Making An Exhibition of Myself
It’s 7am on Thursday 30th March and I am up and dressed, ready to attend the South West Business Expo. I’m not going as a delegate but attending as an exhibitor, although all of this can only happen after the kids have been dropped off at my mums.
So, as a new business, how have I been able to afford to exhibit at one of the Southwest’s premier B2B exhibitions, I hear you cry. Well, the South West Business Expo has an area dedicated to New Businesses, so if your business is new to the area or less than a year old, then you could qualify. This year the price for a stand (1.6m x 0.5m area) was £199 + VAT, compared to the smallest stand in the main hall £399 + VAT for a 2m x 1m. The show attracts nearly 2000 delegates and has 170 exhibiting Devon-centric businesses. As my market is B2B this was an ideal opportunity for me to get in front of people. I signed up, it was a no-brainer.
Tip – if you are thinking about booking for next year (which rumour has it could be at Westpoint) book your stand early as you get to pick where you are placed. I was one of the last to book and perhaps didn’t have the prime spots that benefitted from higher walk-past traffic.
The next step
In addition to the initial cost, there is of course all the rest of the paraphernalia that goes with exhibiting - promotional literature, posters, pens, wristbands, mugs etc. When you have a new business every penny counts and I simply wasn't going to spend oodles of money on merchandise, I was determined to keep my spending down, I therefore set a budget of £100.00.
Watching the finances means that sometimes you have to think outside of the box and get creative. Branded pens where definitely out as they are so expensive and require quite large minimum order numbers. So what could I give away that was cheap? What could I produce myself which would ultimately keep costs down? As any sensible person would, I settled on Origami Boats of course! Printed in colours as close to my branding as possible and with my website address on. The paper cost me £9.00 and the cake I used to bribe my sister to help me make them cost £1.49.
Budgets and Boats
The boats were a huge hit and a great way to start a conversation and hopefully leave a lasting impression. I also needed some sort of pop-up banner for the stand. Following some research led to the realisation of “Nope!” as these were a minimum of £60.00 and way too expensive. Luckily, Vista Print were having a sale on roll-up, reusable plastic/PVC type banners - £15.78 (incudes VAT) for a 76cm x 122cm vertical banner which I was really pleased with.
You have to be creative with the designs, and the fonts are a little limited, but you can upload logos and pictures. Moo.com is also good, but they weren’t offering the variety of products I was looking for. VistaPrint are cheap, delivery is quick and unlike a lot of places they don’t have massive minimum order numbers. I also decided to order some A6 cards which describe what I do - £17.61 (includes VAT)
I also created a free video in Adobe Spark to describe what I do and how I can be of benefit to a business. My mum donated some sweets to giveaway and we picked fresh daffodils from the garden to brighten up the stand. Apart from sundries like sticky Velcro for the banner, a few printouts and pens (for us!) that was it.
My partner Ian helped for the day which was suggested by the Expo. This enabled me to wander round the show and talk to other exhibitors. He also provided a bit of moral support. I was also able to attend a speed networking session. The Expo organise a session a week before the event which provides tips and info. It also gives you a chance to meet fellow exhibitors, although I wasn’t able to attend this.
So was it Worth It?
Yes, yes, yes. We talked to a lot of people about working direct with me and collaborating on future projects. I was also amazed at the number of people who recognised me from my social media activity, which was great validation that the work I put in is paying off. I don’t know how you can put a monetary value on raising your brand awareness, but as a small business, this is key in making you stand out above all the noise. So, from this point of view I would thoroughly recommend it. Ian had also been dotting my boats around the show it was great when someone actually tweeted a picture of one.
But for me the most important point is that it has given me the incentive to think about future business aspirations – I WILL be on one of the “Big” stands one day, with pop up banners and leaflets but I still won’t be giving away free pens.
What else can you make out of origami paper…?