Some Surtex Thoughts

Surtex is coming. This of course will come as news to you only if you have been locked in a basement with no access to all the art licensing hoopla that goes on out there. There is no end to the how-to’s, how I did its and what you should be doings available for consumption. Some are actually pretty good, some others, well, maybe doing one show is not enough to forge an expert…
SO, given that, here are a few extra tidbits they may not mention:
Don’t clutter up the booth with too many disparate or confusing images. The purpose of the art on the wall is to STOP someone so that you can engage them, not to educate them as they walk. You have about 5 seconds to get their attention before they pass by – think about that when you choose the wall art. The opposite – a super minimal booth – is also a mistake.
If you are new at licensing your focus at the show should be building relationships, not selling art. (Unless you sell outright, but that’s a different model). Ask your attendees lots of questions. You are interested in learning all you can about what they do, for a couple of reasons. People love to talk about themselves, and I mean that in a good way, so be fascinated with what they do and how they do it. Then, and only then, can you accurately gauge what work of yours may make sense for them. Until you know them do not ask what they are looking for because they probably don’t know. Your job is to discover enough information to tell them what they need to see.
Lock eyes, SMILE and say Hello as people walk by. Write that on your hand – it’s amazing how many exhibitors sit in the back of their booth and scowl through the entire show. The attendees have a lot of booths to choose from and you want them to find yours inviting. Have chairs out front and keep them open for clients, which may mean shooing the friendly neighbors away until they get the point. Stand up when you are not with clients – that’s the show version of “leaning in”.
Always have your one-sheet available, that single sheet with a few typical designs that tells who you are, what you do and lists your contact info. Use good design sense when you lay it out (white space is your friend) and remember you are not trying to sell with it, just making it easy for them to see what you do and how to get a hold of you. Have them out within easy reach for those people who do not want to stop and talk, and leave a few on the counter whenever you are not in the booth, including after hours.
Manage your expectations. There are nearly 300 registered exhibitors as of this week, and many of them represent more than one artist, some more than a hundred. Sixteen long rows of booths filled with designs from a couple of thousand artists, some with decades of experience displaying the best licensing art in the world. Can you say “intimidating”? Bring your “A” game, leave the rest at home. Show what you love and love what you’re showing because you need to exude confidence while you meet, greet, ask questions and build your contact list. Sales trainers talk about the 100-10-3-1 system, which basically means for every 100 contacts you make, your art will be actively reviewed by 10 of them, 3 will be interested and you’ll sign a contract with 1. Which means you need to get in front of a lot of people to make things happen, so don’t expect to be coming out of the show with a pile of contracts, that’s not how it works. Forget that benchmark and work on building future business.
It takes time to penetrate the market. The common wisdom is that you need to exhibit 2 or 3 times before you see any real results. Of course that translates into 2 or 3 years of significant investment, but this is a get rich slow scheme, a one licensed product at a time building process. Make that your goal and you will be a lot happier with the outcome of the show.

7 replies
  1. Joan Beiriger
    Joan Beiriger says:

    Fantastically great info Jim! I noticed that you didn’t post this on linkedin so I’m going to on several groups. This is a MUST read article especially for new exhibitors!!!

  2. Lance Klass
    Lance Klass says:

    This is brilliant and ever so true. Thanks so much, Jim, for getting this information out.

    The 100-10-3-1 rule hurts so much I had to laugh, but on the bright side, some of the 3’s do amount to something over the following quarter or two, perhaps 1 or 2 of the 10’s will license over the following year, and then – out of the blue – a year or more later you’ll get contacted by one of the 90 you followed up with and thought were hopeless.

    And I like to tell myself that it’s cumulative, that some of those you met at the show, you will meet again. For many first-time exhibitors, the show is a beginning, a first meeting with people who may become good licensees and good friends. How we wish it would all happen faster and that the length of time, and the odds, between first meeting and first check in the mail would most often be a month and not a year or more.

    More reason to exhibit now, to get those relationships started.

  3. Alex Colombo
    Alex Colombo says:

    Great insights Jim, especially for newbies like me, exhibiting for the first time solo. It’s all very interesting and challenging, I am looking forward to the show! Thanks for the great post :).

  4. Kim Gann
    Kim Gann says:

    Thank You for sharing and pointing out that there may not be a lot of contracts signed, but there could be lots of relationships started. Last year was my first year to exhibit and I was so disappointed when I didn’t get a contract, but I will be back this year, working on those relationships. So, I will see you there!


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