Lessons learned from Monsterpalooza - Spectral Ink Shop

Lessons learned from Monsterpalooza

I mentioned in a previous post a line from one of my favorite comedians - "I don't fail. I succeed at finding what doesn't work!" Well, last week was Monsterpalooza, and it's time to look at what worked and what didn't work as I prepare for the next event, which is San Diego Comic-Con.

What worked at Monsterpalooza

  • Our full-sized painted dog monster was a huge hit! People loved him. One of the nicest compliments we got was when we brought him in from the loading docks. Passing by other vendors, one saw it and nodded, "Nice!" Our first compliment, not from the public but from a peer, and in the dingy back rooms of the convention hall meant a lot to me.
  • You need a giveaway. At my first Comic-Con, I did a daily giveaway of book stands. For Monsterpalooza, I did our dog monster. Our dog monster garnered about 30 new signups to our newsletter! People signed up right at the booth!
  • Monsterpalooza was an excellent con for us! Granted, we only took books and merch from The Last Rite and left Intergalactic Space Force at home, but we did as much business in 2 1/2 days as we did in all of Comic-Con last year.
  • Our glow-in-the-dark 3d prints put us over the top. We almost sold out on The Baby-Eater in paperback, and The Last Rite sold well too, but paperbacks have a modest ROI. We sold four manananggals and two dog monsters, and those have much higher ROI and made us . . . . well, not quite yet profitable, but it got us a lot closer.
  • Hold your banner high! High! HIGH! My friend tried to get me to do this at SDCC last year, but I didn't. This time I bought a frame to hold our booth banner above the drapes that frame the different booths. At least one customer claimed they spotted it from across the hall and made a bee-line to us.
  • Get your products out front. We had T-shirts displayed on the back wall and got NO traction. Once we hung a few up to the show, we got a handful of t-shirt sales.
  • Fliers work (sort of). I'll talk about what didn't work in a bit, but what really helped was to have something to hand out to people. The hardest part about getting a sale is starting it. You need a hook to get people talking to you. You have a shot once they talk to you, but until then, you're just passively waiting for people to drift to you. Having a stack of flyers to hand out got people to our booth. "Care to take a flyer?" made for a decent pick-up line. When they take it, you can explain what's on the flyer, and now we're talking. Only a small number of those flyers became sales, but our sales dropped when we ran out of brochures and had to switch to other approaches. And flyers are CHEAP!
  • Bags became a selling point. This was something that surprised me. When I did a book fair in Maimi, it became an issue as we started getting rained out, so I had these cheap custom cloth bags made up. Each one costs me about $1.50 (I have bigger ones for the bulkier items), but people loved them. Not only did they become a selling point, but they also helped me find one of my customers. My son sold a few books when I was doing like a bathroom trip, and one of them never returned for an autograph. As we left, I saw our back hanging off the back of a wheelchair. I didn't recognize the customer, but my son confirmed it was one of his sales. We stopped, and I offered my autograph there in the lobby. That only happened because our SIP logo was shining green against the black back for me to see.
  • Square Terminal was a valuable tool. Not only did it track the inventory and money earned (REALLY important when it comes time to pay the state taxes, but it printed actual receipts with our logo and website printed on them. Anything that gets our name out, the better.

What didn't work at Monsterpalooza

  • Key chains and magnets were not huge sellers. I tried these out because they have high ROI and are cheap, but they weren't huge sellers. I'll continue selling them because I have them, but I probably will not reorder unless something changes.
  • Speaking of things that did not sell AT ALL - custom book stands. I pointed it out to one person and they commented how cool they were, then mentioned how they went completely unnoticed. Kind of hard to appreciate the thing holding up your main product. If I want to move book stands, I'll need a new strategy.
  • Exclusive merch didn't sell like I thought it would. I made jackets for the con. It was too expensive (not to mention wasteful) to have a bunch made up, only to throw them away when they didn't sell, so I made a link on the back of the brochure. While the flyer and the jacket garnered attention and compliments, it currently has not earned any sales.
  • Bundles also failed to sell. 
  • If it's on the back wall, it might as well not be there. If it's not out front for people to touch, it won't sell.

Next Steps

So now I need to take the lessons learned from Monsterpalooza and apply them at SDCC. I know how well I did last year, so it will be interesting to see if I can improve on that performance.


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