Some lessons learned from our first show

Wednesday, Sep 07, 2011 02:11
The first show is behind us now. I would like to thank one last time, all of the volunteers and members that gave so much time and energy to the show. In many ways, this show was a great success. It did not rain, everybody that attended had a great time and we were able to welcome 13 new members that signed up at the show. But as we look back, we would be foolish not to learn lessons from the things that did not go as planned. Now that we have taken some time to talk through them, I will try to summarize the lessons learned. 1. Sponsorships – We had hoped to have several big name, big dollar sponsors to help to offset some of the more expensive aspects of producing the show. In reality we were only able to secure a few sponsorships and they were not for the big dollar amounts that we desired. Some of this was due to the fact that we are a relative unknown to most of the businesses that we were soliciting. The other thing working against us was the fact that this was our first show. We had no track record to point to and we had no real way to estimate how the show would go. We really appreciate the businesses that went out on a limb and sponsored us despite these facts. The other issue that we ran into repeatedly was the fact that most businesses have a limited budget for marketing and it had already been pledged and/or used up prior to us asking. Fortunately this one is easy for us to solve by planning the show farther in advance and start talking to potential sponsors for 2012 now so that we can get them to set aside a part of their budget to support our show. I think the silver lining here is that the sponsors that we had got very good value from their investment. We were able to incorporate them into our tv and radio advertising as well as including them on our website which saw a huge spike in traffic in the weeks prior to the show.

2. Pricing – We did extensive research on other car shows that were produced by large and small companies prior to coming up with our pricing structure for the show. We were trying to price things reasonably for all and at the same time show a steep discount for our club members. I think that the problem we had was that we failed to consider the impact that the location of the show has on pricing. We should have given greater consideration to the pricing of local shows as well as the socio-economic status of the area around the show. I think that if we had considered all of these things, we would have had significantly lower prices for the show. I think that pricing had some impact on the number of cars we had but I believe the biggest impact was probably on attendance. The other thing we had going against us in this area was the fact that it was a new show and most people had never heard of East Coast Hot Rod either.

3. Promotion – We spent a significant amount of money promoting the show but it still is not completely clear which methods delivered the most bang for the buck. The only conclusion that I can make at this time is that we should have printed the hardcopy postcards/flyers earlier. I think that if we had them in hand when we attended some of the larger shows in the area, it could have greatly helped to get the word out. The same is probably true of the banners and the show t-shirts. It would have helped if we had them earlier and were able to get them out in high visibility areas. The other thing that we could have done to help us is something that was suggested by one of the guys that runs the steam show in Canandaigua (unfortunately he did not suggest it until after the show). We could have canvassed the neighborhood in Palmyra directly around the fairgrounds and personally invited all of them to attend and provided them with free tickets for admission. A couple of other ideas that came too late: -The announcer at Spencer Speedway said that he would have been happy to promote it during their races and would have done promotions like giving out free tickets. I am sure that many other places would have been willing to do the same. -We could have had advance sale tickets available at a reduced price through one or more of our sponsors storefront locations (i.e., Breen’s Market) -Media coverage is something that we wanted to do but just did not have the time or the right contacts to make it happen. -Many of the band members mentioned to us that if we had booked them farther in advance they would have been able to reach out to their fanbase to promote the show. -We did not do any traditional print ads because of their relatively high cost. I am not sure if this was a mistake or not? -We did not offer a discount for pre-registration of show cars -We did not have online registration of vendors -Our online registration did not allow people to join the club and register at the same time

4. Length of show – I don’t really remember why we originally decided to do a 3 day show on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Clearly we should have given it more thought. Many people were unable to make it on Friday because of their work schedules. We got hit doubly hard because of the weather on Friday. Very few people took camping sites. All of these things seem to suggest that we could have done a one or two day show rather than a 3 day show. What we discussed on our recent conference call was the idea of a 1 day show preceded by a cruise the night before.

5. Vendors – I think we made a couple of mistakes here solely because it was our first time. We had only one price structure for all vendors. If we were an established show with multiple large vendors clamoring to get in this could have worked for us but as it was we scared the smaller (swap meet) vendors away and most of the large vendors already had a full schedule and/or did not want to take the risk of attending a new show. If we had different price points for different types of vendors we would have attracted some of the smaller vendors. Of course the danger here is that we really don’t want to have flea market type vendors that are selling things totally unrelated to the show. Our initial reasoning was that we wanted to make the most of the limited space we had at the fairgrounds. As it turned out, we had space to spare. The other side of the coin in this case is that if we had a large number of vendors they would have most likely been disappointed by the size of the show. We could make the circular argument that more vendors would have meant higher attendance, but we can’t be sure of that.

6. Car placement – We wanted to be able to fit the maximum number of cars and vendors in the limited space that we had at the fairgrounds. Because of this, we packed the cars in the front corner of the property first and planned to fill outward from there. The problem was that passers-by could not easily see the cars that we had at the show and were discouraged. It is not clear what total impact this had on us but the lesson is clear that we should strive to position the cars in a way that makes them visible while at the same time trying to make it easy to add additional cars as they arrive.

7. Signage – Although we spent a good deal of time planning for optimal sign placement prior to the show, we clearly had room for improvement based on the number of people that had trouble finding the proper entrance. Additional signs in the neighborhood were needed as well as in the block directly surrounding the fairgrounds. We also needed additional signs inside the fairgrounds to direct attendees to key areas like the kids’ activities and the member services area. Due to the number of attendees this did not pose a huge problem for us but if there had been a larger turnout it would have been a real problem. We had originally planned to handout programs that would include a map of the grounds showing key areas of interest. I think that would have been acceptable solution but we were unable to produce the program because we could not secure a sponsor.

254 thoughts on “Some lessons learned from our first show

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