Between Thursday April 14, 2022 and Monday April 18, 2022, BOILISÉ exhibited at the Toulouse International Fair, within the Green Village.
It was our first participation in a public and physical event and therefore our first exposure to direct and varied feedback.
Why make an article about it?
Initially, this article was only going to be a few notes taken in a notebook after an internal debrief on the way home of what had worked and what had not worked at the fair.
As we made the decision not to immediately move on to fairs and exhibitions, it became important to ensure that all the notes would be sufficiently clear and actionable within a few months. Thus began the writing of a small file, which also allows us to make a more in-depth assessment of the event.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, we arrived at this first exhibition with very little idea of what to do or what to expect. There are millions of articles on LinkedIn about SEO , FacebookAds , and scaling , but I think participating in a trade fair or exhibition is an important step in growing a small business and an under-researched topic. Sharing our experience is an integral part of our entrepreneurial ambition and we hope that this article can be useful to some and an opportunity to exchange good practices.
Please note: in no case do we consider ourselves “experts” at the Fair, we are only sharing our approach, our notes and our feelings.
Why participate in a fair?
BOILISÉ was built as an online store offering an innovative and customizable product. It's a strategy that has obvious advantages but requires a lot of work to meet and stay in touch with your market.
To avoid isolation, we made the choice to set up in a business incubator, to chat by email with all customers and to post regularly on social networks.
After growing enough, we wanted to experience a public event to get as much live feedback as possible. The Toulouse International Fair came at the right time to do a first test.
The determining factor for our registration was the special “Green Village” offer which allowed us to benefit at an affordable price from a 3x4m stand for 5 days in the company of local companies with an eco-responsible approach.
We have established the following objectives:
- Show the public a collection of cards and study reactions and requests
- Develop our notoriety and that of our little-known product
- Take orders (we do not stock so no direct sales)
How did we prepare for this participation in the fair?
We have segmented our approach into 2 main stages: attract and sell.
The objective is to have as many visitors pass through our stand as possible and to attract their attention.
Then, the logical next step is to sell your product directly but we are aware that our cards are not necessarily made for this. Without stock, we can at best take orders and our price positioning and the possibility of customization mean that it is a purchase that is often considered and considered: it is therefore critical to think about after the fair. Finally, any event is an opportunity to communicate and reach outside people.
For each of the 4 categories we have implemented a certain number of strategies taking into account several constraints, particularly financial.
We worked with the following initial hypotheses:
- A budget close to 0. Everything must be based on the use of our product, its intrinsic qualities and the material available without additional investment.
- An “open” stand with free circulation and the possibility for visitors to see the paintings up close.
- A table made from recovered pallets to organize things and display objects.
To capture attention
It would have been possible to communicate via the organization of the fair (booklet, poster, etc.) but we chose to focus on the people passing through the Green Village. We also opted for a “passive” approach, without pacing any passers-by as other stands at the Fair can do (sometimes in an almost aggressive manner). Our concept was to decorate the stand like an art gallery.
For this, the design of our stand was at the center of the project and we analyzed ways to maximize its visibility. Depending on the flows, we have determined the critical exposure zones.
We then installed the main boards in the critical areas and the table where it was least in the way. On the face of the table we put our logo and installed a screen above it.
On the screen we played in a loop a film edited for the occasion detailing in 5 minutes all the stages of creating our paintings: from design to assembly including laser cutting. The objective was to attract the curiosity of passers-by but also to provide a concrete and visual response to “How it’s done”.
A version of this film is now available on YouTube: https://youtu.be/cn5OkeZpM3I
To immediately interest
So that people can find their way, we have classified the maps by major regions and noted their names using small engraved wooden plaques.
We also added small “cartels” (the plaques that we put next to paintings in museums) to indicate the name of the painting: small enough for people to try to guess but still readable.
On the table was installed a computer touch screen connected to the internet with the site page open: with a few movements, it is possible to register a customer or an order.
To give substance to the fineness of the wood used, a sample from a cutting scrap is available on the table. It allows visitors to touch the wood.
An exclusive 15% promotion is also granted to all visitors.
Finally, the founder remains available on the stand at all times to answer all questions and present the product.
To keep in touch
Imagining that visitors would not place orders directly, we chose to take care of the business card. Laser cut and engraved with a relief effect and the same wood as that used for the tables, our card stands out from the usual paper business cards.
Finally, 2 plates with QR codes are installed on the table so that you can quickly access the site or keep the link.
Finally, participation in the Fair was designed as a way to reach outside people as well.
On the one hand, the exhibition of the paintings and the presence of the public represents an excellent opportunity to take photos, make videos and create content to share on social networks. On the other hand, press coverage was hoped for.
How did the fair go?
The Fair was a special experience. 5 days alternating high attendance and quiet moments, wonderful encounters with the public and generally very positive comments which help to have a good time.
We participated thinking only of our stand and meeting the public then discovered a critical aspect of this type of event: exchanges with other exhibitors. It’s an opportunity to meet great people and create opportunities for mutual support and collaboration. We were personally marked by the enthusiasm, kindness and positivism that reigned in the Green Village: we found there with surprise and pleasure the Californian entrepreneurial spirit.
The layout was effective and invited people to come and look at the paintings more closely, play find their way around, touch the wood. Compared to more closed stands, this helped generate more conversations and exchanges.
The film was very successful. It was the only big screen in the Green Village, it attracted the attention of a large number of passers-by and provided many concrete answers to questions. It also helped legitimize the artisanal aspect of the product and give an idea of the amount of work required.
The product itself was very well received. The feedback was very positive, with many people taking the time to communicate how impressed they were. In addition, the fair allowed us to validate the adequacy of the price with the product: the quality of the work, the precision of the finished product and the quality of the painting were recognized.
Business cards have also been very successful. Presented in self-service, visitors did not dare to take them even when they were offered. We took the opportunity to give them only to the most interested people. By standing out from other cards or leaflets that could be distributed, we believe that they will continue to convey the quality image of BOILISÉ beyond the Fair.
What can be improved
The furniture and equipment will need to be completed and modified. The most important thing is to acquire a high stool to avoid having to stand all day (exhausting) or to be cut off from visitors while sitting. Then the stand could have a more homely appearance with low furniture. The lighting proposed by default by the organization could also be supplemented in order to better highlight the paintings. Finally, the table made from reclaimed pallets was the right size, but the laser-cut logo in thick paper was not robust/pretty enough compared to our image.
Additional detail: having a tarpaulin to hide your stand at night is very important, we were lucky to have generous and prepared neighbors this time.
Order taking should be made easier. On the one hand by encouraging it more directly in the speech which was probably more indicative than sales. On the other hand, by setting up a pre-order system, via a deposit or a voucher to be sure to keep customers interested. The development of complementary leader products available in stock should be studied to generate immediate transactions.
The well-known online Call To Actions (CTAs) are also critical at the fair. After 2 days we added a few messages to the wall but it is necessary to be more specific by mentioning for example that the cards are a gift idea for Mother's Day, or explaining the benefits of this type of decoration.
Communication with other stands is important from day one. Over the 5 days we had time to get to know most of the neighbors but we should have met them from the start. This leaves more time to get to know each other, think about collaborative projects and most importantly: it allows for shared communication on networks from the start. In terms of visibility, that generated by the other stands was the most important and this is logical in an eco-responsible space: the customers and profiles are similar.
What are the benefits for BOILÉ?
It is difficult to take stock of the fair for BOILISÉ because we deliberately did not quantify our objectives.
- 400€ invested for participation
- 0 sales on site
- 1 sale and 3 projects in progress subsequently
- 1 press contact (for an advertorial at €2000)
- 110 business cards distributed to visitors
- + 22 followers on Instagram
From a purely accounting point of view, the results are not positive. We ran an online advertising campaign with a similar budget a few days before to have a point of comparison and the results were much better.
For this most important event was not encrypted, we were able to:
- Validate our concept and our pricing model
- Collect concrete suggestions on the product: colors, relief, framing, regions
- Give consistency to our product by physically showing an entire collection
- List the main questions from our potential customers
- Study the reactions of an audience that is not necessarily qualified (word cloud below)
Based on these results we made the decision not to immediately continue with similar fairs. We will instead focus on craft or decoration -oriented events (with a more targeted audience) and closer to Christmas (with stronger purchasing intentions).
How will we prepare for the next event?
From now on, we will work to identify events corresponding to our ambitions, submit our applications and develop complementary appeal products.
As soon as an opportunity presents itself, we will invest in (or simply recover) complementary furniture: high stools, coffee tables, decorative elements.
A few weeks before the event, we will do a stand study and create the business cards and texts to display. We will also prepare answers to the most frequently asked questions ( Why BOILIZED? How did this idea come about? How is it done?).
Finally during the event we will work on our messages and our way of presenting.
We look forward to exhibiting again based on this experience.
Do you have good practices to share, advice or simply questions? Don’t hesitate to chat with us!