Saturday, October 15, 2011

Marketing Corner: Tips for a Successful Craft Show

I've been to four craft shows so far, and thought I'd share some of the lessons learned and valuable observations for the future.

Once you find a craft show and your application gets approved, you need to start preparing for it right away. The more thought and time you put into it, the more prepared and successful you'll be at the event.

Make lots of stuff. The more you make, the more variety you'll be able to offer to customers. People have different tastes, and sometimes what you thought would be a best-seller ends up not being noticed as much, but other items seem to be more attractive to buyers. Of course, you don't have to have every single item on your table because you don't want to make your display look too crowded, but you can experiment with placement and products. Make sure you have a large range of options, as well as a wide range of prices. Which brings me to the next point...

Jewelry String Price Tags
Make sure ALL of your items have a price tag or a sticker. Always. People would rather walk away from your booth than ask you how much something costs. Being able to see the price of an item right away would make them feel comfortable browsing and avoid this awkward situation. You can find price tags on Etsy (see link below), at Office Depot or Staples, or on Amazon. If you have a lot of items (and you should as pointed above), it will take some time to put a price tag on every one of them, but it's worth it! As you're tagging your items, prepare an inventory sheet with each item, its price, and quantity to keep track of. Bring it with you at the craft show and make notes when you sell items and at what price (in case you've given a discount), mark the items people are most interested in, and also make notes about possible custom orders.

Make a list of all the things you need to bring with you and pack the night before the show. Don't leave things for the last minute. Arrive as early as you can to have lots of time to set up. One of the shows I went to had an assigned time slot for each artist to come and unload at the loading dock. It only gave me a bit over an hour to set up before the show started and I barely made it! Make sure you give yourself enough time to set up. And if you have some time left before the show starts, walk around and introduce yourself to the other artists. Get inspired and observe how they do things - some of them are experienced craft fair goers and it's amazing how much you can learn from them! And you'll be surprised how many of them have a shop on Etsy, so you can keep in touch and maybe even find products you'd like to buy! A fun thing to do at craft shows is trade some of your items for somebody else's products :)

Try to give your table a sense of your products and style. Cover it with a nice table cloth. Depending on what you're selling, the color/pattern might play an important role, but for jewelry I like to choose a neutral color. I've heard some people bring flowers to decorate the table, so feel free to do that if you think it fits your theme. Create a banner for your business and attach it to the front hanging part of your table cloth, or maybe have an easel with a poster right next to your table.

Bring lots of change for people who like to pay in cash. If possible, accept credit cards. Nowadays it's easy to make that possible. I know some people have credit card readers or other such devices. I personally use Square. You can hook it up to your iPhone, iPad, or Android and process a payment right away. The customer uses their finger to electronically sign and approve the charges, and then the confirmation can be sent to their email. Also, the processing fee is just 2.75%, which is a great deal!

Having a great display is crucial to bringing more attention to your booth and thus more sales. Make sure you product is UP at eye level. Also, think of creative ways to display your items. You can reuse something from your house or the local thrift store.

- for jewelry, you can buy and old picture frame and fill it in with wire mesh (you can buy it at the hardware store). Your jewelry pieces can hang from the mesh - and it gives it a very unique but professional look. Here is a great tutorial on how to make your own.
- reuse items from home: baskets, vintage trays and mirrors, cupcake tiers

- use old books to pile them up and lift your displays
- old book shelves or filing units
If you don't want to make your own displays, you can easily get them on eBay, Amazon, or even Etsy. Here are some Etsy shops that sell displays:

Be friendly and approachable! Smile! Don't sit, be up and visible, ready to answer questions or explain your product (if they seem to be looking and interested). Make sure people know they can touch and try things on, even if they don't end up buying anything. If you're selling jewelry, have a mirror at your table, so that people can see how it looks.

Know your product and try to make it personal - tell people how you made it, what materials you used and some interesting fact about the supplies or the process behind making it - something they can relate to.

Wear your product (if it's wearable). If possible, bring your tools and create things while you're at your table. People will see you making things on the spot and will be more interested to see your final products and respect your work.

Tell your friends and family about the show. They are your biggest fans and supporters, and you never know what word of mouth can do!

Important things to bring with you:
- Purell/wiping cloths
- tools for your craft - if you want to make your items as you sell, or just to have in case someone needs something to be customized or adjusted
- packaging materials, jewelry boxes (or whatever you're using for your items)
- business cards - encourage people to take one even if they don't buy anything. Also, include one in the packaging with every sale. I have a coupon code for 10% off of next purchase on the back of my cards, and let people know when I wrap up their purchase
- notebook and pens - you can use that to take notes about different items and people's questions/requests. You can also have it on the side of your table and have people sign up for you newsletter (make sure you reassure them that their emails will not be used for any other purpose)
- water and food/snacks - this is essential as not every craft fair has food vendors and also you may not have the opportunity to step out of your booth and go look for food and drinks. You can also bring some candy and put it on the side of your table. This is a great idea if you have some seasoned candy (i.e. candy corn for halloween, chocolate for Christmas, etc.)
- make sure you charge your phone/iPad/computer. If you bring a computer, you can prepare a slideshow with pictures of your items.
- bring some extra lights if you think you'll need them. This is especially important if you're selling jewelry or small items that need more light. Lights also attract the eye, so you can't go wrong with bringing some extra ones just in case.
- bring a friend! Not only to keep you company, but also to help you carry stuff and set up, keep an eye on the items if you need to go to the bathroom or if it gets too crowded in front of your table.

And last but not least - HAVE FUN! It's great to meet people and show them how much you love doing what you do and sharing your craft with them. Try to make the most of it, be cheerful, and remember that sometimes a non-sale is not always a bad thing. As long as people have a way of reaching you after the craft show is over, you still have sale opportunities.

Hope this helps and if you've been to a craft show lately, I'd love to hear about your experience!

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