By A. Keith Kaufman
When contracting to participate at a stamp show with associated table fees and travel expenses, a dealer rightfully has an expectation that the event will be promoted and marketed in such a manner so as to maximize attendance.
Unfortunately, these efforts are either lacking entirely, or are wholly inadequate to generate local excitement and resulting attendance. Too often, a lack of common sense and logic are at the root of this predicament.
This became abundantly clear to me when, during a very poorly attended show several years ago, I asked the promoter whether he had sent out press releases in advance of the show.
His response: “Gee, we never thought of that, and I know a reporter at the local TV station.”
I promptly excused myself to bang my head against the wall in recognizing the magnitude of yet another lost opportunity.
I frequently hear that promoters excuse their inability or unwillingness to adequately promote the show because of lack of time, money and/or resources. My response to this is that if you are not going to do a show right, you shouldn’t do it at all. Remember, dealers who suffer through a poorly attended show will likely not repeat that event in the future, so no one benefits.
Adequate promotion and marketing require neither an overabundance of time or money, just commitment and focused effort, with a heavy sprinkling of common sense and logic.
I present here some ideas that current and/or future show promoters may wish to consider prior to developing and implementing their next event.
While nothing is guaranteed, these recommendations have been shown to be effective in generating interest both within and outside of the philatelic community.
Remember, it is absolutely essential to market to the local community and general population, because this increases interest and brings in “new blood” to the shows.
First, establish a single show committee person solely dedicated to promotion and marketing. Especially for a showcase (i.e., once a year) event, this would seem paramount to help ensure a successful show. Once selected, this person should be tasked solely with the responsibilities of implementing and tracking the following recommendations.
Prepare and issue media press releases. It cannot be stressed enough the importance of sending out (via hard copy and e-mail) press releases to all identifiable national philatelic and nonphilatelic media outlets within at least 50 miles of the event (television, radio and newspapers).
If just one reporter could become interested in doing an article or conducting an interview, it would be well worth the effort.
At a recent event, both a TV and newspaper reporter came to the show on Saturday. On Sunday, the lines of people waiting to get in (many with stamps for appraisal or sale) were out the door all day long.
In preparing press releases, focus must be given to subject matter that is of general interest to the public and hence the media. Technical topics should be avoided.
Highlights could include any well-known philatelic item that will be on display at the show. At the very least, emphasis should be placed on the family-oriented nature of the event.
A press release should include numerous instances of the word “free” if possible, such as free admission, free parking and, most important, free appraisals.
If there will be food available during the show, this should also be mentioned. Try to engender excitement by noting the historical, geographical and potential economic implications of the hobby.
Remember that while there can be no assurance of media interest, you are guaranteed no interest if the effort is not made.
Keep in mind other promotion and marketing opportunities. Direct mailings and advertising should certainly be considered. A classified ad, although not as eye-catching as a placement ad, usually can be prepared and published with minimal time and expense.
Additionally, the preparation of interesting and colorful show flyers can be useful if distributed to public venues such as post offices, senior citizen centers, libraries and so on within one to two weeks prior to the show.
A relatively inexpensive but often overlooked aspect of promotion is signage. Not only is this essential to identifying show location, but can actually attract new attendees if done correctly.
Signs should be clearly legible from all roadways leading to the show and should clearly highlight the major attractions of the event (for example, free admission and free appraisals).
Balloons or some other visual attraction should be directly associated with the signs so as to draw the attention of drivers and pedestrians who may be in the general vicinity.
While there are certainly more elaborate (and costly) methods of promotion and marketing, implementation of most, if not all, of these recommendations is, I believe, doable for most clubs and philatelic organizations.
In fact, a recent poll of many dealers (including yours truly) suggests that a modest ($20-$25) advertising/promotional surcharge to table fees would be acceptable if assurance of a concerted effort by the promoter to actually promote in accordance with these recommendations were given.
The important thing is to have and foster a sense of pride and excitement in enthusiastically promoting a real community event, not just another humdrum stamp show.
A. Keith Kaufman of M/NH Philatelics is a dealer from Los Angeles, Calif.