Monday, May 7, 2007

How Do You Measure the Success of a Show?

So, how do you measure a show? The ACRE wholesale show is over, and I have signed up to do the show again next year. All in all, I would say I had a good show. But how can you measure a show?

The most obvious answer is in the sales. Did you write enough orders to cover your expenses, and make some money? A mistake some artists make is measuring their sales against their booth fee, as if that is the only expense they have in doing the show. The booth fee might be the single largest expense, but it is not the only show expense. For a show that is out of town, you have travel expenses (airfare or mileage, hotel, meals, etc). There are promotional expenses associated with the show (mailings, handouts, press kit, etc.). There may be the cost of shipping your materials. You can be creative and frugal in how you spend your money in these areas, but you can’t do a show without some additional expenses. And certainly don’t forget the cost of producing the product to fill the order (materials, labor, packaging). The booth fee is just one part of your sales expenses. Measuring your sales against only one aspect of your costs can be an expensive mistake.

But what are some other ways to measure the outcome? Here are 5 that I have come up with:

1. For a wholesale show, how many new accounts did you get? In wholesale you can’t measure the show solely by the orders written at the show. A good account will be re-ordering product from you again and again. Over and over, when I would write up an order for a new account this week, it was clear that people were looking for artists and work they could represent over the long haul, not just a one-time order. So that order for a few hundred dollars may be much, much more than that, over time.

2. What other benefits came from the show? Shows are a chance for your work to get exposure. At the ACRE show there were quite a few press people present. I brought just over a dozen press kits to the show, and left them in the show office on set-up day. When I went back to pick them remainders up at the end of the show, eleven had been taken. Not all will end up generating publicity. The half a day spent putting these together was time well invested. I already know about two publications that are interested in featuring my work. That is exposure I could not otherwise afford.

3. Post show sales. Whether it is a retail show or a wholesale show, post show sales are not uncommon. At one show last summer two different people contacted me about purchasing gifts for people who had seen my work at the show.
All those postcards or business cards that get handed out, can mean sales in the long term. I highly recommend having an image of your work on your business cards. Vista Print will print a picture on one side, and your contact info on the other. They are great looking, and better reminders of who you are than just your name and website.

4. Follow-up. The show is not over when the lights are switched off and you start packing up your work. I have cards from galleries who stopped in my booth and were interested in my work, but did not get back to see me during the show. These people are good prospects for potential future sales. Following up with a postcard or phone call in the next few weeks will keep my work in their minds. Certainly not all of them will end up buying my work, and I might even gain a few accounts without lifting a finger. But it never hurts to make that extra effort.

5. Serendipity. I often find myself scouting a show for work for a few of the local galleries that carry my work. Sometimes I see something in another artist’s work that makes me think it would be a good fit for one or more of the galleries I know. I will pass that information along, and perhaps that artist will gain a new account, maybe never knowing why that happened.

I am sure there are more measures of a show…like how well was the show managed? Was it a good fit for your work? Do the location and timing work out for you?

After you get back from a show, take a few minutes to think about the show. What were the high points, and what needs improvement? Can those improvement be made by you, or do they require someone or something else to change? If they require your effort, begin to work toward those changes. If it depends on others to change, you need to decide how critical those issues are, or if you can adapt. Not every show is a good fit for us or our work. And expecting others to change to meet our needs is often a fruitless exercise. It happens, but we can't count on it.

Be sure to celebrate the high points. Without relishing our successes from time to time, there is little point in making the effort. And, give yourself a day off to recover. Shows are draining on many levels, and you may need a day to just relax before you dive right back into the studio. This is advice I have had trouble following in the past, but followed this time. A day spent with my kids was just what I needed.

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