When we last visited Ancoats Guitars in our Start-Up Stories blog, preparations were well underway for the North East Guitar Show. With the show all done and dusted, we caught up with Dave Roberts to see how he got on at Ancoats Guitars first ever trade event.
Ancoats Guitars is a manufacturer of hand-built, high-end electric guitars based in Manchester. Solopress has been following their progress through 2022 and reporting on the role that print is playing in establishing this new brand. Now that Ancoats Guitars main man Dave Roberts has returned from the North East Guitar Show, we were keen to hear how he got with his brand new printed display materials from Solopress.
A standout stand
On arrival at the show, Dave set out his stall using all the elements that we created together and discussed in our previous Ancoats Guitars blog. It was immediately clear to Dave that his materials were a cut above many other exhibitors.
“I could tell I was getting plenty of admiring glances from the other stallholders. The Roller Banner created the perfect backdrop to the guitars, and I was the only exhibitor there with a printed tablecloth”
All exhibitors had a trestle table, so it’s a significant area of unused space that can be used to help hammer home the brand. They’re also handy to conceal the tables themselves, as there’s no guarantee that they will be in a presentable condition.
Top tip: Get some professionally produced display materials for an instant hit of credibility. Roller Banners are particularly cost effective in this regard.
All about the base
When Dave went to install his Printed Flags, he was immediately stymied by the lack of a water source where he could fill up his Flag bases.
While empty, these bases are light enough to transport, and once in place, either water or sand can be used to fill them up. providing weight and stability. However, it’s a good idea to plan ahead and be sure that there’s an appropriate water source at your destination. These bases are bulky, so filling up at a sink isn’t an option.
Top tip: If you’re using Printed Flags with a water base, be sure to bring a hose or a pouring vessel to allow you to fill up.
Everything in its right place
In reality, Dave was happy to keep his flags to one side to use another day. In the context of the venue, he felt they would have been overkill:
“The flags just seemed too big and too much. Even with the “small” 2.9m poles, these Flags are a big statement indoors. None of the other exhibitors had anything near this size so they would have stuck out like a sore thumb!”
Sometimes you want to be conspicuous and stand out from the crowd, but on this occasion, Dave made the right decision to avoid overshadowing his neighbours. In practice, the Ancoats Guitar stand stood out for all the right reasons.
Top tip: When it comes to display elements, it’s better to bring too much than too little – but be prepared to pare back your approach if some of your display elements aren’t appropriate for the space.
As soon as the doors opened to the public, Dave noticed that everyone was making a beeline for the big-name brands. Visitors naturally gravitated towards the established, familiar manufacturers that they knew well. As the day progressed though, visitors seemed to enter a more adventurous phase, seeking out areas they hadn’t yet explored.
“When everyone rushed in, they went straight over to the Fenders, Gibsons and Martins. I was a bit disheartened, thinking that the crowd had come just to see those brands. As the day went on, however, us lesser-known brands started to get a lot more attention.”
Once people started browsing the stalls operated by lesser-known brands, the forethought and effort that had gone into the identity of the brand and the design of the display elements came into play. That, coupled with the three stunning hand-built guitars on display, drew many more people to the Ancoats Guitars stand.
Top tip: Observe and learn from patterns of behaviour, and channel your resources into the golden hours when you’re in demand.
Are you sitting comfortably?
One element of the stand’s layout that Dave hadn’t thought to consider was where to place the chairs he’d been provided. While he and others were setting up, Dave observed that other exhibitors were taking different approaches:
“Some exhibitors seemed to want to remain behind their tables like a market trader behind a stall, while some were opting to stay in front of their table. I decided that I’d like to stay out front to interact with visitors more directly.”
While it might have been more comfortable to sit behind the table, we think Dave took the right approach to avoid placing a barrier between himself and his visitors. Not only is it a more friendly and engaging approach but it also makes practical sense when it comes to handling and demonstrating a complex product like a guitar.
Top tip: think about what your stand’s layout means for the way you’ll interact with visitors.
Improvising on guitar
With his stall set out, Dave was able to give it the once over and assess how it looked. Overall, the elements looked stunning and did a great job of signposting the brand. However, there was one possible omission that could have been avoided:
“As I looked at the stand, I realised there wasn’t any signage to let customers know the names of the different models. Luckily, I had my branded compliments slips, so I wrote the model names on those and threaded them through the guitar strings”
In the end it was an elegant solution, but we’ll be working with Dave to come up with a less improvised solution for his next event: possibly Strut Cards or A5 Flyers.
Top tip: When planning out your stall, take a step back and pretend this is your first experience of your product or service. What is it? What does it do? Why do I need it? Make sure your display material answers those key questions.
The start of the deal
As a custom builder of bespoke instruments, Ancoats Guitars wasn’t expecting to close any sales on the day. Afterall, a hand-built instrument will always be more of a considered purchase than an impulse buy.
However, Dave did find that this left him slightly lacking in an angle when it came to engaging with visitors.
“It didn’t feel right giving people the ‘hard sell’, but at the same time, I wanted to plant a seed so that visitors leaving my stand felt that an Ancoats Guitar might be an option for them in the future.”
Regardless of your sector, a deal is unlikely to be finalised at an event, but it may be possible to identify prospects and start them on a journey towards a potential purchase.
There are various ways to go about that, so it’s a good idea to define what you want to achieve. Some valid goals might be to:
- grow your database of contacts
- build your email subscriber list
- increase social media followers
- arrange future calls or meetings
So have a clear idea of what a successful interaction looks like, and what both parties can take away from it. Something physical is always useful, and Dave was pleased to be equipped with Business Cards, Compliments Slips and Flyers.
Top tip: Defining what you want to achieve through your interactions. Make sure you have a strategy on how to keep in touch and a clear view of what the next step may be.
Play into their hands
Dave felt strongly that the event was an opportunity for guitar enthusiasts to hold and play the instruments in person.
“For me, the exhibition experience is all about getting hands-on with instruments you might never have encountered, or only ever seen online. It’s a great opportunity to explore what the guitars actually feel like in your hands.”
This was in contrast with some of his fellow exhibitors, who seemed more wary about allowing the public to pick up and try out their instruments. This meant that some visitors that approached the Ancoats Guitars stand were unsure whether they were allowed to handle the guitars.
Top tip: Make delegates feel welcome, and if you want them to try before they buy – let them know it’s OK!
It might get loud
As you might imagine, an exhibition dedicated to the ultimate symbol of rock and roll rebellion can be pretty hard on the eardrums. Some events such as The Guitar Show in Birmingham, where Ancoats Guitars will be exhibiting later in the year, have rules in place about when and where exhibitors are allowed to crank up the volume.
The priority for Dave was to make sure plenty of visitors could try out his guitars. They also needed to be able to hear themselves play:
“The amp I brought has a headphone output, so I’d certainly bring headphones and make use of that in future, just so customers can have some privacy and hear themselves play. I’d also bring a second amp to allow more people the chance to hear the guitars, and maybe even jam together.”
Sometimes you need to experience an event to truly learn what equipment or resources would make life easier.
Top tip: Make a list of items, promotional or practical, that you felt were missing. Do it as soon as you get home to avoid forgetting. That way you can refer to the list next time you’re preparing for an event.
A rocking warm-up gig
The show was a great success, and plenty more people now know about Ancoats Guitars than did previously. As a first foray into the world of guitar shows, it proved to be an invaluable learning experience for Dave and Ancoats Guitars. The printed display elements contributed to a fantastic looking stand that complimented these magnificent instruments and the experienced has served as a brilliant warm-up gig for The Guitar Show in Birmingham. For that one, Dave will have a booth of his own, and it will definitely be an opportunity to get those flags out!
Next time round, Dave will be equipped with additional merchandise elements like T-shirts, Caps and Stickers. We’re currently working on ideas and designs for these which we can’t wait to reveal in our next Start-Up Stories blog.