New to the craft show scene? Feeling a little overwhelmed? The Hive is here to help! Whether you’re a show new-bee (see what I did there!) or a veteran Queen (did it again!) of the fair, there are a ton of tips and tricks to help you get the most out of your event. In my Craft Show Essentials series I’ll help you figure out what you need to do before, during, and after your craft show to help you get the most benefit for your business!
There is an art to multitasking at a craft show to get the very most out of the time you spend there. Like I said in Craft Show Essentials – Part 1: What to do before the show…having a helper with you is key and can make your craft show experience far more fun for you and significantly more beneficial and successful for your business. Helpers can give you the chance to step out for essentials like food and potty breaks, but they can also free you up to get set up, interact customers, get feedback, network with other vendors, and observe how the show’s visitors are interacting with you and your booth.
Before the first person visits your booth, make sure you are completely set up and have your point of sale (POS) area prepped and ready to go. I like to use my stacking bins (see Part 1) under my display tables as shelves for my packaging and POS materials. It keeps them handy, yet out of sight keeping my booth display neat and organized. I have a clipboard with my inventory lists so that I can keep track of sales and stock as orders come in and under those sheets I also have order forms for any custom orders I may get while at the show. I also keep my card readers, bags, business cards, thank you postcards (with a discount code to direct customers back to my shop!) and other goodies I like to stuff in customer’s bags when they make a purchase.
Show Tip – Don’t leave electronics or money under your tables or unattended! Always keep these items on you or secured out of sight. If your show is really hoppin’ and you’re distracted with a customer (or six!), your phone, tablet, or money bag may sprout legs and run off. For this reason, I always set up my booth like an “L” shaped corner display counter so that I can stand behind it. This gives me a great view of my products and customers and keeps me from having my back to anything valuable. (I’m also a little bit claustrophobic and this layout also helps to give me space!)
Interact with your customers!
Obviously, you should interact with your visitors and customers, but be strategic about your interactions. Say hello to people as they walk by. This catches their attention and makes them look at you and by default, your booth. Don’t be pushy or act like a used car salesman, just be inviting and confidant and you’d be amazed how easily that converts to sales! Talk to people to find out what they’re looking for and what they think about your items. Don’t be offended and don’t take it personally if someone doesn’t think your goodies are the greatest things they’ve ever seen. Use it as a learning experience – can you improve your designs or expand your line to increase your customer base? Make sure your booth has plenty of opportunities for customers to get your shop information, and don’t hesitate to hand out cards to direct people to your website or social media pages! In addition to my banner, I always have business cards and post cards in various locations, with an email list sign up prominently displayed.
Show Tip – Host a giveaway while you’re at the show! Be sure to set up your giveaway to accomplish a business goal like increasing sales, adding to your email list, or gaining followers. I usually set mine up so that there are multiple ways to get entries to the giveaway. For example, if they join my mailing list that’s an entry, if they make a purchase, that’s multiple entries, you get the idea. Then I announce the winner later that week on my social media pages to try to attract people back to my shop after the show.
Network with other vendors!
If you have a helper, get out of your booth and go talk to the other vendors during a slow time at the show! Look at it as a fact finding mission that gives you an opportunity to network and get ideas from the other vendors. Take a look at what booths are really busy, and which ones aren’t. Make a few mental notes on things other vendors are doing that you might like to try. Approach the booths and vendors that catch your attention and find out how they’re doing, what shows they’ve been too or like to do, and see if there is any opportunities for collaboration with your business. You can learn a lot from
Show Tip – Always have a handful of your business cards on you while at the show! If you step out of your booth for food or to explore other booths, you may be able to redirect a sale back to your shop! (I kid you not, I once gained a customer while standing in line for the port-a-potty!) Remember, handmade shops love handmade shops – makers are more likely to buy from other makers, especially ones they have a connection with! Just make sure you’re confident yet authentic and not pushy when speaking to people so that they develop a bit of an emotional connection with you and your shop and are therefore more likely to seek you out for a purchase.
Take a look around…
What do you see? What did you observe on your exploratory fact finding mission? Don’t be afraid to make small changes to your booth while at the show or make notes for bigger changes for your next show. If you think something isn’t working for you, or if you see something that works for another vendor and you can try it in your booth, do it! Each show has different visitors and what works for one show may not work at another. I’m always rearranging my displays and tidying my products during shows. The key is not to do anything major that attracts attention to your “remodeling.” Gradually swap things around while you’re moving around your booth. It makes you look busy, but approachable, and those small changes may lead to a boost in your sales.
Show Tip – If one item is selling really well, I spread it out among my other items to encourage people to see more of my display. Think of it like a checkout line at a grocery store. You’re there for the veggies, but when you see the candy, well, why not indulge in a little impulse buy?
It’s not over ‘till its over!
Often, after a long day at a show all you want to do is go home and put your feet up, but don’t give in to the impulse to pack things up early! Most shows have a rule against packing up early, and doing so may prevent you from being invited back. Also, many shows will get a last minute surge in visitors and usually the end of the show is when the other vendors venture out to do a little shopping of their own. I’m not saying you can’t start preparing to pack up, organizing your POS supplies, starting to get your packing bins ready, and even slowly starting to pack up small items that aren’t selling are fine. Once again, the key is to not make any major changes or obvious signs of packing up until the end of the show. When you do pack up, think ahead to how you’ll need to unpack and store your items at home and pack accordingly. Just shoving everything in a bin to be sorted later will cause you to do more work, and that’s just not the most efficient use of your valuable time.
Show Tip – Know when to cut your losses. Bad weather, a super low turnout, a surprise stomach virus – there are some instances when it’s best to just cut your losses, pack up and head home early. I once did an outdoor show on a beautiful Spring day that just happened to be on the opening day of Spring sports. The unintended result was that for the first four hours of the show, the vendors far outnumbered the visitors at the event. I realized I wasn’t going to make much, if any money that day so I packed up (as did most of the other seasoned vendors) and headed home to spend the rest of the day enjoying the weather with my family. It was a great decision!
Do you have a great craft show tip or funny learning experience? Add your favorite craft show tips, tricks, words of wisdom, and funny moments in the comments!
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