Alliance Coffee managed a booth at the recent Blissful Outdoor Wedding Show (BOWS) 2016. I share the lessons learnt and the cost of managing a booth in this post.
Securing The Booth
Getting the booth was not as straightforward as I thought it’d be.
Early this year, I had decided that the wedding niche was something that Alliance Coffee would get into in 2016. Hence, research was done on the following:
- Are wedding couples receptive to the idea? – Yes, they were. But! Most couples hold wedding dinners, so we would need an angle to convince the couples. We came up with the idea of providing wedding favors on top of our regular mobile coffee services.
- Do wedding couples have the budget? – It’s a once in a lifetime event. The wife -to-be would usually want something special. Most couples have the budget for something extra for their guests. We are competing not only against other mobile coffee service providers but also against other wedding services like; photo booths, ice cream vendors, etc.
- Where do wedding couples go to find information? – Word of mouth is by far the strongest in the wedding niche game. Followed by wedding shows and fairs. Others would search for wedding service providers online.
With that knowledge, I went forth to contact organizers of wedding shows and fairs.
The pitch? We would provide free coffee for their participants to value add to their event.
The plot-twist: Alliance Coffee is not the first one who has proposed that. Duh.
The condition to securing the booth: Sign up for an ‘advertising’ package with the organiser.
I went for the cheapest option of $1500.
Could probably get more ROI with alternative forms of advertising. The 2 questions I should have asked before agreeing to this was: “Does Alliance Coffee really need the booth?” and “Does Alliance Coffee have the manpower and capability to close sales at live events?”
Never ventured never gained. This was one costly lesson.
Planning The Experience
Getting the booth was the easiest part. Planning the experience was more challenging.
BOWS is a large wedding show with many vendors, including wedding vendors that provided all in one services. The only way (to me) to stand out, was to provide the best experience the wedding couple could get at the fair.
Not being pushy became an advantage. After being hustled at various stores, wedding couples could enjoy a coffee on us and take a break from the buzz of the show. I hope that made our coffee more memorable, but its almost impossible to track.
I had the opportunity to meet with the organisers and to clarify on the dos and donts at the show. This helped ease the planning.
Always do your homework. Think through the process and how you’d want to run it then check if any part of your process may violate any rules. Its easier to come up with something without having any restrictions.
Thankfully the organisers were quite flexible about the cup sizes when I proposed to provide 2 sample sized cups to each couple rather than just a single regular sized cup.
Game Day Process
Was told that the queue for the free coffee could get pretty long (which did not happen), hence the idea was to have the couples fill up their orders on the cups for ease of order taking and also to make the experience more personal.
Since there weren’t much queue, all the effort spent on preparing the cups was wasted. Well, at least it gave the couples an idea of how we could customise the cups to be used at their wedding.
Always do your homework, again. I had dropped by the previous edition of BOWS but did not catch the previous mobile coffee vendor in action. This means that I had to make assumptions and consider what was told to me regarding the crowd for coffee at earlier shows.
Call to Action
The original plan of action was to give flyers, answer questions and hope to get some sales. It didn’t work out on the first day we were at the show. So…during the 2nd day, I aimed to collect emails and phone numbers instead. But…that isn’t enough. The conversion was only about 0.23%.
When giving out freebies at a live event, always look to have a call to action, no matter how small.
There can be many possible conversions. Some more desirable than others. Regardless, we should always have the potential lead perform at least 1 of the actions above.
There are many levels, or quality of conversions. Focusing only on the top was my biggest mistake in BOWS.
Even if people don’t want to leave a phone number or email, encourage them to take photos of your freebies (especially if there’s nice latte art to boot), and tag you on social media. They would already be posting photos anyway.
That’s some of the takeaways I have from Alliance Coffee’s recent gig at BOWS. If there are any more ‘traps’ that I should be looking out for, do let me know 🙂
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