Sunday, May 18, 2008

Good Rep, Bad Rep

I'm not done covering BKLYN DESIGNS yet, but I just got back from the ICFF, so I wanted to talk a little bit about marketing.  For anyone who might stumble onto this who presents work at the ICFF or any of the other shows, let it be known that how you run your booth can make a huge difference.

Of course I have my own standards for what I discuss here and even higher ones for the magazine where page space is at a premium.  As much as I might wish it were different, no matter how nice and helpful you are, how charming a conversation we might have, if I don't like the work, or if I don't think it's very impressive, I'm just not going to be able to feature it.  Nothing really is going to change that.

However, of the things I find interesting, a booth rep can seriously make the difference for or against.  I assure you that I have a very good memory for what kind of reception I get from which booth.  So I'd like to describe the types of reception I received, going in order from it will be a cold day in hell before you see your crap here to this person deserves a raise and a promotion:
  • Downright nasty.   I like to touch and feel and examine and play.  How a piece interacts with its user is possibly the most important part of it.  If you don't want your stuff touched, put a "do not touch" sign on it or leave it at home in your showroom and hang up photographs instead.  I was moving this one piece around--which is what it was designed for, by the way.  The guy shoots me this dirty look.  I almost couldn't believe the nerve of him, so I decided maybe I'd misinterpreted the look, until he rushed over to "fix" what I'd "messed up" in the display (and I'm very respectful about that, too, I might add--I don't leave messes behind me).  I said "it's a really brilliant idea," to test him.  He just grumbled at me.  Are you kidding me with this? I said "wow, nice manners" and walked away. =)
  • I don't exist.  If I look interested in the work, and you're sitting there gabbing with your coworkers without so much as a nod in my direction--especially if there's no cards or literature to be found anywhere--don't expect to ever hear from me.  I don't care how fascinating it looks, there's a thousand other fascinating things to see at that show.
  • Too busy.  This one is strongly dependent on the size of the booth.  If it's just a one-person operation, and you're surrounded by inquisitive show-goers, I'm not going to hold that against you.  If you're occupied by some oh so very, very important person, you still have options.  You can at least smile and say hello, or a strategy not a single person has ever used with me, which I find incredibly stupid: "I'll be right with you."  Is that really so difficult?  If the company is clearly large and successful, and every one of you is too damned busy to acknowledge my presence, then you need to hire more reps, period.  There's no excuse.  One woman by herself in a completely empty booth had the nerve to act irritated by my asking questions because she was busy doing paperwork or something?  I went on to the next one without a second thought.
  • The "Aaand who are you?" attitude.  I'm the Editor-in-Chief of Get Over Your Arrogant Self Magazine, that's who I am.  I get this one about 30% of the time and it's ceaselessly irritating, especially when the designs on view are mediocre at best.  I fully understand that professionally-printed press kits are incredibly expensive, and you can't be giving them out to every Joe Shmoe who walks into the booth.  In fact, if my only outlet were this blog, I'd probably turn down most press kits out of respect for that.  The fact is, though, that the magazine requires high-res images for print, so CDs and what not do make my life easier.  And there's a diplomatic way to approach that so you don't come off like you're trying to evaluate whether or not I'm worthy of your very precious press kit.  It's obnoxious.
  • Mechanical, unenthusiastic hello with no follow-up.  Have an espresso and get your shit in gear or find yourself a new line of work.  I work in the tourism industry, and deal with the public, hundreds of them, non-stop, all day.  The occasions that I would let anyone see me acting this grumpy are extremely rare.  It's your job, deal with it.
  • Jumping out into the aisle to force literature or information down my throat.  I admire this aggressive tactic, and every once in a while it works, but for the most part, if I'm not impressed by what I see in the booth, no amount of aggressive sales pitches are going to change that.  In the majority of cases it's a waste of my time and yours and is just awkward.
  • Friendly hello, offer to answer questions.  I cannot stress enough the importance of leaving that door of communication open.  And if I'm still looking at the work, the best reps will offer up some quick bit of interesting information about it.  It starts the dialogue rolling and piques my curiosity.
  • Once I'm hooked, explaining what's really amazing about the work that I might not realize.  Usually it's the designers themselves who will do this, or very dedicated booth reps who truly love the work they're presenting on behalf of the designer.  That kind of enthusiasm is terribly contagious, and often will get them a spot in my story or, at the very least, get them on my short list.
In any case, I'm really looking forward to posting here about all the amazing stuff I saw.  Stay tuned!

©2008, Ryan Witte

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