The Expo Experience – First Time RootsTech Vendor Perspective (Part 5)

In four previous posts, I walked you through the preparations we made before attending RootsTech 2018 as a first time vendor. In this post, I’ll cover the outcome of the plans.

In 3 and 1/2 long days at the Expo Hall, we experienced a rollercoaster of emotions. We misjudged all of our plans to generate foot traffic to Newbie Land. We did not overestimate the connection between our classes and the books they were willing to buy. We did not realize the additional purpose of having a physical presence in the vendor hall.

GBA.BUZZ – A Fun Failure?

The GBA.BUZZ app did not generate the excitement that I had hoped. Most ambassadors didn’t participate and promoted it, unlike the Colossal Giveaway the year before. Several folks had heard about it on Lisa Louise Cooke’s podcast and were excited to play.

Others had watched the YouTube video explaining the game. But when all was said and done, the participation response was abysmal. We misjudged the willingness of the attendees at RootsTech to use technology in the Expo Hall. Unfortunately, Andy and I didn’t have a backup plan to collect emails for our mailing list, so the side benefit of participating in GBA.BUZZ did not pan out.

It was disheartening. What could have been different? Those who did complete the game really liked it. Several people started the game but didn’t’ finish it because of the obligations they had or a negative aspect of this year’s conference that I’m not ready to address.

Meet & Greets Drew No Attention

We misjudged the attractions of Meet & Greets. Those who did stop by to visit with their genealogy rockstars discovered they had the guest’s undivided attention because there was no line to chat.

Thomas MacEntee RootsTech 2018
Michael Strauss Genealogist at RootsTech
Diane Elder of Family Locket meeting fans at RootsTech

Often the track to our booth was low during the Meet & Greets so, Andy, Caleb, or I talked shop with our guests after their interviews. The conversations were INVALUABLE, and once again, I thank those folks for their time. I wish the turnout had been better. I’m not sure that I would recommend doing this again in the future.

Andy Lee and Jill Ball, GeniAus, at RootsTech
Andy Lee and Lisa Alzo, RootsTech

Where were the Power Buyers?

We seriously misjudged our overall sales expectations. We were spot on for the sales to people who attended our classes. They bought the Reimagine Family History book. They noticed the DNA: Q&A book and said, “that’s what I need.”

They were intrigued by A Recipe for Writing Family History. As such, they could take advantage of the 3 for $25 deal. If they played the GBA.BUZZ game, then saved an additional $5. We noticed that this conference does not sell memoirs well. So recommend to unknown authors to not sell those books unless they keynote at RootsTech.

While estimating only a small percentage of the 15,000 attendees would naturally pass by our booth without the GBA BUZZ or Meet & Greets, we still hoped the natural flow and foot traffic generating efforts would bring 2,000 – 4,000 to the aisle.

Based on our observations, less than a thousand people walked by our booth. And even less stopped. It’s entirely possible that our power buyers never came to Newbie Land. What could we have done differently?

At a conference this size, a vendor can’t rely solely on workshop attendees to cover their exhibitor costs.

Other Factors?

As a marketing friend pointed out, it’s also possible that our signage needs to improve. It doesn’t say what we do, only what our motto is. We thought that we had books on a table would be enough visual information to suggest we sell books. We’ll consider the signage improvement suggestions. Booth design takes time to learn for many start-ups.

RootsTech Booth Set Up At Family History Fanatics

Signage improvements aside, how could we have generated more foot traffic? In business, there is truth to location, location, location. The Expo Hall was significantly larger than in previous years in the main hall, but Newbie Land was small. Could that have negatively impacted traffic?

Being on the food pathway should have been beneficial, but we found most people found the trek to eat time-consuming. They didn’t want to spend any extra time with the booths they passed. They wanted food and to rush back to the classes, or rather the lines for their breakout sessions.

In location wasn’t the problem, were there other factors entirely outside of our control? After a month of analysis, the answer is, I don’t know.

It’s Not Only About Sales

A positive for having a booth this year was networking with other vendors and individuals.

The networking began before RootsTech, as mentioned earlier. Joining the Genealogy Business Alliance connected me with numerous business and their owners. Without joining the group, I would have scratched and clawed to gain connections within larger firms, and I wouldn’t have been on the radar of smaller ones. I look forward to seeing what else comes out of the GBA.

Devon Noel Lee and Janet Hovorka at the GBA Meet Up

Being part of GBA, I noticed a business opportunity for selling our books in a new space. I’m looking forward to that arrangement, but then the GBA member turned things on its head. Thanks to our books, we had a calling card/resume for our skills. One business wants to develop a new venture that I had NEVER considered before. I know I’m speaking in code, but once I flesh out the details more, I’ll reveal them. (Please say a prayer that I’m capable of this opportunity. I’m scared, but “No risk, no goodies!”)

Sharing Moments at RootsTech with fellow vendors

Then, when I stole a few moments to wander, I connected with one company leader. We talked about a video I had released and the response to it. When I asked if I could have access to his service to review it for future videos, he didn’t hesitate to say, “You bet!”

I visited with industry influencers who didn’t have booths. They’re looking for ways to encourage and promote our eConferences, YouTube channel, and more. In so doing, they’ll have a promotional or educational venue for their businesses. I truly want to grow the entire industry with some of the best educators and companies, and it’s possible thanks to our investment in a booth. Otherwise, I think these influencers would believe we are not all in.

The trouble with networking is that it is difficult to quantify. Sales give tangible proof of the benefits of a booth at a conference. I can’t overlook the intangible return from networking.

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How Will You Get Products Home?

When the RootsTech Expo finally closes on Saturday, and you have unsold products or display materials, the next tricky thing to solve is how to get things home. If you’re local, you can pack it up in a truck and haul it off. If you’re not local, the logistics become complex.

Some RootsTech vendors drive from all parts of the US. Since Andy has a day job as an engineer, driving from Texas is not feasible. The journey would take two days one way.

If we had shipped a smaller amount of stock and could fit the books into our suitcases, we could send them home. Oversized items, or boxes of products, have to be mailed. Since the conference closes on Saturday, mailing becomes difficult.

The Salt Palace offers extended hours on Saturday, but you have to be aware that anything heavy carries and an additional handling fee.

If your product weighs about 30 pounds, as ours did, the handling fee can reach $20. If you have someone willing to haul your stuff to their home and then spend Monday taking your stock to the post office, you could avoid this fee. But you need a GREAT friend who loves you enough to do that.

One more post to go – Will We Do This Again? Stay Tuned.

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