Paramount RanchLast weekend, my team and I exhibited at an eco-music festival in Malibu, California – Malibu Fest.  For several months prior we planned and organized and planned some more, hopeful that tea sales from this show would make a dent in our monthly cash needs.  I, along with 80 or so other optimistic vendors, expected a promised 15,000 eco-conscious music lovers to come pouring into Paramount Ranch, ready for peace, love, happiness…and shopping.

What poured in was a bit of rain, lots of dust, and a disappointingly low number of friends and family of the performing bands.  I was disenchanted by the turnout, but more frustrated that I had been sold participation in a show that I didn’t analyze for its potential for success.

For Naja Tea, exhibiting at special events, local festivals, farmer’s markets, and trade shows has a two-fold goal.  First, it allows us to market our growing brand to a relevant audience and reach a concentrated group of people for future relationship building.  Second, it provides instant cash flow as we develop and grow the wholesale and tea service side of our business.

World Tea ExpoWhen I make an emotional decision about an event (ohhhh FUN!  Music and people!), there’s a 50/50 chance it will be a success.  There are times when the goal is to simply have fun and meet new people (World Tea Expo) and times when I’m counting on an event to pay the lease (Malibu Fest).

In the latter case, the analytical process is crucial.  Has this show been done before?  Who has attended in the past?  What is the cost of the show vs. the potential return?  What is my pre-show marketing plan and how will I execute it to get the word out?  Am I prepared for the potential upside in new sales (Whole Foods)?  Am I prepared for the potential downside (Malibu Fest)?  Are there other tea companies exhibiting and selling their wares and competing for consumer dollars?

These are just some of the questions to ask yourself and those involved in the decision-making process when considering whether a show is worthwhile or not.

Participating in special events is an excellent and often times necessary way to spread the word about your growing business.  By creating a strategy for how you choose your events, you may just save yourself a bit of heartache.

But in the end, the reality of it all is that you win some and you lose some.