of the booths again and see if any of the ones that caught your attention the first time where some of the same ones that caught your attention again.

    Now let's walk through that same show for a third time and this time watch the crowd.  How are they reacting to the different booths and are they paying attention to the same booths that might of caught your attention on the first or second time through?  Take a break, I'm sure you're tired by now, but if you paid attention, you will probably see that some of the booths will attract more people then others and if you pay real close attention, you will probably realize that it's not just one thing that attracts people to a booth or display, but many things.

     Everything you did while going through the show was done consciously, but when the average shopper is walking through a show, everything they do is more sub-consciously.  They're not really thinking about it, they are just reacting to what they see and how they feel and that's what you have to understand if you want to have a successful show when it comes time for you to sell at one.
     Now you're ready to do your first show; like I said before, make sure you pick a show that best fits your products and the customers that will attend.  Make sure you have a professional way of displaying your work.  If you are doing an outdoor show, make sure you prepare for all types of weather.  Make sure you have a good way of securing things in your display and protecting everything from the elements,.  Will you need electricity?  Don't wait to the last minute to go and set up at a show.  That's the best way to forget something or end up with a display that looks incomplete or unprofessional.

     I would recommend that you actually set your display up at home before you ever go to the show itself. Get used to setting it up and taking it down at home first, it's easier to work out all the details of setting up at home instead of waiting the last minute at the show.  Make sure you have a professional way to display your products, that you have all the sales materials you need; business cards, brochures, sales tax chart, payment methods, cash drawer and change and enough inventory to have a very successful show.  It's always better to have too much inventory then run out before the show is over.

     So here are a few tips to keep in mind when working a show.  These simple tips can make or break a show for you and you may not even realize it.

     Tip#1: It's called the 7 second rule!  I mentioned it earlier.  That's approximately the length of time it takes someone to walk past your booth or display.  That's all the time you have to catch their eye, create interest or curiosity and give someone a reason to stop at your booth.  I've said it many times before and I'll say it again; you only get one chance for a first impression and in this case about 7 seconds at the most.

     How do you catch their eye, create interest or curiosity and give them a reason to stop at your booth?  Whenever I do a show, I always go as early as possible to set up so I have plenty of time to critique my booth after I have it set up and before a show starts.  Once my booth is set up I will always walk the isles in every direction approaching my booth to see how it looks from a customer's perspective.  If it looks cluttered or something is hidden from one direction, I will try to change my display to maximize my exposure for those 7 seconds it takes to walk past my booth.  Critique yourself and your booth.  Make sure the prospective customer sees what you want them to see when they walk up to your booth.

     Tip #2  Make sure you have a professional looking sign made for your booth or display.  Most shows that have booths will supply a generic cardboard sign for each exhibitor.  You should never use that sign, it automatically puts you in the same class as the other exhibitors and that's the last thing you want to do.  You want to stand out, not blend.
     This is the sign hanging in my shop, but it's also the sign I use at every show and I built it for that purpose.  I built this sign from scrapes I had lying around the shop, so as you can see, you can make a very professional looking sign without spending a fortune.  Once I had the sign built and finished, I took it to a professional sign company to have the lettering done (vinyl letters).  It didn't cost that much and I would much rather have a sign like this representing my company then a generic cardboard sign that looks like everyone else.  Heck, I even wired the sign for lights with a dimmer switch to create the exact look I want for it to stand out.

          When I'm set up at a show, nobody has a problem figuring out who I am.  If you look at my sign though, you will see there is no address or phone number on it.  Wondering why?  Remember earlier when I said you have approximately 7 seconds to catch their eye, create interest or "curiosity" and give someone a reason to stop at your booth?  Why put all your information on the sign?  They can't take it with them.
      My sign is very professional looking; it really stands out and catches your eye.  Every show I will have a number of people stop just to ask where I'm from or where my business is located:  Bingo; curiosity and I just happen to have a business card or brochure to hand them with all the information on it, but more importantly, I'm now in a conversation with them.   Starting a conversation with someone at a show is sometimes the hardest thing to do, especially if you're not real comfortable with sales.

Tip#3:  Whatever you're selling, make sure you have professional looking displays.  I know, you're getting tired of hearing professional this and professional that, but hey, if you want to have a successful show and a successful woodworking business, then you need to look and act like one.  Do not take your wobbly old card table and throw a kitchen table cloth on it and call that a display.  Cinder blocks and 2 x 10's are just as bad.  Look, you're a woodworker, you should be able to build something special to showcase your products.  That's all part of marketing!      Make that first impression count!

Tip#4:   Never leave your booth or display unattended.  If no one is working your booth, that means you're closed, so why bother doing a show.

Tip#5:  Never ever stand in your booth with your arms folded across your chest:  Nothing says "I'm bored, don't bother me" faster then standing there with your arms folded.  Sitting there and reading a book waiting for someone to stop by has the same affect.  Remember Tip#1?

Tip#6:  Cell phones; leave them turned off and out of sight.  Don't flatter yourself thinking you're looking important or you're closing deals on the phone while standing in your booth.  If that is the case, then you might as well go out in the parking lot and conduct business, because you're ignoring the ones that are in front of you. ( that 7 second rule)!   Texting is even worse!

Tip#7:  No eating in your booth or display.  It's a proven fact that most people will continue walking by if they see you eating because they don't want to bother you.  Nothing will destroy your first impression in less then 7 seconds then a mouth full of food, or some mayonnaise smeared on the corner of your mouth, except maybe standing there with your arms folded across your chest or reading a book, or talking on your cell phone.  If you ever have any doubts about whether you should or shouldn't do something at a show, always refer back to chance to make a first impression and less then 7 seconds to get it done!

Tip #8:  Never start taking your booth down before the show is over.  Again; nothing will destroy your image faster then acting like you can't wait to get away from there.  I've closed some great deals the last five minutes of the show or even after closing.  If you're in that big of a hurry to get away, then maybe you shouldn't do a show in the first place.

     The last bit of advice I would like to leave you with about shows and this also goes along with selling in general.  Take the time to critique yourself after the show or after a sale (especially if you didn't get the sale).

     If you had a very successful show; ask yourself why?  Not every show is going to be successful, and not every bad show is your fault, but don't be afraid to ask yourself if there was something you could have done better or different that might of made a difference.  You may not be able to control the weather or the time of the year the show is held, but if it's something you did or didn't do, then you can change that if you're willing to be honest with yourself.

     And you shouldn't rate a show strictly by how many items you sold.  Not only are you selling at a show, but you should be laying a solid foundation for future sales.  How many people did you talk to? How did they respond to you and your product?  Did you pass out all your business cards and brochures? 

     My wife could always tell how successful a show was for me by how horse my voice was when I got home from a show.   The more people you talk to, the more business cards and brochures you hand out, the better chance for a sale or future sale.    I've had many people call 2 years later and talk to me about a project, simply from talking to me at a show and handing them one of my business cards.

   Go to a show to have fun, enjoy the crowd and get involved with the people. Selling has a lot to do with Attitude and attitude's are contagious.............Is yours one that you would want others to have?



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