To host a Zoom show or not, this was our question!?
By Tanya Bernard & Trip Wolfskehl – Maritime Tribes LLC, Newport, Rhode Island
At Maritime Tribes, we enjoy planning our booth with the Atlanta Market in January – it is central to our strategy. It is our key show and, quite honestly, a lot of fun. We spend weeks on the details of our booth so that we can launch the new year with this show. Our loyal and beloved customers know where to find us -- and we are always grateful to meet new ones.
As you know, 2020 was anything but normal. As the summer arrived, we had many nagging questions. Do we go to Atlanta or not? Tradeshows are a huge expense and this year included an unknown health risk. Other questions were: how do we “see” our beloved customers and meet new ones if we are not able to attend in-person shows in 2021? What is this Zoom thing all about -- and should we host a virtual show?
By mid-summer we had all participated in some form of a virtual meeting so we agreed that Zoom was the best choice of apps. We decided to just go for it. We had no idea how to “do” a Zoom show but one of our core values is to have a healthy disregard for the impossible.
It became immediately clear we could not host a group show because our line is ALL custom. We make every single order for each individual customer. The ONLY way to do a Maritime Tribes Zoom show is to host one-on-one meetings. Will our customers want to do this? How will we get new customers to book a show? We found an app called Calendly and then set up an overwhelming schedule of 3 weeks of appointment options -- every hour for three weeks from 9am – 5pm. When we did the math, this equaled 120 appointments! We then set our goal at 60. We sent out an email. We booked 3 immediate appointments and we were thrilled. Calendly is an inexpensive app that makes links to booking pretty user-friendly as well as managing the ever-changing schedule.
Above left: Our Zoom Goodie Boxes
Above right: Doesn't chocolate everything a little better?
We really had no idea what we “were supposed to do” for a Zoom show and now, when we look back, we think that was the best part. We made the decision early on to make it fun. Not easy but, like I mentioned, we do like a challenge! We figured many of our buyers were either totally overwhelmed with covering multiple jobs -- or stuck at home. We decided that the customers who committed to a Zoom show appointment should get a fun care package that lets them know we appreciate their time. We created a care package that included fun snacks, swatch samples, and our new catalog. This was a detail that was logistically challenging but totally worth it -- as our customers told us time and again, they really loved it. Also, isn’t everything better with chocolate?
Next, we set up our booth in our showroom, complete with a rolling camera stand so that we did not make anyone want to sign off early with a headache caused by a shaky camera.
Above left: Charb building our zoom steady cam stand
Above right: Trip & I laughing during a break, keeping it real and fun!
To make a very long (but awesome) story short, we ended up booking 85 appointments and sent out 85 “zoom goodie boxes”. We cannot exactly evaluate the results yet -- but we hope it was a helpful way to revisit our line, introduce a few new products, as well meet a new customer for the first time. My favorite part is that we talked with our beloved customers, one on one. I call this quality time, uninterrupted but for a few animals and kids, which was really fun and very real!
Above left: Tanya showing details to the iPad camera
Above right: The best part – meeting new pet friends!
Would we do it again? Absolutely! Would our Customers? We hope so!! Our advice is go for it! This industry is filled with creative, resilient people and they can pivot WITH us!
Dos and Don’ts -- Suggestions:
- Communicate your zoom show schedule on multiple fronts: Email blasts, snail mail invites, social media and personal messages.
- Consider sending a fun care package/sample kit to engage the customer before the meeting.
- Purchase an app like Calendly or others in the market to help monitor the schedule as well as send automated reminder emails that are critical.
- Purchase a steady camera set-up so that you do not have any type of unprofessional camera shake or wobble.
- Set up (if you have the space) an actual booth and organize the display so your message can be considerate of the buyer’s time.
- Weigh the pros and cons of a group show vs. one-on-one meetings. A group show does have its advantages as it is easier and often invites questions that the group can benefit from -- but every product line is different.
- Up your technology game by testing out your show on your family and friends who love you but will provide honest feedback (LOL.) You must embrace the technology with a smile.
- Have a sense of humor when your buyers have pets and/or kids climbing in their laps. This is real life – embrace the kids and pets – it is a privilege to meet loved ones at any show!
- Be grateful for every minute you get to spend with customers via zoom, offer a special to thank them for their time.
- You can wear slippers as mostly your feet are hidden but dressing like it is a real, in-person show helps get your head in the game
Watch an example of a Maritime Tribes Zoom show here!
Trip Wolfskehl has made a living from 2 seemingly disparate passions: textiles and maps. With a background in fine art and history, he’s proud to call one of America’s oldest, most interesting towns home - Newport, Rhode Island. Be sure to stop by when passing through, as meeting new people from far off lands is top on his agenda.
From Tanya Bernard: I am lucky in life, health and work! Who knew that studying visual/fine art in college in San Diego would actually lead to me making a living loving what I do? When I am not having a blast growing a small business with my “work husband” of 15 years - Trip - I am spending as much time possible with my beloved boys: Jim, Jack and Tug. Life is short - work hard & smart with people you like so you can spend time with your family