return to homepage

When Your Business Is Small You Must Appear to Be Big!

by: Geoff Ficke

I recently returned from representing a client at the annual Cosmoprof Fair, in Bologna, Italy. Cosmoprof is the largest cosmetic show in the world, and the beauty business is all about image. As such, the companies present at this mammoth exposition offer stunning product and technology displays. Many of the stands feel like upscale department stores and boutiques.

My client was a startup business with no sales history, a single item product and limited working capital. This was to be the actual unveiling, the market launch for the product. We rented the smallest booth the management had available. Our location was not ideal as this client was a first time participant.

Nevertheless, despite our inherent limitations we were a rousing success. The booth was constantly crowded. The product was instantly recognized as a significant advance in its category. We were exhausted at the end of each day from demonstrating the products performance features and benefits and discussing business opportunities through translators. We have been consumed with follow up interest and are currently negotiating exclusive country distribution deals with over 40 companies.

While the show was in progress we took particular note of activity in the displays around us. The Cosmoprof set an attendance record this year. Everybody displaying should have been as busy, or busier than my client, especially considering our limitations. However, we spoke to numerous company representatives from all over the world and there seemed to be a prevalent mood of mild disappointment.

Several elements account for the disparate response our single product, shown for the very first time, and with restricted resources, received from this international, very critical clientele, and the disappointment so many fully funded and resource rich businesses experienced. In a word, we made our product look much, much grander than it actually was.

Using stock, off the shelf display pieces we dressed them cleverly with creative graphics. Banners were similarly produced at a fraction of our competition’s cost. The branding we created for the product cut instantly through the chaotic clutter of the show environment and resonated with buyers. The product was constantly being demonstrated and the performance benefits we claimed, we proved, at point and time of application. Buyers were amazed that the immediate benefit we guaranteed could be instantly experienced.

My company attends and displays for clients at numerous trade-shows every year in a wide range of consumer product categories. When we work with inventors, entrepreneurs and smaller businesses we stress the importance of appearing to be stronger than you are. At Cosmoprof, if we had simply relied on the great product we knew we had, we would have been much less satisfied with our result. We appeared technologically advanced because we offered a full slate of performance and demonstration benefits that we alone were utilizing.

In today’s very hectic consumer product marketplace it is essential that new products offer unique features and benefits. My counsel to entrepreneurs is that there are many ways to stretch limited resources and appear to be a more robust enterprise. Being small offers the unique benefit of being much more nimble and flexible than larger enterprises. Leverage this advantage.