It is that time of year when many of us will be packing up our handmade treasures and setting up our display booths at one of the many area craft shows or fairs. It may be the first time for some of you and others may be seasoned vendors. No matter what your experience, here are a few tips that may help you have a more successful event. Many of these tips came from the Etsy forum; others are from my own personal experience over the years. I hope you will read and add to this with your own tips.
- Know your market. This may seem like a no brainer but it is essential to know who your market is (who buys what you make) and find shows that will bring in the most marketable customers. (If you sell toddler tutus, do not go to the gun show.) That means you also need to know what kind of customers the show brings in, how many and what they buy.
- Know the rules of the show you are attending. Do they supply signs and backdrops? Is there electricity? Do you need electricity? When can you set up and tear down. What is there policy on tearing down early? Most shows will not allow you to leave, before the show closes on the final day. If you do; you will most likely be removed from the vendor list for the future. Do they advertise? If so, how and where? How many vendors are there? How many vendors sell a similar product? Do you need to bring your own snacks and food?
- Branding is very important. According to the article I read in Bruce Baker’s craft report, the modern day consumer is very much into brands. We all need to have a brand. Take a subjective look at your logo. Do you like it? If not, now is a good time to change it. If you do, promote it in every way you can. Add stickers with your brand to your bags, invoices, receipts etc. Make sure all of your promotional materials including business cards, receipts, invoices, letterhead, website and blog all have the same logo and look. Consistency is important.
- Your display needs to reflect you and your product. It should be professional looking, uncluttered and well lit. Make sure it provides a functional place to complete a purchase. This includes writing the receipt, swiping the financial card, having room to write a check, wrapping the product and sending another happy customer on their way. If your product lends itself to live demonstration, that can be a huge advantage, but you must allow space for this. It is advisable to set up your display at home first, to work out any problems. Be creative in how you showcase your products. Think outside of the box for ways to display your merchandise. This may be using a Christmas tree to display jewelry items or customizing your tables with ways to add visual interest. Create ways to add different heights to your tables. If you are hanging items on a peg board or similar surface make it visually appealing. When you are done stand back and look at the booth with a critical eye. What catches your attention? Is it what you want customers to see? If not, change it. You have about thirty seconds to bring someone into your booth, capitalize on this and make your booth open and inviting. If at all possible, be eye level with your customers at all times. Do not sit while they are standing.
- Make sure your personal appearance makes the statement you want to make. You should look and act professional if you want potential customers to believe you are a professional with a product they need/want. SMILE A LOT!! Maintain a positive and friendly attitude no matter how sales are going. Nobody wants to buy from a grump.
- Price all items. There is some discussion about this either way. Some say not pricing gives you the opportunity to start a conversation by saying; “if you find anything without a price just let me know.” The general consensus is most customers prefer to know the price of an item they are considering purchasing. As a customer I like to know what the cost of things are without asking. You may feel differently but if you find customers looking for a price but not asking, it is time to re-evaluate your position.
- Bring them in. Again you have about thirty seconds to bring someone in, everyone loves candy. Have a dish of individually wrapped candy or suckers in your booth. It may make someone stop long enough to actually take a look at what you have. Hint…the kids always spot the candy first. Offer a give-away or drawing to bring people in. Personally I have a drawing for $50 in free merchandise at every show. I have slips that are filled out with customer name, phone number and email address. I tell them up front I am offering a give-away, if you would like to be added to my mailing list and invited to my open house the first weekend in December, give me your email address as well, if not, then don’t. It will not impact your odds of winning. I have added a substantial amount of customers to my open house with this method.
- DO NOT be pushy. Greeting everyone with a “Good Morning, etc” is fine but some customers prefer to be left alone. Greet, wait for them to initiate conversation, react. Please fight the urge to tell them everything about all of your wonderful products. You will sell more by saying less.
- Be prepared. Honestly this is one of the most important aspects of a successful show. Prepare a list of everything you will need. Don’t wait until the last minute to decide what is crucial. Start a list early and jot down everything you will need. Put all of these items in one place. I personally use a bin for this. You may use a bag, a box etc. You will never appreciate the function scissors perform until you don’t have any. Have an adequate supply of business cards and pass them out like Hershey kisses. Make sure you have change for your cash customers. Many people still come to these events expecting to write a check or pay cash. Be prepared for both.
- Take credit cards. This is very important. If you do not have a smart phone or some other way of taking financial cards, you are at a serious disadvantage in this market place. You will find that being able to accept cards will positively impact your sales. There are so many companies now that offer this service. I personally have the Square and absolutely love it. You may have other providers you like. The important thing here is you really do have to enter the 21st Century and take financial cards to make your business grow.
- Take care of yourself! Bring water and drink it. Bring snacks and eat. Wear comfortable clothes and shoes. You will be on your feet a lot. Protect your personal belongings. Do not keep your purse in open sight. I have not had problems with theft but in larger cities this is a real problem. Protect yourself, be smart and savvy.
- This last one is something I honestly had not thought about. But the forum really had a lot of posts about not eating in your booth. Perhaps this is a locality thing and in some parts of the country it is just not cool. Or perhaps it just never occurred to me that I was expected to go an entire day without eating, ever, in front of a potential customer. Either way this was a tip that was brought up a lot so I am passing it on. Do not eat in your booth. Ever!! Or, not.
I am sure you have other tips that have proven successful for you and your business. Please post those so we can all benefit from each others experience. Happy Sales!