Saturday, March 12, 2011

The Business Chat - craft show tips

So you’re off to a craft show! Good for you! Having participated in over 150 (to be honest I’ve lost track) shows I know how many hours of frenzied preparation you’ve put into this event. Are you ready? I mean really ready? Not just your inventory but are you ready to DO the show? Sometimes we focus too much on the product and forget all the other parts of doing a show. It’s not just about what you sell at the show, it’s about building your clientele, marketing your brand, the contacts you make and how you use all of this.

Craft shows are a brilliant way to kick-start your micro business. You can test new work, build a clientele, build a network of colleagues, get your name out there, and make cash! Bonus! So here’s some tips to make your show an awesome experience.

Display is critical. You can have the best work in the show but with a bad display you will sink like a rock. Spend some creative energy on your display, it’s the make or break factor. You want to stand out in the crowd, not get passed by for the neighbouring blingy booth. This is especially important if your artwork is currently a popular trend and you have lots of competition. If you sell jewelry right now, you know what I mean. Laying your jewelry out flat on a table on a black cloth (which will be dusty in about 8 minutes) is the kiss of death. Worse, laying your jewelry out flat on a really patterned fabric so that you can’t even see it. You need different heights, preferably bringing it up to eye level. If you have to use tables get yourself some bed risers or some other way of raising the level of the table up.

Get marketing materials! Believe it or not, about 50% of vendors at a craft show don’t have business cards readily available in their booth! If I have to ask you for a card while you’re talking with another customer I’ll probably just walk away. What if I don't want to buy today, but really like your stuff? How will I ever find you again? You absolutely must put out business cards. Business cards don't have to be expensive, if you have a bit more money (still really cheap) people LOVE postcards. If you have a website make sure your web address is on your cards, along with any other sales venues you’re in (Etsy, Artfire etc). Make sure you put a contact card in every package, if the item is a gift you want the recipient to know how to find you.

Build your mailing list. A lot of people will love your work, it’s just not the right time for them to buy. Ask them to join your mailing list so that you can keep in touch with them and let them know of other opportunities to purchase. Leaving a guest book on a back corner guarantees that the only people who will join your list are 4 year olds. Keep a handy clipboard and when someone expresses interest ask them to sign up.

Use your mailing list. Once you have your lovely list of your fans make sure you use it to keep in touch with them. You don’t have to bombard people weekly, even a quarterly newsletter with where to find you, how to buy your work, and a couple of pictures of new items is good. Newsletters are cheap, (as in free using Mailchimp) and easy. Sending out small discount codes to regular clients has worked brilliantly for me. I ran a campaign for fans, a free pair of earrings with the purchase of a necklace, and it gained me not only a lot of devoted fans, but an increase in sales. Reward your fans.

Build your network of colleagues. It’s hard when you work by yourself, there’s no one to gossip with at the water cooler everyday. So take advantage of the craft show and chat with your fellow vendors. They are a tremendous source of information. Ask them if they’ve done certain shows, where’s a good cheap motel for out of town shows, good sources for packaging, any questions you have they can answer. In turn be generous with sharing information yourself. We can all benefit by helping each other. Pick up business cards of everyone you talk too and send them a friendly email soon after the show. Build your network. Be nice, it all comes back to you.

These are just a few simple steps that can bump your experience up from "it was OK" to "WOW that was great!". Follow them and you should have anice list of client, current and potential, new friends and colleagues in your possession. You're on your way!

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