CALL US TOLL FREE: 0800 ROLAND (0800 765 263)
INTERNATIONAL: +27 11 875 9300

Road Show 2011 Blog

Blog

 

13Feb2011Will we bend in the rain? Hell no!

Welkom | 256 km (160 miles) | Population 408 173 | Author: Bob | Day 1

2Day one Welkom, we start at 7 am the heavens decide to give us a huge test, temperature's of 33 (90) degrees, a storm suddenly breaks and the tents threaten to become floating houses, we run around a little crazy and we manage to convince the gods that we are not about to bend to their will. We battle without the computer brackets on the printers so many of the ideas are sacrificed as tables for the creative centre and training centre are scavenged, for the computers, but the show must go on.

A very successful show with approximately 60 visitors. We breakdown at 3:30 that afternoon as we believe its too hot to continue, at 34(94.3) degrees, little do we know that this is soon to be considered cool. It takes us five hours to pack the container, which leaves us convinced that we have a problem, 5 hours to unpack, 5 hours to pack that's ten hours, subtract that from 24 leaves us 14, less the six hours for the show a day, four hours a day for traveling leaves us with 4 hours for sleep and meals. We make a decision to drop Aliwal North, a decision we soon regret.


Good intentions and apologies.

Aliwal North | Author: Bob | Day 2

We arrive the next day in Aliwal North with the good intentions of apologising and moving on. The hurt and anger, of us Roland simply dropping this town of 80 000 inhabitants from our list of to do's, cuts deep and I feel wretched, while Teresa points to her PNC-960 bought fifteen years ago and calls it "My first million" It strikes home once again our task is to free the butterfly that lives within everyone, by making people believe they can so easily shed the worm and fly!!

I know now, that we cannot let any town down and we will need to double our efforts. The five hours packing and unpacking needs serious streamlining.


60km/h winds but it remains still.

East London | 717 km (Running total; 973 km) | Population 212 323| Author: Bob | Day 3
EastLondon1We descend down the beautiful mountain pass and East London in all its sparkling sea beauty, jumps at us with winds that tear and shred our energy, we strike the tents and assisted by Darren who proves to be scared of nothing, we fill them with our products, weary now after the long drive and the unpacking we look for somewhere to eat, only to discover that all the gentle folks of East London retire early and nothing is to be had, the team dejected goes to bed to face another day..

EastLondon2East London proves to be a huge disappointment with only 17 visitors for the day, many complaining about Roland, some customers claiming they get charged to set a blade holder. The local agent shows his face for all but 30 minutes If it not for the wonderful, never say die attitude of Darren, I would pull the plug on the local agent. We seriously need to fix this place. East London proves to be a huge disappointment with only 17 visitors for the day, many complaining about Roland, some customers claiming they get charged to set a blade holder. The local agent shows his face for all but 30 minutes If it not for the wonderful, never say die attitude of Darren, I would pull the plug on the local agent. We seriously need to fix this place.

EastLondon3The gods conspire and the winds pick up to a healthy 60 kms an hour (40mph) , so much so that machines are lifted up by tents and computers are thrown around in wild abandon. We start packing at four and at 10 pm, scavenging some pies, from the only open place in town we head for Port Elizabeth. The road is filled with twists and turns, the mist a dangerous stalking partner on roads unmarked with a single drop of white paint.


17Feb2011A steep hill and many dolly's.

Port Elizabeth | 300km (Running total;1 273 km) | Population 749 921 | Author: Bob | Day 4
The emerging lights of Port Elizabeth a welcome relief at 2:30 am. Jaco in the trailing vehicle, without a swap out driver, physically worn out by the strain of the journey. The team is dangerously close to mutiny. Sam in the ariculated truck arrives at 4 am travel weary and beaten. The pace we have set, far too dangerous and punishing. A decision needs making, we need to lengthen the trip, effectively doubling it, if we are to survive as team and actually stay alive. We rush some emergency relief to the straining team calling on Bianca, Pooven and Michael to join the show. I need to return for a short while to the office to sort out headaches that are slowly crowding the little time I have to my own thoughts.

Setting up Port Elizabeth becomes a challenge on its own with the truck unable to park near the convention center, we need therefore to push the products up a steep hill. Here the dolly's prove to be invaluable, and Wayne and Darren reveal an inner energy source that keeps the team competitive. We take up half the exhibition hall with our display, it is clear Roland owns the exhibition. The team that night has its first proper meal since leaving Welkom 5 days previously, the tension is palpable, the team leaders don't rise to the occasion and dig a deep negative swathe through the old and new teams.

I do not attend the show in Port Elizabeth as I jet home for two days to sort out as much as I can of my administration headaches.

PE


A quiet day is quiet.

George | 323km (Running total;1 596km) | Population 203 253| Author: Bob |Day 6
George1The team continues to George, but for all their efforts are greeted by only 8 visitors (two of them being relatives of mine 😉 ) The team sets up in an old Catholic Hall in the middle of town, not putting up the tents has brought our set-up and pack0up time down to 3 hours.

The spirits of the team are dampened as not many people drawn into the hall, the annual wheelchair race down the street has been our biggest competitor.



Gravel, the mountain but still quiet.

Cape Town | 323km (Running total;1 596km) | Population 203 253| Author: Bob | Day 7
They arrive in Cape Town to be greeted by an inappropriate site, yes its near a shopping mall but for only that qualification does it succeed, for the rest it fails dismally, the ground is uneven and the pass by traffic is as close to zero as you will get The area is filled with gusty winds that carry the tents and Vicky the able rescuer who holds desperately to the tie down as it threatens to carry her and itself out into the ocean.

A quick decision is made to move to a grassy knoll, fortunately the tent pegs had been sent by courier to Cape Town, if not the show would have needed to be cancelled. It is clear over the next two days that our marketing efforts leave much to be desired and we are seriously late in delivery and the deadlines have been ignored to our own peril. The Radio advert is rushed to be in time for the next town Vrededal. Vicky again the able rescuer takes the flyer's and plasters all the cars windscreens parked at the mall.

CPT

I arrive back on the first day to find boxes and tent bags etc carelessly thrown in the back of the container, so much so that I cannot help but destroy some of the boxes in clambering over the debris. Carefully unpacking, myself and Sam sweep and clean the container, as untidy is only going to create more delays, destroy more assets and ultimately make everyone's temper very short. We soon have it spic and span again and the necessity of cleaning the container after every unload now becomes a habit, which pays huge dividends.

A visit to the mall convinces me that wherever there are closed malls in a town, ie roofed; that we should opt to be inside the mall, yes it is expensive but considering that it costs approx R6000 ($750) a day to keep the team on the road and the investment in the container with all its frills is is just over 2 Million ($285 000) the investment in malls would seem insignificant in the bigger picture. Robert and Grant take their leave for Johannesburg early, happy to see their short stint come to a close and the mood still dark threatens to overwhelm me. Bianca, lloyd, Sam and I visit Table Mountain and they are blown away at the views from on top, I feel the mood slowly lifting and a new excitement, like a beautiful flower starts to unfold. I breath a sigh of relief.

We close the show early on the second day, with a grand number of 23 visitors, and pack for 4 hours. The sandy site has left its mark with the machines covered in it and the carpets carrying in half a ton of trampled in dirt. The team feels very despondent that for all their efforts so few have turned up and we begin to question the validity of the road show concept. We retire tired and dejected, clinging to a small thread of hope, “this has to get better!”

It is important to realise that the road show will have many resisters and detractors, this the nature of trying something new, there are those that run exhibitions who see us as essentially changing the playing field, no longer do we expect our customer to come to us, but we will go to them. There are those who are extremely comfortable in our family who have not bothered to read the signs of the world wide meltdown and don't realise the game has to change, this will require many experiments in determining the correct approach. There are those who by their nature resist change, and those who feel that they are too important to make the effort to change. Our competitors also don't want us to succeed as they will then need to emulate us, furthermore some of the customers in these remote towns also feel threatened by us making their customers aware of the technology they are using.

We and only us can make this a winning experience by learning from our mistakes. Those who dare win, those who sit still waiting for the future will get hit by a runaway train. So please understand the purpose of my criticism, it is adapt and create a wonderful future or die a lingering death in the calmness of your pleasant garden.

The Road Show in its final form is still to arrive, it is in the journey that we need to learn the winning ideas that will make it fantastic not just great. If we combine the power of all our minds in a constructive concentrated effort we will blow all the detractors and the resisters out of the water. You may sit and mope or you can fight back with better ideas. I hope it is the latter or we need to say goodbye, my role is to look to your future and hopefully create a better one for you all, this I can only do if you all supply me with accurate market intelligence and applying our minds in a collective brainstorm. There is a further habit amongst some of you to indicate that when a choice proves unworkable that you always knew it would not work. This is counter productive, share your thoughts before the event or as the priests say forever hold your peace.


The seeds have been planted.

Vredendal | 302km (Running total; 2 330km) | Population 13 666 | Author: Bob | Day 10
Vred 1Vred 2We leave the next morning, on our long trek north to Vredendal, the landscape becomes bleaker and the temperature inversely tracks the loss of seeing anything alive. Stopping at Garies ( a town of perhaps 500 inhabitants) we literally buy up all the shop owners water and energy drinks, we leave knowing we made someones day.

The semi-desert is suddenly filled with a bunch of very industrious farmers, who have canalised the area and have made it literally an oasis, Vredendal with its many vineyards, welcomes us with green open arms. We step out the truck to a blistering 35 degrees. (89 F) . We strike the tents under covered area to try minimise the effects of the debilitating heat, but soon realise we will need to grin and bear it. Water gets consumed at an amazing rate , and by close we have gone through 14 litres.  For the first time we break out the creative centre and start using the computer brackets for the PC's. We retire at 8:30 pm to the peace of the local steak house.

Robin and Jaco drive through town distributing brochures after breakfast the next day, the results is 15 visitors, however of these visitors 3 actually are very interested in purchasing products. The team is very quite as again they feel the strain of the effort little realising that essential seeds have been planted and one day Vredendaal will bear fruit It is in the watering of those seeds that the flowers will grow.


 

Guided tours of the "Roland Factory".

Springbok | 272km (Running total; 2 602km) | Population 10 294 | Author: Bob | Weekend at the Augrabies Waterfalls | Day 12
Springbok1We drive the four hours to Springbok in an oppressive heat wave. This time we are at the High school and find that the grass has long time ago given up the war against the sun and the harvester ants. We strike our tents in the oppressive heat with not a single gust of wind. Reminds me of a John Wayne scene with even the lizards too tired to move and half expecting the vultures to circle us as we stagger around in our parched state. To make matters worse ground thorns catch and bite us at every move. We use a new layout for the creative centre, putting it smack bang in the entrance of the tent.Springbok6

The following day begins early with the high school kids soon curious and arriving in a group of about 50 at their first break, 30 minutes before our opening time. They are curious and loud but they create an immediate energy amongst the staff. Springbok7Bianca hands out Lanyards and bottle openers and lloyd, whose nickname has become Import, using the MPX-90 starts engraving kids cellphones, with their names, the queue grows very long and by the end of the day at least five hundred kids visit the tent with a couple of adults thrown in.

We have lost the ability to count and all the kids are adorned with Roland paraphernalia. Jaco reveals a hidden talent as a wonderful teacher as he takes the kids on guided tours of the Roland “factory.” The kids also manage to uplift all the Metaza tags and have the audacity to bring them back for engraving during their many visits. Roland is a hit with these kids!Springbok4

The town itself is filled with very negative adults but the kids are excited and positive, so much so that we actually for the first time have to call time, when 4 pm closing time arrives...

The staff are invigorated by the experience and for the first time their steps are light as they pack up for the day. It takes 4 hours to pack up. Robin takes his leave and heads on home while we head East to Upington.

Springbok2We have one whole weekend off and therefore decide to take a break and visit Augrabies water fall. We are pampered at the lodge and fortunately able to swim, this takes an edge off the 42 degrees (108 F) of heat and actually takes the edge off all our tempers .

We sit for hours discussing efficiencies and ways to improve the experience for the customers. It is generally agreed that the air-conditioners are not coping with 4 tents and that we will need to cut the number of tents deployed to three. Although the SJ1045 makes a huge impact, it is not effective showing 1.8m banner so it should not be deployed unless we have full width banner.

The lack of the screen for the projector is hampering the showing of the videos, and we need to do more live demonstrations of heat transfer, strass , sandblasting, vinyl cutting and application thereof. For the the latter we need a flip chart base. We further decide that we will no longer set up in the heat of the day but in the early hours of the morning, as the heat wears everyone out.

aug


Sales, sales and Putsonderwater.

Upington | 375km (Running total; 2 977km) | Population 100 920| Author: Bob | Day 15 | Including a stop in Putsonderwater
Puts3We couldn't resist making a 50km detour to a little ghost town called Putsonderwater (meaning a hole without water). Boy is that name spot on!

We are greeted with our wicked ride posters on street poles as we enter this large picturesque town, we review the chosen site and decide its too isolated. Chantelle rapidly negotiates an alternate venue, forcing me to make many U turns, so much that I am christened by Jaco and Pooven as “U turn Huey!” She discovers an ideal site at a busy intersection and in no time negotiates an agreement for us to have access.

Puts1We arrive at 5 am in the morning to set up, expecting to just make the ten am opening time. Much to our surprise we are finished setting up in three hours. lloyd and myself take careful note of when things are called and plan the packing order, thus hopefully minimising the set up time in the next town.

The show is a huge success with over 60 people attending and Chantelle closes many sales and discovers many new customers due to the large walk in crowd. A taxi driver orders a Stika on the spot, to exploit the opportunity of the new address contact requirements for all Taxi's.

The air-conditioner outlets, in the tents, prove to be crowd focal points as the outside temperature sores to 44 degrees (112 F).  The team is decimated by the heat, we therefore split the team and send them for a swim before attempting the packing up process. It therefore takes us 5 hours before we are done. Fortunately we arrange with the lodge to keep us food, failing this we would have all gone to bed hungry.

up.


 

Humbled by beautiful people.

Prieska | 248km (Running total; 3 225km) | Population 11 187 | Author: Bob | Day 17
Prieska1A racially fractured town, but one that opens its arms and is honoured that we cared to visit. The tent is filled with school kids again who chant Roland in a war cry, as the able conductor Mama C (Chantelle) teaches them about Roland, entrepreneurship and creativity.

Prieska3Jaco once again shows his deep caring for the kids and in his ever patient manner explains the finer details of the Roland products Three solid printer deals are struck in this tiny poor town. We are humbled by these beautiful people, who treat us like royalty spoiling us with their openness and love.

We arrive as the birds start calling at 6 am in the morning, to our surprise we are complete by 8 am. ( a key factor is that we employ two capable casuals) We pack up that night as the sky fills with rain, the school field soon turns to mud and the docking tent returns to its protective bag a little less clean than we would like it to be.


The start of a production line.

De Aar | 184km (Running total; 3 409km) | Population 45 857| Author: Bob | Day 19
DeAar2We are awakened with a slap to what happens when you choose the incorrect shopping mall. This particular mall services blue collar workers and has two liquor outlets within spitting distance of the tents. lloyd gets charmed to decorate three young ladies shirts, and although it is first seen as a novelty it soon turns into a mine field of drunks lining up to have shirts decorated for themselves or loved ones. Mama C and lloyd are soon in a production line with the queue threatening to go out the tent door.

The tents soon turn into a bazaar with “Give me's ” (A term invented by Goldilocks, “Bianca”, to describe those that enter the tent for purpose of receiving a handout) This destroys' the welcoming environment for those more serious folks who would benefit from the experience and who then simply pass us by. DeAar1

We halt the production line of stickers, garment decoration, poster handouts and normality returns. In a retrospective discussion we decide that if you discover your location could lead to a similar situation, a registration desk needs to set up to eliminate drunks and beggars.

Not with standing this chaos Chantelle manages to close 3 deals.


Business people.

Aliwal North | 318km (Running total; 3 727km) | Population 22 508| Author: Bob | Day 21
Ali1Ali2We now have setup down to a fine art, the team is split into two and take turns going to breakfast, not withstanding this we still manage to set up in two hours. The town folk of Aliwal North are business people, according to Dealy (Pooven's nickname) and here you can make a deal! A great day with many new customers and potential approx 100 visitors.

Packing up takes us just on 2 and a half hours, again the key seems to be the hiring of two casual's.



Great success.

Lady Brand | 219km (Running total; 3 946km) | Population 34 950 | Author: Bob | Day 23
Lady1

Lady Brand was a great success! Our tents were positioned in the middle of town, right on the Town Hall's front grass. Up to 60 visitors grace our machine packed tent and the team's mood is lifted once again.

 


Blown out of the water.

Bethlehem | 221km (Running total; 4 167km) | Population 66 704 | Author: Bob | Day 25
The peak of team Alpha's effort has been achieved. Bethlehem blows our team out the water with the interest and pure curiosity shown towards our tents as well as our Roland machines.

 


Team Swap.

Harrismith | 92km (Running total; 4 259km) | Population 96 000 | Author: Jared | Day 27
The roadshow for me began with a bang. Driving to Harismith I expected to meet the team at the venue or the hotel only to find the Roland truck on the side of the freeway, much to my amazement, 20 km outside of Harrismith on a deserted piece of land. Wondering now if the team had gone completely mad and decided to have a drive through roadshow, I half u-turned to make my way to the truck, only to find them all unpacking the container to replace stock and maximize efficiency of the container for the new team that was about to take over aka Team Beta.

With the SJ-1045 being taken out and the new flooring put into the container, along with some improvements in the packing method, we are assured that the new team has it easier and there should be no problems with build up and take down of the show. After learning a few ins and outs of how the operation is done, we set off confidently in the hope that the new team would be in good stead for the show and have a smoother time than Team Alpha.

We start setup at 6.30am and are finished comfortably by 10am ready for the days events. The show starts slowly but for such a small town we were not expecting a huge response. We start to get a steady stream of visitors to the show mid morning/lunch time, mostly existing customers, but they are still amazed at the effort we have put in for their little town. Robert speaks to some customers about the show and finds out some valuable information. In the small rural towns there are many people that live on farms which are far out, hence most of the locals will come into town earlier on in the day and then head back home. This happens especially on the weekends and should be taken into account for future shows.

Chantellele and Allister do well to show new products to existing customers. They would not normally see such a wide variety of machines unless they are able to attend the bigger annual shows in JHB or Durban. I find from their responses that they appreciate that we have made the effort to come to their town. In total we had around 10-20 visitors to the show, I am sure Chantellele can confirm if this number is correct. We set the projector screen up for the first time and showed some videos, but the light from outside made it difficult to see. We planned to use the PA system in the next town to attract people to the tents. Overall the response from the show was positive. We even had one customer very interested in the LEC-540, but that, we will have to see...

We pack up in a time of 3 hours and are very confident that the next leg of the show should be fine, even though we will be without the help of Chantellele and Allister. We try learn as much as we can from them to take on to the next town, Ladysmith.


"Roland is the best choice".

Ladysmith | 82km (Running total; 4 431km) | Population 225 452 | Author: Jared | Day 29
The five of us are all on our own now as we head off to Ladysmith with a plan to take the town by storm. Adam would be joining us the following day. We arrive at the venue to scope out our plan for the next days events. We decide that its going to be essential for us to do a quick marketing campaign as not much has been done in this town so far. The sun is belting down so we apply our sunscreen, adorn our caps and prepare our strategy. As a flyer for the show we decide to use the Roland Imagine brochures, which encompass our whole product range. We decide to write the details for the show on the front of the brochure and start handing out at the venue, inside the mall. After handing out to all “potential visitors” inside the mall, we soon realised that it was a sleepy Sunday in Ladysmith. We therefore decide to head off to the main street where we are convinced the action will be happening!

Harri1After dividing the brochures amongst ourselves with about 30 to each hand out, we take to the street corners and traffic intersections. Gary soon becomes an expert in handing out his flyers - quickly he starts to take more from others. Its a difficult task as you sometimes receive an immediate response of non interest from people. This can dampen your spirit. You then find some motorists that are so interested you stop traffic to talk to them, this lifts your moral. Once we finish our “marketing campaign” we call it a day and head for a well deserved swim, only to have the heavens open up on us for an almighty thunder storm.

We get started early the next day fearing the rain will be back and halt any further show from happening. Our two lost members, Chantellele and Allistar were missed, but eventually we find our feet. Considering the stop - start drizzle we had whilst unpacking we only loose 45 minutes on our previous time in Harrismith.

From the get go we had visitors coming through, even whilst we were still setting up. The show quietened down a bit, only to have a rush around mid morning from existing customers who had planned to see the new machines on offer. We had a great response from our existing clients who loved the fact that we had made the effort to come to their small town. I found that when the customers see the brand doing such great things it helps them to feel confident that Roland is the best choice. I am certain that no normal show would give them this. I see from their response that it also helps that we have a national representation there. They seem to appreciate the knowledge and experience from the Johannesburg employees. As much as they trust their local distributors, it makes a huge difference when they hear the same ethos being spoken from all over the country.

We then have a good stream of visitors throughout the day who are attracted by the impact of the huge truck in the parking lot. We decide to set the PA system up at the front of the tent and play music. The visitor's curiosity brings them into the tents. We like to think our foot marketing campaign also had something to do with it. In total we had around 50 visitors to the show and it was a lot of quality visits, people were really taken aback by the effort that Roland was making. Potentially we had around 10 good new leads for sales interested in MPX-90s, EGX's and SP540i's. At least 3 existing customers saw new machines that they are interested in upgrading to.

Most of the time the customers in these smaller towns don't get to go to the big shows and when they do they are so overwhelmed that they don't get to spend quality time on the Roland stand. I found some of them looking at machines as if they had never seen them before, even though I know I had shown them the same machine at a show two weeks prior. We start to pack up at 4.30, after the last few visitors leave the tents, only to close the container doors at around 8. Happy with the show we see how important it is to market the shows in each town personally and to make sure the venues are well thought out. Being at the mall it created a lot of curiosity and made the show more accessible to the general public.


The ideal venue.

Richards Bay | 276km (Running total; 4 707km) | Population 252 968 | Author: Brian | Day 31
Rich4Rich3Team Beta now changes to Brian and Sihle, joining Robert, Stephen, Gary and Sam. We start off in light rain, take on two casuals and a hard working lady named Pearl to hand out flyer/brochure at traffic lights. Build up takes three hours, Brian and Sihle learning procedures on fast track.

The Boardwalk/Inkwazi shopping mall is ideal and we were visited by over 60 customers, perhaps half of them being quality contacts. Imran from Maizey, Pinetown, joined us and helped by having flyers at the sales counter of Maizey, Richards Bay.  Weather improved during the day and pack up was completed in three hours.


Seeds were sown.

Pongola | 190km (Running total; 4 897km) | Population 10 000| Author: Brian | Day 33
Pon1Pon2The site was horrible, but all that the Pongola Municipality could offer, and there are no shopping malls. We erected only two tents showing the most popular models, but set up still took three hours without casual help.  It was a busy Friday before a long weekend and well over 300 people thronged through the tents.

A dreadlock nutter knelt in front of the GX-24 and played it like a piano and it was rather difficult to get him out of the tent. He came back a little later in disguise and tried again. Sihle was inundated with inquiries as he's Zulu-speaking, and the seeds were sown with plenty of high school pupils and others.

Interesting leads were grown out of engineering and armature winding companies who already have sandblasting equipment and realised potential of a vinyl cutter. The MPX-90 and SV models remained popular, and news arrived of a couple of Stika sales from Richards bay. Temperatures during the day soared to 38 degrees Celsius and break down was a hot three hours.


A public holiday is a quite day.

Vryheid | 109km (Running total; 5 006km) | Population 10 000| Author: Brian | Day 35
A Sunday in a long weekend is now a day that we must learn to avoid. We put posters on fences and trees and Adam had tried to distribute flyers during a service visit the previous week. Shoprite venue was okay and alongside a taxi rank which had been unbelievably busy at site inspection on Saturday midday, but on Sunday the place was quiet. A disappointment for all, but we had about 40 visitors and some were quality leads, some existing customers and some genuine interest from business people not normally associated with Roland equipment.

Break down commenced at 2:00pm as there had not been a single customer since midday. The parting gesture to chase us out of town was that we awoke on Monday, Heritage Day public holiday to find that the truck had been splattered with green paintball pellets. This washed off, and hopefully, was only a teenage prank and nothing more sinister.

Jared and Adam take over for the next session of Newcastle and onwards....vry 1


All systems go.

Newcastle | 97km (Running total; 5 103km) | Population 245 425 | Author: Jared | Day 37 & 38
Newcastle day 1:

Newcastle4We started as usual with an early morning wake up. By 9:30 the tents were up and everything was all systems go. Our location was awesome, we had a perfect parking for the truck and our tents. The truck itself was right at the entrance to the open planned mall, which was also right next to a very busy street. The show itself took a while to pick up but by lunch time we had loads of visitors in the tent. We found that in the bigger town we saw more people coming when they could get a chance, which in this case was their lunch breaks. Many potential new customers, who already had existing businesses in the industry ie copy centers, photo shops. The show gave these types of customers the opportunity to see the machines they would not normally see. These types of customers don't seem to want to come to our “sign shows” as they feel they are in a completely different industry.

Newcastle3The star of the Newcastle show was the SP-540i and the MPX-90. We had the manager of the center on our side bringing in people just to see the Metaza work. We had planned to start packing up at 4 but kept on getting more visitors, by this time we had only had 3 of our existing customers through the tent. This showed us that the visitors were great as it was all new faces to us. Many of the visitors were surprised that we would be leaving the next day and made convincing arguments for us not to travel through to Volksrust. After chatting to the manager of the center and amongst ourselves, the decision was made to stay and extra day in Newcastle. This enabled us to stay with the show till around 6. We had many people coming after work who had mostly seen the truck in the parking lot and all our banners we had hung. The position we were in was too good for us to pass up another opportunity to exhibit.

Newcastle day 2:

Newcastle1Not having to wake up so early to assemble the show stand was fantastic. We all had high hopes for the 2nd day of our show, and good energy as we did not have to build up from 5.30. We arrived at 9 and started to sort a few things out before the day began. By 10.30 we had around 10 visitors already through the door. With a potential sale of a SP-540i by 11 we felt good that we had stay the extra day. With the position of the truck and the tents, many of the people had seen it on their way home from work the night before. We also had a fair amount of word of mouth exposure as the people who had seen the previous day had told their friends. Numerous visitors had complained that we had not advertised in the local free newspapers. They felt that it was by luck they had seen our banners and the truck, with out they would never have known about the show. The local newspaper s are free distribution and reach a huge market and may be a potentially good way to advertise in the future. The range of people we had throughout the show was vast, young hot shot entrepreneurs, copy centers, business men to even a man with a redundancy package. The creative center was really inspiring for these guys as they saw all the potential.

Newcastle2We even had one visitor take a sample cap to show his supplier what he wanted her to do for him. His supplier is an existing customer who did not bother to even visit the show. At around 3 it started to quieten so we decided to pack up. We planed to travel through to Volksrus that night after packing up. An hour into packing up Stephen slipped and cut his finger, badly enough that we sent him with Adam to the hospital to get seen to. Fortunately the cut was not too bad that he was able to return after 2 hours. While we were packing up we still had visitors wanting to see what we were up to, which just showed us how successful the venue had been. Without the correct venue the show is almost always going to struggle. Although the people may not have understood the graphics on the side of the truck it still created enough curiosity for them. We finished packing up at 6 and then headed straight for Volksrus.


Sorry, it's going to have to be a no-go.

Volksrus | 45km (Running total; 5 148km) | Population 43 378 | Author: Jared | Day 39
We arrived during the night having left Newcastle at 06h00, the road to Volksrus was only 45km but took us 2 hours due to road works. We had plan to try have a small show with one tent the next day, even though we had done two days in Newcastle. When we arrived at the shopping center we realized the truck was not permitted onto the parking lot. The street outside had a no stopping sign along it. We were thus unable to do the show in any case. We were lucky we had made the decision to do a two day show in Newcastle as this would have been a huge disappointment that we could not exhibit in Volksrus. With an extra day now we decided not to waste it and do a bit of cold calling on potential customers. The town is so small we were finished in under an hour. The negativity from the residents was incredible and had started to dampen our mood substantially so we decided to move straight onto Piet Retief. We decided the extra two days in Piet Retief would help us to do more marketing for the show.


A much much much better venue.

Piet Retief | 120km (Running total; 5 268km) | Population 44 981| Author: Jared | Day 40
PietRetief5Once we arrived in Piet Retief we checked out the venue, which was a huge disappointment. Not many people are inclined to walk off the streets into a guest house conference center. We got the name of the owner of the pick and pay center and set up a meeting with him. We convinced him to let us have the show in his parking lot which would give us more exposure. We then decided to put banners up especially around our previous two venue choices, the school and the conference center. With the venue changing we also had to open the container to do some printing of stickers with new details of the venue, to stick onto our flyers.

PietRetief3Once we had finished printing and applying stickers we set out handing out to the general public on the main streets and shopping centers. A local restaurant allowed us to advertise for the show with banners and flyers. The next day we were up as usual at 5.30 and started setting up at 6. We were finished by 9:00 with all three tents. The show was very slow but we ended up with a total of around 25 visitors. Everyone of them walking out with a Roland lanyard, printed samples or vinyl cut names, brochures and business cards. Out of them all one seemed very keen on an SP-300i. The shows location was much better than if we had taken the conference center as some of the more serious visitors were shopping and saw our tents.

The decision to change venues was a good one and we were glad to have done it there. It slowed down to a halt at 3:30 and by 4 we were started to pack up. We were finished by 7 by which time the town was dead. On a whole Piet Retief was 100times better than Volksrus and has a good potential to have more Rolands in it. The market is dominated by one small sign shop and the Postnet(canon wide format). The town would never have had the exposure it had, if we had not gone.In that aspect it was a success. I am sure there may be future sales in that area.


30 people but still quiet.

Thabazimbi | 141km (Running total; 5 905km) | Population 85 000 | Author: Mike | Day 45
Sam is on his way to Thabazimbi from Rustenburg. Robert meets us in Britz for the change over. Edmund takes the place of Llloyd and Adam joins us from Durban. Closer to Thabazimbi we pass through some beautiful mountains until we see the huge iron mountains which are mined for their iron ore. We book into the B&B and check out the venue. It is a lovely grassed site at a sports ground on a fairly busy street. We look around to see if we can find a better site, but to no avail.

Next morning we start setting up at 6h00 and are ready by about 9h00. Lots of traffic passing in front of us but nobody stops. Adam and Martin do a walk through town with brochures. This doesn't help. We again walk into town and visit various shops but the answer is 'not interested'. I visit the ladies in the shop across the road with a couple of prints for them, they promise, but don't visit. Although we had about 30 people pass through the tent, it was rather disappointing. We are told by a very pleasant Mr Gawie Hendriks that a Saturday is not a good day for a show in Thabazimbi.


Benefiting from a business sense from the show.

Ellisras | 127km (Running total; 6 032km) | Population 105 000 | Author: Mike | Day 46
We have a very pleasant drive through 'bush' country to Ellisras and see Baboons, Nyala, and many other animals along the road. We are greeted by Impala as we drive into the Lodge grounds, a very pleasant place. We check out the venue and find the best place we could possibly have – in the parking lot right in front of Pic n Pay.

Next morning we arrive at 6h00 and start setting up, only to be disturbed by a local printer who abuses Martin and tells us that we are unethical and are here to further dilute their small market. He had also phoned the other six printers in the town and asked them to boycott the show. We were open at about 8h45 and soon after, the next printer couple came in very boisterously. After showing them around and showing them all the things their VP540 could do (that they were not aware of) their mood changed and they left with a humble apology of the way they first approached us. Jonathan then went to their shop and showed them how they could use their machine to its fullest potential. (They returned again while we were packing up and again thanked us for the help we had given them). We had a visit from four of the other printers who all left very positively. We got business cards from them and they all benefited in the business sense from the show. (It's amazing how many people would like large prints and are not aware that this can be done).

We had a visit from the local press (Zoutpansberger) who took photo's and offered to advertise for us the next time we are in town.

We must have had 200+ visitors and this was certainly the best show on this leg. (according to Adam the second best after Newcastle). The team were in very high spirits after this very pleasant and successful day.


Better than expected.

Mokopane | 182km (Running total; 6 214km) | Population 325 000 | Author: Mike | Day 47
After negotiating some very steep and twisty roads, we booked into the Protea and went to inspect the site. Although the surface was good, the positioning was not. We then went driving around to find something better. Both the big shopping complexes refused to even consider space for us, saying that their parking space was limited. We then went to the Chamber of business and spoke to one of the board members, a very pleasant lady who showed us a few places, which were unfortunately also not suitable. (stone surface and access). She offered the services of the chamber for our next show there. She says they have a large database and can send invitations to many people on our behalf.

In the end we had to settle for the place we had which turned out to be a particularly good day and much better than expected. We had 100+ visitors of which many were what we are looking for. We were up and ready by 8h15 and had our first visitors shortly thereafter. By 10h00 we had had more than 20 visitors. Lots of interest in the Stika and GX24 machines. There will be a number of machines ordered as a direct result of the show.


Plenty of Roland exposure.

Polokwane | 65km (Running total; 6 279km) | Population 271 911 | Author: Mike | Day 48
Before setting off for Polokwane, we visited a Wildlife breeding centre which was a very pleasant experience for all. A rather aggressive female lion gave a bit of excitement. We saw wild dog, cheetah, black rhino, buffalo, pygmy hippos and many other animals.

The drive to Polokwane was short and after checking in at the lodge, we went to inspect the site which was supposed to be in a shopping centre parking area at the entrance of Game, but when we got there they would not let us and instead offered a site next to the shopping centre in the overflow and delivery parking area which also faced onto the main road. Although not ideal, it was a pretty good site.

We opened at 9h00 the next morning, and started printing banners which we put up in the main parking area with arrows pointing in our direction. This helped a lot (many people said they saw the banners and decided to look in.). We had a steady flow of visitors right through until we closed at 16h15. Lots of existing Roland users visited thanks to Maizeys and Seethrough who sent out lots of invitations the day before. We had well over 100 visitors. Although a very good and rewarding show with lots of potential sales and lots of Roland exposure, it could have been better if we had a better site. A new shopping centre ('the size of Menlyn') opened the day we arrived and would be a potential site next time, although this site is closer to the business area.


An early start and a snake.

Musina | 216km (Running total; 6 495km) | Population 43 586 | Author: Mike | Day 49
We left Polokwane at about 8h00 and did a 'recce' of Micado which was a hub of activity and I believe we should have a show there next time. There is a good site on the Eastern side of the N1. (shopping centre parking area).

After booking into the B&B we went to the shopping centre and met David ( an extremely helpful and co-operative man who really went out of his way to help us). We agreed to do the show in the shopping mall – a very nice site. We were warned that a Sunday was not a good day and that the shopping centre would close at 13h00

Back at the B&B Sam had a visitor in front of his room which was frightened away by Edmund before Sam even saw it, a streepslang which is extremely fast but completely harmless. After checking out all the rooms everybody settled down, but 'snake fever' was still lurking in the background. The B&B was in a lovely setting but was in a disgraceful state – such a pity that such a beautiful place is left to deteriorate to such an extent that it is unpleasant.

We decided to get an early start and were ready at about 8h15. We had a relatively good show. A Zimbabwean who was very interested in starting up in Zimbabwe and a couple who showed interest in a Stika but otherwise it was mostly people looking for freebies. We closed at 13h30 when they started closing off the shopping centre.

As there were no decent places to eat, we decided to have an early dinner at Tshipise (and a swim in the hot water – which was enjoyed by all)


Light rain but a reqarding day.

Phalaborwa | 251km (Running total; 6 746km) | Population 109 468 | Author: Mike | Day 50
After an early start and a relatively long drive we booked into our B&B which was a really delightful place ( with Augrabies, the best we had stayed in). Fantastic service and lovely people. We then did our usual checking out of the site and found a very helpful Hennie who agreed to us using a very nice area in the parking lot of a large shopping centre.

Next day we had an early start and in spite of some light rain, were ready before 9h00. This was a very nice site, but even though we had more visitors, at least 150 (some say 200), than at any of the other shows, somehow we didn't really get the right visitors. We probably had about twenty that had the right interest. We did however make a big impact on those that did visit – 'Amazed that you get such big printers' , 'we are so thankful that you came to show us all these fantastic machines' , 'so nice that you came to teach us about all these things' – were some of the comments.. One enterprising young man who was a boiler maker without a job was explaining to others how the machines worked. (This after he had been around a few times asking lots of questions). He later told us that he was 'learning to be an employer' and was practising. We stayed busy until almost 16h30, but then had to pack up as there was a BIG storm brewing.

All in all a rewarding and busy day.


A lift and two Pick 'n Pay trolleys.

Nelspruit | 198km (Running total; 6 944km) | Population 3 617 600 | Author: Mike | Day 51
After another early start we arrived in Nelspruit at around lunch time and booked into the Protea hotel. We then dropped Adam off at the airport for his flight back to Durban and went off to the shopping centre (quite a big centre which joined up with the Casino) where the show was to be. We met Ria who was extremely helpful and co-operative. We were given a site in the shopping centre, which was rather small (40 square metres) but very well situated. The logistics of getting the equipment there was a bit of a challenge – an escalator, three flights of stairs or a rather small lift. This and the limited space decided what we would show.

Next day we had an early start as we had to have everything set up by 8h30. Fortunately the two small printers fitted into the lift and with a few Pick n Pay trolleys we were set up and ready before 8h30. Even though the venue was good, it was not very busy as it was the day before the Easter week-end. By about 11h30 there were very few people and those that were there were in a hurry and very few even stopped to have a look. At about 14h00 we decided to pack up and head home.

Unfortunately the timing of this show did not allow for its full potential.

This was the last show of this leg which I believe was a very successful and enjoyable leg thanks to a fantastic team and the help from Seethrough, TDS and WIP.