I'm starting to sort out my Essen visit for this year. Last year I went to Essen for the first time, as an exhibitor and as an attendee.
Having never been before I had no idea what to expect, nor really how to prepare. I had released It's Alive! in September (about six weeks before Essen), but I had very little in the way of distribution and very little buzz about me. Carpe Astra, which I had hoped to release at Essen had been delayed and so I was just toting It's Alive! and a hand-made prototype of Carpe Astra.
I'd been approached by Peter Struijf of Geode Games to see if I'd be willing to share my stand with him and I was. Turns out it was a great idea, not only did Peter's Krakow 1325AD game draw lots of extra people to my stand, but Peter was a great guy and we had a lot of fun hanging out on the stand over the five days. Peter's boundless enthusiasm was infectious :-)
This year, with a year's experience of Essen and three games to sell (plus the Sumeria 2-player expansion promo) I hope to be able to build upon last year's experience and have an even more successful show.
To determine if the show is 'successful', I need some benchmarks, to gauge its success.
The simplest and most honest success criteria will be do I turn over more at this year's show than I did at last year's? This is easy to work out since I already know what last year's turnover was, and I have to work out what this year's is in order to pay it in to the bank :-). Cash sales are also good for my business, as the mark-up I get on each sale is much higher than I would get selling to a distributor. This boosts the average value of my sales, and reduces the number of games I need to sell to break even on a particular game (none of my games have broken even yet).
On top of the simple cash turnover, there's a more involved, but still financial criteria: October's turnover. This includes not just the cash turnover at the event, but invoiced sales to shops and distributors at the show. Last year's October turnover was awesome - it's still my best month ever by quite some way, since as well as the cash sales on the trade show floor I also sold a lot of games to new distributors. This year things will be very different, since most of my distributors already have stock (though I'm still waiting for most of my European distributors to pick up Sumeria).
Then there are the other less tangible criteria: raising awareness of my games and my company, attracting new distributors, finding new artists and designers, projecting a good image of my company, etc. How to judge success on those criteria is much harder.
Last year at Essen, I did very little in the way of preparation. I spent £50 on some glossy posters, which I hung from the back of my stand with simple poster frames. I bought some material to use as table-clothes and just piled my games along the back of my stand in their cartons - a warehouse-like wall of brown cardboard. I also got It's Alive! listed in the 'Spiel fuer Spiel 2009' handbook, a full colour handbook printed by Dagmar de Cassan of Spielen in Osterreich.
This year, I'd like to improve the pre-fair awareness of my company and my games to draw more people to my booth. I'll be listing in Spiel fuer Spiel 2010 again, and I'll be spending 100 Euro on an improved listing in the SpielBox preview which includes not just the basic info (number of players, title, designer, etc.) but photos and descriptions of the games.
I'd also like to put some more thought into the stand design to make it look a little more professional (without adding hugely to the cost).
If you've got any ideas or advice I'd be very glad to hear them :-)