Are furniture shows worth it?
Issue: Issue 4.06
Posted Date: 4/8/2003
With the date of the Philadelphia Furniture and Furnishings Show approaching, a woodworker wondered about the value of participation in such shows. Was it worth the time and expense? Was the exposure valuable? And were new clients usually found?
According to a couple of forum members, attendance is the best way to find out what the competition is doing, see how your work stacks up, and determine what niche you fit into. A three-year veteran of the Philly show noted that the expense ($800+ for a booth), dealing with union rules, and the high price of room and board wasn't always balanced out by sales. How the show is organized will also have a big impact on getting the right customers to see your work. But ... and in spite of the fact he's decided to sit it out this year ... he thinks his past presence at the shows is now starting to bring him orders from the previous years' customers. In fact, he thinks it takes three years attendance to establish any show as a successful venue.
If you do decide to attend, several posters contributed suggestions:
- Call any interested prospects and remind them you'll be at the show.
- Have a brochure or business cards on hand.
- Consider having some small piece to hand out for free.
- Though some shows provide a list of attendees, be sure to get the phone numbers and both snail and email addresses of all booth visitors. Have a sign-up sheet for mailings available on a clipboard. Get people to fill it out by asking, "Would you like to be on our mailing list?" If they refuse, they're probably not good prospects anyway. (The three-year show veteran above, however, keeps his sign-in book and brochures at the back of the booth with access granted to only his most likely prospects.)
- Make notes after any conversations to add to the mailing list.
- Create a demonstration (e.g., hand weaving seats) to draw people in and get a conversation going.
- An educational conversation with customers is more effective than a straight sales pitch.
- Be sure to follow up and use customer relationship management software such as Outlook or Act! to keep track of prospects and clients.