The Reality of Exhibiting

Something I've wanted to write about for a while, is the reality of exhibiting your small business at shows. It ain't cheap. Fact.

At this point...I've done a fair few shows, from little craft halls to great big ones like the Handmade Fair and Knit and Stitch. I've listened to a lot of grumbles. I've seen a lot of disappointed faces, and I think a lot of this boils down to unrealistic expectations.

When you decide it's time to get yourself to a show, whether it be a small local event or a big ol' shindig, the most important thing to remember is that this is a marketing exercise. It's not a fast cash, right now money maker. It's advertising, you are paying to advertise. If by chance you make a return on your investment on the day - fantastic! If you don't...what does that mean? You've wasted your - you've invested your money in growing your potential customer base.

Let me give you a quick, very real breakdown of the costs involved in doing a large show - I won't name the show but these are actual figures.

  • Stall hire: £950
  • Van Hire: £350
  • Diesel: £50
  • Accomodation: £200
  • Food: £200
  • Staff: £500
  • Flyers: £70
  • Stock sold: £700

total spend: £3020

total takings: £1404.90

I was pleased with this outcome - it was what I expected.  My main goal at shows is to generate future & repeat business. Our Instagram and Facebook followers bumped up. We met lots of our old customers and gained new customers. We chatted with people who didn't realise we existed who live right near by. We just chat chat.

Getting more people following you on your social media accounts is far more valuable to you as a business than a quick sale on the day. They are far more likely to remember and use a business they found happy and helpful, than a grumpy one - fed up and moaning loudly about how crap the weekend has been. I, personally don't bother with mailing lists any more - firstly GDPR zzzzzz, and secondly - most emails don't get read. I rarely open an email from a mailing list I subscribe to at shows. I leave the mailing list for website sign ups - people who are more likely to read it as they feel no obligation to sign up. I believe creating engaging content on your social media account is far more productive than trying to get people to read an email. The fact of the matter is...people scroll through their feed on the loo...sorry.

These events are also networking events - so get chatting! Your stall neighbour could hold key information vital to your business - a contact, who knows! Walk around, see what's about and chat chat chat. This was the hardest part of exhibiting for me to grasp - as an introvert with an anxiety complex, I am intimated massively by almost everyone. I'm slowly getting better and this has led to some massive opportunities for me, and my little biz. So, keep on keeping on!

Things to think about for your stall:

  • is your branding bold?
  • is it easy to understand what you do from a glance?
  • do you have something eye catching people will find funny - they will take pictures - brand it?
  • is your stall welcoming?
  • is it well lit?
  • can you demo your craft - make something on the stall for people to watch?
  • does it have a story - does your stall show it?
  • does it cover all price brackets - do you have a small, low priced item?

Mel and I will always drive home and discuss the event - what was good, what was not so good and what will we do next time. Then we go to bed, exhausted, and forget about it all until the next event. Something I felt at the last show we did was that our stall was starting to look to commercial. We had taken more yarn and less "us". Having a personality in your stall gets people talking, and helps them to fall in love with what you do. I don't think we will ever fully settle for a stall layout - and I wouldn't want to. Being able to accept change has been vital to us continuing to grow as a business.

So, yeah, if that was helpful to anyone, cool - just my 2 cents. Pic for attention - also now upset as I don't know where this dress has gone :-(


louisa sheward