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Increasing Sales in Regional Areas : Woodland Designs Propagates New Growth

Since doing the Eyes Wide Open Strategic Stocktake in 2002, Woodland Designs has grown to become the Blue Mountains' leading garden design and horticultural company. Always on the lookout for new forms of promotion, Felicity Hallam, one of Woodland Designs directors, put the company on show at the local community festival. With invaluable assistance from Eyes Wide Open, Woodland Designs' first foray into public shows was a success. Felicity explains how they did it, what worked and what they'll do differently next time.

The Event

We booked a space at the Blackheath Rhododendron Festival which is one of our community's headline annual events. The Festival is in early November when spring is at its peek. The reasons we chose this event included:
  • low pressure - this was our first attempt, so we didn't want the pressure of a major trade show
  • access to our market
  • low cost

What were Our Objectives?

We'd been contemplating using festivals and shows in our local area as a form of promotion for some time. We had many objectives, some of the major one's being:
  • reaching people new to our area
  • educating people about what we do
  • Distributing promotional material - mainly our very popular postcards
  • Being active in the community. Since ours is a small and close community, supporting community events and showing leadership reflects well on us.
  • Collecting names for our email bulletin list
  • Trial run. If this event was successful, we intended to make regular appearances at similar events a permanent part of our promotional plan.

It's All in the Planning

We began by making a thorough plan. We sat down and discussed our objectives then developed the plan around them. Our display consisted of two main parts; a garden display and our documented portfolio and sample plans. The garden display was to attract attention and the portfolio and sample plans were to educate people about the services we offer. Once we had our plan roughed out we took our ideas to Eyes Wide Open. The outstanding team at EWO helped us refine our plan by challenging our thinking on a number of aspects including our processes for following up from the event. Prior to the day we assembled our display off-site as a trial run. This re-assured us our display would be suitably eye catching and helped things run more smoothly when assembling the display on the day of the event. Staffing the display was an important consideration, rotating the personnel meant our presentation remained fresh and enthusiastic for the entire show.

How Did It Turn Out?

Overall the event was a resounding success. We achieved all our objectives plus a few extras. Transporting and assembling the display went smoothly due to our prior planning. The event turned out to be an excellent way to build team cohesion and pride in the company. We are particulaly happy with the following benefits that emerged from the day.
  • Community involvement
  • Reinforcement of our message
  • Market research
  • Confirmed the value of having a professional website as a point of difference
  • Our garden plan presentation was very popular
  • Our promotional material, particularly our postcards were well received
  • Re-contacting existing clients
  • Forced us to update our portfolio, website etc.
  • Taking part in the festival helped us stand out from the competition. None of our competitors are putting the same effort into promotion.
  • Good for staff morale/team spirit

Show Me the Money!

It's difficult for us to quantify the dollar value of new work resulting from our efforts. Like many service based companies, our sales cycle is fairly lengthy. However, we did generate a number of strong leads on the day that will most likely lead to sizeable contracts. We also know from experience that face to face contact is one of our strongest and longest lasting forms of promotion. Working with Eyes Wide Open over the years has taught us the value of having strong and consistent branding. Events such as this help to reinforce our local presence. Our professional appearance and attitude sets are far apart from our competitors. Although service based companies might not think of festivals and shows as a major possibility for promotion, we have found that these events can be an exciting and rewarding form of publicity. Appearing at shows has now become a permanent part of our promotional plan.

Tips

  • Give yourself sufficient lead time for planning and organising. For a first show, about a month is reasonable.
  • Think about the type of questions people will ask you on the day and write down planned responses.
  • Have a trial run of your display before the show so you can iron out any glitches before the day.
  • Be welcoming. Try to engage people in conversation rather than bombard them with a high-pressure sales pitch.
  • Include something unexpected or attention grabbing in your display. This will help draw a crowd and will be a good conversation starter.
Woodland Designs is a garden design and horticultural company based in the Blue Mountains, near Sydney, NSW, Australia. You can find out more about Woodland Designs by visiting www.woodlanddesigns.com.au.

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