Time to answer the cyber mailbag. Matt Carroll, a reader from South Carolina posed a question that might be of interest to a lot of dealers and collectors who are thinking of starting their own sports card show.
In the past few months, our local card store in Charleston, S.C. recently decided to close its doors after nearly 20 years in the business. One of its employees and I have been tossing around the idea to host a bi-annual show in the area.
I have several venue options that are very reasonably priced for weekend activities and feel that I am savvy enough with social media network the event. My biggest problem, I feel, is getting quality vendors from around the area to show up. I was hoping that you could throw out a few ideas or contacts. As a reference point, Charlotte is three hours away, Greenville SC is three hours away, and Atlanta is five hours away.
I have considered traveling to make contact with vendors at the Atlanta and Jacksonville show to gauge interest.
Thank you as always for your Ramblings. They are a much needed break as I drudge through work and graduate class work.
Well first, congratulations on continuing your education past college. Once I finished college, I was so burned out about classes that I never went back to school. For those who do continue, you have my best wishes for continuing to work hard to improve yourself and your knowledge base.
Now, let’s break down some of what you mentioned. There is no doubt social media is very important to promoting any show. Depending on if you consider hobby message boards part of social media, we are currently using 12 different venues of social media. If used properly, the publicity is very effective and the cost is minimal. In addition, the time commitment isn’t that much—maybe a couple of hours a week. Using cut and paste is a big help when trying to get the word out on multiple platforms like your own Facebook page, one you set up especially for the show and on hobby message boards (be sure you’re allowed to do that first). You can also advertise on Twitter and Facebook, targeting those who live in your area and are sports collectors.
We also use some mainstream media in our show promotion work here in Texas. Without any out of pocket cost, we’ve been able to score mentions in the Dallas Morning News Guide sections the Friday before our shows on two separate occasions. Some local radio stations and newspapers still provide free coming events public service announcements. You might even ask about being a guest on a local talk show on radio or TV. Online classifieds are another thought.
I like your idea of expanding your vendor search to several hours away. Depending on when our shows in a month, we have had dealers drive from 3 to 5 hours away for our shows. The wider you can make your dealer outreach, the more likely you are to have dealers come with material that your area may not have seen previously. If you see shows in those areas, it may very well be worth the long one-day round-trip drive to check out the shows and see if any of those dealers are interested in setting up at your show. We offer reduced tables rates for any dealer who takes two or more tables. That way we are helping those dealers who are coming from a longer distance. Be sure to reward their commitment by doing as much promotion as you can to give them a fighting chance to make money.
Reasonably priced venues are very important. I would also use that old real estate term: location, location, location. If a place is harder to find, that may not be as much as a bargain as a slightly higher priced venue right off the main highway.
We’re very lucky the Southfork Hotel is visible from the highway so it’s very difficult to miss. When the Dallas Card Show was at Craig Ranch, the location was out of the way yet plenty of collectors found the show. You will have people find you because your show will be a destination event, and others will want an ease of finding you.
A couple more thoughts: Don’t be all consumed with the profit motive right off the bat. If you make money that is great, but putting your money back into the show will make your venture a success both short and long term. We’re always looking for ways to improve but the bottom line is always, if we draw the people who spend money at the dealer tables — we did our job. The dealers will come back and if the collector’s experience is a good one all the way around, they’ll be back.
If you need more show promotion ideas and tips, rest assured there are plenty of ideas in the archives. Just use the search box in the upper right.