With less than a week to go until our first event of 2016 (The Kendal Festival of Food) I thought it would be interesting to reflect on good practice in relation to exhibiting/attending festivals and markets. Surprisingly, while I’ve been able to discover ample information on how to set up your initial market stall, there seems to be very little research easily available with regards to creating an effective pitch.
Having visited a number of markets and festivals over the past few years, both as a visitor and an exhibitor, I am often disappointed by the common approach of spreading product over a table, albeit in a tidy fashion, with stall holders then expressing disappointment at the publics failure to make a purchase. As a business we’ve always felt a bit of an obligation to ‘give a little back’ when we attend any form of event. By adding value to these events, we also manage to generate a lot of public interest in both our products and our business. We try to adhere to the following principles when our business takes a stand at a market, festival or event:
Plan the event
Planning is a key part of our preparation. We try to adapt our approach depending on what we want to achieve at each event. While the ultimate goal is to sell more product, we set about achieving this in various ways. Indirect forms of selling often work well for us: we will give away cups of coffee and this often leads to sales of bags of coffee. On some occasions we are in it for the ‘long game’: we will adopt an approach which raises the profile of the business and which, we hope, will generate sales at a later date.
At any event there are numerous traders competing for the public’s attention, in the hope that this will lead to a sale. In many instances there are traders offering the same or similar products. We learnt very quickly to adopt an approach which will catch the public’s attention. Hours are spent beforehand preparing the stand to include as many ‘draws’ as possible. Offering complimentary coffees helps us stand out, swapping coffees for donations to charity catches the public’s attention, offering somewhere for our customers to sit and relax keeps them on our stand for prolonged periods. What has been remarkable for the past couple of years can soon become normal so we also need to . . .
Keep it fresh
Our efforts over the past couple of years has caught the public’s attention and from this we have benefitted from sales of coffee, new wholesale accounts and the growth of a brand. Our stand is now sought out at events because of the quality of product we offer and we have a genuine following. There is now an expectation about what to expect when Carvetii attend an event. So this year we’re shaking it up a little. A whole new approach to events, a different set-up and a new look, a wider range of products. We won’t say anymore at the moment but all will be unveiled at the Kendal Festival of Food.
Offer samples and share knowledge
As a bit of a foodie myself I like nothing more than to wander around food stalls, enjoying the samples on offer and talking to the traders. I might not make a purchase at every stall but I am often swayed by the trader who talks with passion about his or her product, and has a range of samples to taste. Where coffee is concerned, everyone has their own way of drinking it. We decided a long time ago that we had to serve our coffee exactly as the customer would normally drink it. There’s no point in offering a fruity, black filter coffee to a latte drinker. We’re not really giving away cups of coffee, it’s just that our samples are the size of a cup of coffee!
Sign them up
While we won’t make a sale with everyone who visits our stand, we do try to ensure we sign upas many people as possible to our newsletter. This allows us to promote our products long after the event has finished. It’s surprising how months, and even years later, we continue to make sales each time we send out a newsletter. There’s no doubt the email newsletter is less effective that it once was, with dozens landing in my inbox each week. That said, we continue to benefit from our newsletters and have recently moved away from using them to sell products – instead we’re utilising them to share our knowledge of our products. We use MailChimp for our newsletters as it offers a free service and is very easy to set up.
The success of events such as the Kendal Festival of Food is dependent upon the combined efforts of the organisers and all those trading on the street. If we all make that extra bit of effort to offer visitors an unforgettable experience, we can not only secure the future of these key events but we will all benefit from a growing and committed customer base.