Presentation is everything

We go to a lot of street fairs, food truck events, and other such gatherings where entrepreneurs are promoting their works. We usually see a wide range of marketing attempts, some very good and well-planned; others, not so much. This week, we saw three really good food vendors, Clean Street Foods, Lil Rae Cakes and Cutie Pie That!, and a lot of really amateur displays at a neighborhood street fair. There are lessons to be learned here.

Clean Street Food is a food truck with a bright yellow graphic design and a cool retro “Michael Schwab” style logo. The brochures, business cards, menu signs and other such materials are consistently presented with the same look, same colors, fonts, graphics, making a unified and professional presentation. More importantly, the owner is out in front of the truck handing out flyers and talking to people, telling them what’s unique and special about Clean Street Food and inviting them to join the order line. It works.

Cutie Pie That! takes the same approach, but a little further. Like Clean Street, the presentation is first-rate; the logo and company colors are deployed consistently and effectively. Again, like Clean Street, the owner is out front talking up the business and inviting customers in. What Cutie Pie That! adds is a uniform; the owner is dressed in a smart baker’s outfit in the same magenta and white that’s used in the logo and packaging.

Lil Rae Cakes goes another step further down the same path. Like the other two, the graphics and presentation are optimized for maximum effect, but Lil Rae has gone beyond the uniform; she doesn’t merely talk up her product, she portrays an old-school company spokes-character. She has a carefully-styled retro look that is at once whimsical, stylish, artsy and fashionable, and the overall performance puts one in mind of a rockabilly Betty Crocker. Buying her cupcakes is as much an act of fandom as of gluttony.

On the other end of the spectrum, there were a lot of vendors at both the food truck events and a local street fair who put in exactly zero effort at crafting their image. Hastily hand-scrawled signs, generic vinyl banners printed in Arial, and a general slovenliness of approach that had the same level of professionalism as your average garage sale.

The most disappointing to me was one who came so close to nailing it. This vendor was selling hand-crafted soaps and body lotions; really nice stuff that my wife and daughter just went nuts for. Their packaging, signage and displays were all beautiful and appropriate; a little feminine but not frilly, in tasteful colors that complemented the products and seemed to justify the prices, positioning the goods as upscale items worth more than the asking price. So where did it all fall apart? There were two women operating the booth, a mother-daughter team who own the business and did a good job of pitching the benefits of their products, were very informative and engaging in talking about how they made the various potions and such. They were both dressed for a biker rally, in Harley-Davidson tank tops and jeans. I expect they would say they were just “keeping it real” and being true to themselves, but the fact is they were not being true to their product line. If they had dressed to present an image consistent with their company’s, their presentation would have been perfect, and I bet they would have sold more. So close.

Presentation is everything. Before you step in front of the public, whether in print, in person or online, look over everything; is there a consistent message and image that you’re putting forward? Are you showing yourself, your company and your product/service to its best advantage?

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