Whilst many would question the effectiveness of exhibitions in general as a way to promote professional services, an exhibition focused entirely on a local business community is a slightly different proposition. Earlier this week, wearing several hats (MD of small local business, business journalist, market researcher etc) I went along to the Richmond Business Expo which was held at Twickenham Rugby Stadium. I had hoped to attend the earlier seminar by Nigel Botterill on “The Botty Rules” (Best selling business book in the UK) but work prevented me from getting there on time.
I have worked with a couple of small law firms in Richmond in the past but a newcomer to the patch – Fisher Meredith – had caught my eye of late as a result of some poster adverts at the local train station and their connection with thebestofrichmond, which promotes local businesses and organises networking functions. However, there were two local firms in attendance that I hadn’t met before. I was attracted to the Colemans stand because of the brightly coloured and cheerful images of mugs, front doors, ties and other objects. It really was a nice piece of design. Unusually, this firm is based in Kingston with offices also in Hertfordshire and Manchester – I didn’t get time to find out how that came about. Whilst offering the full range of services, they were focusing on a fixed fee HR support service comprising an online knowledge library, over 250 legal documents as well as an online Contract Maker. I should imagine that they captured the interest of numerous employers in the area.
I also had a long chat with an earnest young family solicitor from Rowberry Morris which has offices in Reading, Staines, Tadley and Richmond. The firm has experts in the Legal 500 and we chatted about other methods of getting close to the community.
However, full marks to the Financial Planner at Will Power from Isleworth. I explained that my solicitor had quoted around £400 to revise my will and he said that it could be done for £120. When I expressed surprise and questioned whether they were solicitors he made some valid points about Powers of Attorney and Executors and Guardians getting on well. They get my vote – for the “free” advice and friendly, straight talking style.
The first firm I came across was Accord – from Hampton Hill – lots of people at the stand and I had a nice chat with one of the partners. Down to earth folk. The Freeman Carr stand was pretty busy so I only managed to get hold of a small leaflet from them – it says that they have offices in Twickenham, Manchester and Carlisle (an interesting mix) and had a big photo of a rather nice car in some gardens. Perhaps I don’t generate enough money to be clients of theirs?
I know Philip Hodges as they are based in Teddington and I saw them on the exhibitors list but didn’t see their stand which was a shame as I would have liked to have caught up with them. But I had a great chat with a young commercial agent from Levene. He told me about the commercial properties he was managing – right up into West London – and I was delighted that he had managed to raise the profile of commercial property in the local Richmond and Twickenham Times newspaper. As it happens, a couple of the partners from Levene had attended the recent talk I gave at the RICS (see blog below) and I was encouraged that they had already set up a Twitter account – follow them on levenegroup.
Other stands of interest
One of the stands caught my eye – it was the procurement team from the local authority. They had a range of guides and advice notes (they are also on their web site) on how local businesses could sell their services to the authority as they preferred to source locally. I wondered how many of the exhibitors there took the time to get to know these folk who were approachable and genuinely helpful. There was also information from Richmond Borough Council about grants, special loans and cash awards for business support. Blimey – a local authority with a genuine desire to help local businesses – I was impressed.
There were three marketing/PR company stands there – none, I am sad to say, that sparked any particular interest in me (although obviously I am not their target audience) – but there were two companies promoting social media services.
Whilst Richmond Theatre was absent, The Rose theatre in Kingston were there and I hope that local businesses look carefully at their corporate hospitality programmes as the summer season offered something for everyone.
Although I hadn’t been actively planning to buy anything, I may well contact the guy who talked about wills and powers of attorney and also the local accountants (I’ve been with my present firm for many years but it can’t hurt to check out the market right?). I will also contact one of the two IT for small business services – because they assured me that they visit your premises rather than insist on you taking your kit to their offices as some do. I will also keep the price list from KnewImage – always good to have to hand printing costs – especially from a local company.
So from my perspective, as a small business owner, I met some potentially valuable business contacts. And I am sure that the exhibitors will feel that the exhibition overall was worthwhile – both for raising their profile and generating leads.