Are sales the only success criteria?

Last weekend we took Carvetii Coffee Roasters on the road to the Cumberland County Show, which was held at Carlisle Racecourse.  We’ve been to a few events this year, ranging from food festivals to agricultural shows and while the core elements of our stand remain the same, we take a slightly different approach to each and have differing expectations.

When we commit to an event we decide how best to maximise our presence there.  In the early stages of the business I have to admit sales were the main driver – we measured success by the amount of money we took.  However, over the past couple of years we’ve tried to become a little more sophisticated, taking a slightly more strategic approach.

When we were planning our stand at the Cumberland County Show for example, we had to decide what our success criteria were going to be.  The Show is very much an agricultural show covering a large area.  Visitors are charged entry to the grounds which this year was set at £14 for an adult (although advance tickets were available at £11).  Let us consider that for a moment.  If two people came along to the Show, they would need to spend £28 just to get through the gates.  If they remained for the day I am sure they would have spent money on food and drink, and they may also have wanted something to eat and drink (items which aren’t cheap at these events and which are often disappointing and mundane).  Their spend by now would I’m sure be in excess of £40.  Factor in a couple of children and this could easily be in the £50-£60 range.

Our expectations need to fit in with these assumptions – can we realistically expect visitors to part with even more of their money?  Do we really want to spend the day chasing low value sales, only to become more and more frustrated?  To be honest there are other ways to achieve success on days like this.  So this was our strategy for the Cumberland Show:

First and foremost we wanted visitors to taste our coffee and have a positive association with our brand.  We learnt a long time ago that people appreciate our coffee best when we serve it they way they normally drink it.  If you like lattes our aim is to serve you the best latte you’ve tried.  We also want as many people as possible to enjoy our coffee so we give it away.  All we ask is that visitors consider donating to our chosen charity.  They’ve just paid £28 to get through the gates and we’re not going to charge them for a coffee.  In fact they’re even getting a product that is far superior to the £1 stewed filter coffee being offered in multiple outlets across the site.

Our next aim is to consider how best to achieve after show sales (yes we’re not totally naive – the right type of sales are important).  To achieve this we invited two of our local coffee shops along to run the espresso bar and to promote themselves. If these coffee shops sell more coffee as  a result of this promotion, then we’re going to be selling more coffee; the impact of this is likely to be more long-term than a single sale on the day.  Asking our customers to run the bar also removes that responsibility from us; this then allows us to engage with the public and to network, another aim of the day.

Direct contact with the public is much harder for us to achieve than for, say, a coffee shop.  We are predominantly a wholesale supplier and these events are a good place to develop relationships, and even more importantly to collect data.  Gaining sign ups to our monthly newsletter is another way we measure the success at these events.  For the Cumberland Show we set up a coffee tasting challenge, with potential prizes for a correct entry.  The challenge drew people to our stand, kept them on site for at least five minutes during which time we could engage with them, and they also left their contact details.  Of those who participated in the challenge, less than 30% requested not to be included in our mailing list.  Our mailing list grew by 16% as a result of this effort.

Furthering our brand identity is also one of our success criteria.  The overall look of our stand is a very important part of this.  We don’t arrive late and scatter our product over the usual table drapped with a white cloth; neither do we use plastic or pop-up banners.  We arrive as early as we can, preferably the day before, allowing us to make reflect on the space provided, and how we can make the best use of it.  We have a simple philosophy: the next visitor to the stand might also be a potential wholesale customer and we need to look like someone worth doing business with.

In the days following the Show we also look at other success criteria: are we engaging with more people on our social media sites?  Have there been any changes in our website traffice?  Is there a spike in phone and email enquiries?  By analysing this data we can start reflecting on which aspects of the Show worked and which didn’t.

Cumbria is lucky to have a number of wonderful events such as the Cumberland Show.  These events are difficult to stage, particularly in the current climate.  Asking people to part with money to gain entry only to inundate them with stalls wanting them to part with even more, is no way to secure the future of these events.  Our high streets are having to reinvent themselves in the face of online competition and we think it is time more traders started reinventing the way they attend these shows.

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