Working from home means I don’t talk a lot. I can still remember having a croaky voice after a couple of days of teaching after each summer holiday – how the extra talking affects the voice and the energy levels. Talking for 3 days at the Ploughing Match last week made me feel like I’d been steam rollered by the end of the third day!
There were record crowds at Ireland’s biggest agricultural show this year, about 80,000 on days 1 and 3 and a record breaking 120,000 on the middle day – the crowds on the main thoroughfares were like Grafton Street at Christmas! The weather was fabulous, dull mornings but very sunny afternoons. People seemed in reasonably jovial moods though I have to admit if I had to trek through 120,000 people with small children, I think I would have gone home but I’m not great on busy streets at Xmas either! People were happy enough taking their time getting through the crowds and queuing for free samples. I was in the Laois LEO tent, not on the main thoroughfare but a good location behind the HQ. Footfall was steady, not so huge as to put people off coming in but good enough to ensure there were almost always people passing.
I had ordered these stickers, mostly to engage those people who would probably retort that they’d never marry a farmer (as happened at other shows) and partly to see which would be the most popular. ?Interestingly, the ‘I Would’ far exceeded the ‘I Wouldn’t’. The stickers were great for getting people into conversation as after a couple of hours, people were almost dazed from looking at so much stuff so asking them ‘would you marry a farmer?’ and getting them to choose a sticker encouraged interaction and prompted many sales.
Even Sybil Mulcahy wore the ‘I Would’ sticker when presenting Midday on TV3 on the middle day! ?I got good press coverage coming up to and at the Ploughing Championships too, print coverage in the Leinster Express, Laois Nationalist, Irish Examiner and a small mention in Irish Country Living, and 7 radio interviews – most were local stations plus an interview on News Talk at the Ploughing. ?I was also interviewed twice for Irish TV (channel 191 on Sky). Many of the radio interviewers didn’t state where the stand was though but I hope it will deliver on sales in bookshops.
So many businesses have a presence at the ploughing for brand awareness, not necessarily to make sales. They are there to remind their customers of their existence, to chat to customers, get feedback, to get some press coverage if they can, make contacts etc. There’s probably also a feeling of if they are not there, their competitors might steal the limelight. Many of the larger companies offer refreshments to their clients too and this is growing in popularity again, Brian got lots of texts from companies inviting him to call in for sandwiches and tea.
I didn’t get a chance to look around that much but visited Pauline from Killowen Farm in the Aldi marquee. So busy that is operated a one way system, the interior was designed like old fashioned shop front, one shop front for each section eg. there was one for dairy. Killowen Farm produce yummy yogurts and were providing samples from their brand under the Aldi label which is Duneen. I thought this worked well for brand awareness, for example, I’d never realised that they supplied under that name and it now means I will buy it when shopping in Aldi – it definitely grows trust in the brand too. ?I didn’t make it to the other supermarket marquees but I’m sure they were just as impressive. It’s a huge investment on the part of the small and medium sized food producers though – both in time and money.
One thing I found interesting was people’s reactions to the book. Most had heard of it and it was intriguing to see what the source was. Many kids on the Wednesday said they saw me on Irish TV the day before. Many mentioned Irish Country Living, Laois Nationalist, Leinster Express , Teagasc magazine and Irish Examiner – proving that the recent mentions had worked. Radio, particularly the News Talk interview was mentioned. What delighted me though was the number of people who said they read my blog, and followed me on facebook and twitter. It really proves that social media works well. There were a few who had never heard of it and yes, it can be hard work explaining to them what it is about, especially when the brain starts to go!
So the five million dollar question – how were sales? I’ll be honest, I thought I would have sold more. Having sold 44 at Tullamore from a not fantastic location, I was expecting to sell double that each day at the Ploughing – given the larger crowds and the increased press coverage but no, sales each day were comparable to Tullamore, selling about 140 in total over the 3 days. Thank goodness my stand wasn’t expensive!
So was it worth it? Well, time will tell. Just as for so many businesses there, the true value of doing the show will reveal itself over the next few months. For me, it will be the run up to Xmas. Doing the Ploughing meant that I got press coverage and time will tell whether people remember and decide to buy the book as Christmas gifts. Having got another print run, I really hope they do!
A lovely elderly gentleman rang me from the UK yesterday, he’d seen me on Irish TV and tried to get the book in Waterstones but they gave him my phone number and he rang to order it. What was also good was the number of people who came up to tell me that they had read my book and really enjoyed it. Fabulous to get that feedback particularly if there was someone standing there wondering whether to make the purchase or not!
Blog awards this weekend and then my life will return to normal and I’ll be starting back to book number 2!
Mair?ad - Irish American Mom
The stickers were a wonderful idea. Glad to hear you had a good time at The Ploughing Championships. I can only imagine how much energy it took to man (or should I say woman) your booth for three full days in a row. Congratulations on raising awareness about your wonderful book – I hope lots of sales will follow soon.
All the best,
Thank you Mairead, I have to admit I feel like I’ve been run over by a steam roller this week but that’s partly due to the Blog Awards last Saturday night too. Catching up now though 🙂
Pat Fitzpatrick (@Pdfitzpatrick)
Those are good sales figures Lorna. And every sale out there is someone else to tell someone else about it. Which is good in the run up to Christmas. The badges were inspired. I’m actually jealous, it’s such a good idea!
Thanks Pat, yes, the stickers worked great and had good visbility too as people wore them all day. Not everyone would have copped that it was for a book but I’m sure they raised a smile.
Lots of people share my book and pass it on to others – which is great in one way that they think it is good enough to recommend it and pass it on. I’ve just realised that I’m the exact opposite, I will hold onto books passionately!
Mighty stuff, Lorna – will be dying to know what happens over the next few months with sales, especially when your next one comes out. You know they say your first book is only ever a loss leader for your second to start earning its keep, but seems like you might have surpassed that already, quite some time ago. It’s brilliant that you’re gathering all that marketing data as you go as well – absolutely invaluable. Well done on breaking the UK while you’re at it!
I hadn’t heard that Tara, yes, I’m definitely making some money on the book – as long as this third print run sells! Hoping to goodness I’m not stashing away 500 or 600 in the attic!
Yes, have had occasional sales from the UK all along which has been nice.
Once the blog awards is out of the way and I’ve caught up on a few things, I’m back to writing book 2. Looking forward to it 🙂
That all sounds good Lorna. You are certainly getting lots of exposure for your book. I admire your persistence and energy keeping all this going. Well done I hope it takes off in a way that you no longer have to put in all that effort. Best wishes, Caroline
Thanks Caroline – I think the secret is little and often, to keep at it. It will be interesting to see what the Christmas sales bring.
Very interesting article, Lorna. I can see your point about a lot of work for that number of sales, but I think your profile will have been raised enormously and people will now be more likely to buy from shops and elsewhere – I read somewhere that people have to hear about or see a book about seven times before they properly register (afraid I can’t now remember where I saw that). Sounds like you are doing all the right things for getting noticed, anyway. TV sounds the way to go! You must have been chuffed to get an order from the UK without even targeting there – a whole new market. Maybe there will be a spike in the ebook sales – do you get the figures for these sales immediately?
Good luck with the run-up to Christmas, and with the Blog Awards. Make sure to get a bit of a rest before launching into the next project.
Just checked on Amazon – no surge there. Yes, I’ve heard that re the 7 times too and if they pick it up, the number reduces hence the value of having your product in prominent locations.
I’ve been getting a trickle of sales from abroad all along – one UK lady bought one and then bought another three as gifts.
Thanks Sally, just hoping people remember it now in Novemember when they are buying gifts, not sure I have the energy for another PR surge plus it’s hard to make it newsy all the time.
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