Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Craft Fair Tidbits

Tuesday, August 24, 2010
For the most part of the summer of 2010 I spent my time preparing for the Red Hot Art festival in Minneapolis. The event was a successful one for me. For the first craft fair that I've attended in a metropolis, I experienced a good deal in the two days and I want to share it with anyone who would be doing their first (or second, or third...) show. It's always great to learn some new things from other people.  Well, here goes!

Without a doubt, most of us can agree that your presentation of your booth and yourself is a very essential part of making your show a successful one. With all the other 50 or so vendors around you, you need to give your potential customers something attractive to come to and you'll need to stand out from your competitors. If you have access to a list of participating sellers, you can do your research beforehand. If you already know you will stand apart from the crowd, then you're good to go! If not, look for something that you can change around so you're not another cookie from the cookie cutter. Changing the colors for your booth is a great start. Many vendors I noticed opted for darker, muted colors. I personally went for a shimmery golden-beige fabric that I bought at Joann's Fabrics. It matches the light yellow in my logo, complements my jewelry and is a different color than many vendors.

My Tiny Hands booth. 
The way you present yourself is also very, very important. As they say, you are your brand and the only representation that people have of your product. Try to stay consistent! My jewelry aesthetic is feminine with a dash of cute. I went to the fair in a white dress that wasn't too over the top, looked "serious", was comfortable and tied in well with what I want to portray for my brand. The way you dress and look is important, even if you don't believe so, there are many other people who do.

Another thing worth mentioning is that you have to be very prepared for worst case scenarios in regards to your booth presentation. If you're based outdoors (which I was), you need to be a little more careful. It was a really windy day on the second day and my jewelry frames (old photo frames on plastic Michael's frame stands) were being blown away, it was quite the crisis for a while. Thankfully, we had brought a glue gun and had asked for access to electricity prior to the event. We glued down the plastic frames and that fixed our problem!
Bring as many things as you can. Helpful tools to keep on hand are like a staple gun, cardboard, sticky tape, a glue gun, measuring tape, baby wipes (my absolute favorite!) and paper towels.

Customer Service, How to Sell and Create Buzz
It might seem like an obvious one, but customer service is also the key in having yourself a great show. We all know we wouldn't be happy when you talk to a grumpy salesperson at the mall, so try your best not to be that Ms. Grumpers. Even if you've had a bad week, it's important to know that your mood and lack of enthusiasm will influence people that walk past your booth AND the people around you.

Don't be afraid to speak up to your customers. I had many people walk past my booth, glance at my sign and look like they're interested but they keep walking. I know that these people are curious but hesitant, so I call out to them to come have a sniff at my jewelry. 95% of the time this worked, and they came over! A note to make though, is that telling people to do something, opposed to asking, can make this work so much better. The second day of the event I started out by asking people, "would you like to smell my jewelry?" Strange question, I know, but it being a question gave people a chance to answer "no, thanks". Instead, if you suggest to them to take a sniff at the jewelry, they are more likely to come over. I said, "Feel free to pick something up and smell it!"

It may seem like a more aggressive approach, but if you don't step up and make an attempt to sell your product, you won't sell anything (unless you have a well-known product that people already know about). And once you have a few people at your booth, more will come based on the herd instinct. This can really create a fantastic buzz for your booth, especially if you have a unique story to tell about your product! So don't hold yourself back.

I don't have a story to tell, per se, but my scented jewelry can be a new idea to many people. I used this as a tool to draw people in to my booth. If you effectively sell your idea to them, even if they don't buy from you on the spot, they will definitely tell their friends and family about it, since most of the time craft fairs are a social event for people.

Before the event, I took some time out to study on craft fairs. One tip that many writers and sellers give is to always stand while you're manning your booth. For a long time I never understood how this would be so critical. But after I tested it out, it was like I found some great treasure! When you choose to sit down, you get less face to face attention with the people that walk by. Especially since pretty much everyone recommends that you create differing levels for your booth, you can easily become hidden behind your booth. You can give people a smile and try to say something, but most of the effect is lost through the mess of your booth displays. When you stand up however, you eliminate this barrier and you also gain more control of the traffic on your booth. You can point at things to your customers while you make suggestions for them to try it on, for example.

Another trick I soon learnt I had up my sleeve, was making the experience for the shoppers more exciting, by getting them to participate. Scented jewelry's not scented jewelry if you don't smell it, right? A lot of the time, people are afraid to touch your wares because they are worried that they might ruin something (and anyway it's supposed to be more polite... ?). When I notice this from a potential customer, I immediately jump in and ask them if they like chocolates. Most say yes. So I proceed to tell them that my personal favorite piece of jewelry is the cherry-filled chocolate truffle ring, because it looks good and smells exactly (seriously) like the real thing, decadent, sinful and sweet. I actually take the ring and hold it up to the person's nose so they can take a whiff. That's when the magic happens and I know that I've made my point.

Tiny Hands' Scented Cherry-Filled Chocolate Truffle Ring
Again, it might seem like a very aggressive approach. Perhaps I would have been told of by someone who had a bad day and I tried to shove a fake chocolate ring up her nose, but fortunately for me, I didn't meet anyone quite like that. In fact I know that this tactic worked well for me and created even more buzz for my booth. People were surprisingly very open to letting me bring the chocolate ring close to their noses! When I get one person in a party to smell something, more often than not they would take it from my hands and let their family and friends smell it too. So in my devious plan I had gotten the first person to help me market my scented jewelry. Once you buy over one person, it's so much easier to gain the interest of his or her family and friends.

The Technical Stuff
Be prepared to accept credit cards, even though there is a nearby ATM machine. I used Intuit's GoPayment program for the Android because they were offering a free 2 month trial and had no setup or cancellation fees. However, they did give me trouble with cancelling my subscription, so I wouldn't recommend them. You might want to try something like https://squareup.com/ or go the old fashioned way and use a knuckle buster (credit card imprinter) which you can get online for about $20 inclusive of shipping, and sign up for a Propay credit card processing service for a small annual fee.

On the left corner I have a frame with some good information on it.
The reason this was important to me was because I identified that there would be customers who would become hesitant or who would change their minds about making a purchase if I, as a seller, had to send them away from my booth to the ATM machine. Personally I know that I can sometimes be fickle minded like that, and it's usually some unknown factor that makes me change my mind. "The walk to the ATM is too long" or "I need to be somewhere else" or I might just get distracted. I don't want to miss the opportunity of giving my customers some convenience, and lose some potential customers along the way.

Also, if you have some kind of elaborate gift wrapping service, be sure to have all materials as ready as you can so your customers don't need to wait ten years to get what they bought.

Giving out receipts is a good idea and shows people that you can be trusted and that you're professional. Why wouldn't you want to do this? I gave my customers an option and most said they would like a receipt. There are others who don't really mind.

When it comes to handling cash payments, I tried to make it as simple as possible. Every vendor was responsible of collecting sales tax, which I did. I included tax in all prices and rounded it up or down, whichever was closest. This means I wouldn't need to bring loose change in coins. I brought about $200 worth in small change, with more quantities for lower amounts like $1's and $5's. Eventually you'll have enough people paying you in cash that you'll have collected some small change from them that you can use again. $200 was overkill for me, but you never know what to expect!

I was also asked for my wholesale line sheet during the show. I had plans to print some out but had so little time before the show that eventually I either forgot and didn't bother. I figured that no one would ask anyway! I was so wrong, I wanted to face palm myself! Thankfully the lady was very sweet and patient and showed real interest in my work, which has led to many email conversations and a personal face to face meeting (and a new wholesale account)! So if you do sell wholesale, please be ready to speak to or provide retailers with some good information. I ended up writing down her contact information and made sure I sent her a .pdf copy of my line sheet as soon as I got home from the show.

All this might seem like obvious tips for some of us, but I was genuinely surprised at how many vendors who didn't follow the "rules" and etiquette of craft show selling. Make sure you do your reading and apply what you've read. Learn from other people's mistakes so you don't waste your own time!


Irit said...

Wow, Mei, you did it again, with yet another highly informative article. Thank you so much!

Customer service may be obvious to most vendors, but you wouldn't believe how some people act in the (few) craft fairs I visited in Israel. One particular seller, who has attended all of them, is ALWAYS on her cellphone, and I actually had to wait for her to finish her call before I could ask her a question. About her own items! She didn't even bother putting any price tags on her jewelry. Now that's what I call lousy service. Never mind that she overcharged for her items, and I didn't buy anything; at least a smile would have made me reconsider.

I wish we had more craft fairs here. BTW, many of the ones held in Israel charge a fee at the door from visitors. Is that how it is in the USA? Or do organizers only collect fees from the sellers?

Ola Fumilayo said...

Thanks for the great tips Mei - I especially liked your tips on making conversation with your buyers and making direct and inviting statements. I'm a little bit withdrawn myself and it's something I must learn a bit more about at every show I do.

I have another tip! Something I wish I'd done at my shows this year is offer a discount code on the cards I distributed, to keep track of traffic generated from the event.

P.S. your display is so balanced and well organized - very clever wind antidote!

Mei said...

Thanks for reading through all that, Irit! You're such a great friend :)

Yeah, it seems like a lot of things are "common sense" things, but I really wonder why sometimes people have a hard time following or doing what the experienced sellers advice. That's so rude how she was on her cellphone all the time! I'm hoping that she had a good reason... But if you're at a craft show I think you've really got to put your best character out there for your customers.

Some craft shows here do charge a small fee, like $1, for gaining entry. I think there are also a lot of neighborhood friendly gigs that don't charge too. I did this specific craft show because the application fee was very low and the timing was so right. How much are the fees like for going into a craft show there in Israel?

Mei said...

Hi Ola! Thanks so much for stopping by :)

I was definitely a little shy at first before the show started. And having being cooped up all summer without much socializing I thought I would be terrible. Though I guess if it's something that's harder for you, then you can attract people to see your music box jewelry in other ways! Wow just thinking about how neat of an idea it is that you have going on, it would be such an attention grabber for your shop at art shows!

I love that discount tip idea! Thanks for that - it's a great way to track customers too, like you said. I did that for a gift bag event in NY but not one single person claimed their discount. Sad face!

Irit said...

Well, they charge about $2 or even $3 as an entry fee, which I find a bit strange, considering these craft fairs are all about shopping. Why should I pay to get into a store?...

In addition, I've recently noticed that many jewelry sellers make very similar pieces, which are not original at all. They use the same vintage beads/findings, and therefore don't really "make" their own pieces; at least not in the way you do.

Oh, do feel free to add me as a friend on Facebook, my dear! My full name is Irit Caspi.