Over the 11 years of my own handmade business I showed at about 100 shows. It feels like quite a feat when I look back at it. All of those hours spent in planning and attending the shows, all those customers served.
Today I wanted to put something together that give you an idea of the really important lessons I learned.
What I Learned from Vending at 100 craft Shows!
Planning for your show
Never underestimate how much planning you need to do for your show. I see lots of stall holders just consider their stock and little else, but a well-choreographed stall is planned in other ways too.
Your stall layout is one of them!
"Think about display, to make sure that all your products can be easily seen. When you're pressuring yourself to make lots of stock to take, it's easy to forget that if the customers can't see the stock, they can't buy it!" - Jennie, www.OwlAboutYarn.com
Make sure you consider every other aspect too, like; pre show marketing, your customer service, your product vs. competitors and your finances.
I’ve put together a course called ‘My Best Craft Show Yet’, which will help you really plan and take action on every minute detail. With this you will have a much better chance at selling well.
Crucial on the day is great customer service, so it’s really important to be prepared. Ophélie Bottin has some really great tips for us in a recent interview I had with her.
I wanted to extend this further by talking a bit about what is expected of you.
Just as you would expect your service to be in a top end restaurant, or a boutique shop, your craft stall customers are expecting top service too.
Service that is;
- attentive, but not overpowering
- polite and courteous
- correct and well informed
- worth their time and money
Service cannot be rushed or half-baked, especially if you want those same customers to buy at a later date. So consider how you approach this part of your business.
"Chat to your customers! Share your knowledge and show interest in their projects. Making a connection with somebody helps them to relate to you and your products. Even if they don’t buy from you at that point, you’re more likely to stay in their mind for next time." - Steph, www.etsy.com/shop/perranyarns
Over 11 years I found there were 7 really interesting ‘types’ of customers to be prepared for;
- Passionate Teddy Bears. This cuddly species is the type of customer who knows you by name. They often run down aisles of stalls just to get to you first and they are your most passionate advocates, selling the virtues of your products to anyone standing within ear shot. If you get to know them these are the types who will wrestle you to the stall walls with the biggest bear hugs of love and admiration. They are your very favourite customers.
- Timid Deers. These guys can often be found foraging on the very edge of your stall, but be careful if you move to quick they run away! Play your sales patter very gently and if you are lucky they will feel confident enough to take a look at what you do.
- Out-of-time Rabbits. Always looking at their watch, they skim your stall for interest. If something catches their eye they dart in, purchase and turn tail to hop to the next stall. They are a whirlwind!
- Straight-talking Cats. Quite a knowing creature, they have probably something to teach you about what you do, but in the most loving of ways. They seem aloof at first, but get to know them and they will curl up on your stall for the most interesting of chats.
- The Tired-out Dogs. At the end of the show these guys are still there. The loyal craft show customers. They are probably laden down with bags and super tired by the time you see them. They plonk their bags down and tell you how tired they are, before getting super excited about what you have to sell. If you are lucky there’s just a bit of room left in the car for that one thing they just can’t do without.
- Sore-toothed Crocodiles (rare species). Very, very rarely a customer will be in a bad mood, sometimes they will even come on to your stand shouting. I had one such customer who used to spend hundreds of pounds with me every year. When we met she wasn’t angry with me, or anything I had done (or not done), instead she was just an angry soul that day. Language was colourful and there was lots of slamming things about and snide comments as I attempted to serve her. Like any of you out there I had no need to be treated this way, so I politely asked her to take it easy on me and if there was something I could help with, I would. Her mood calmed, but she still remained agitated, however she was placid enough to start talking to. I told her about my yarns and asked her what she was looking for and slowly coaxed her tone into something more amenable. That day she spent £250, without the blink of an eye! Some would say I was wrong to even attempt to serve her, I should have asked her to remove herself from my stand, but the truth was I was a little shocked and having a stand full of customers I was reluctant to show my ill-tolerance of such an angry soul. Do you know every year she came back, a little snappy around the edges, but equally pleased to see me and boy did she spend! So don’t chase them away too quickly, sometimes they just need soothing.
- Rude Wasps (rare species). Very occasionally it pains me to say there are some very waspy customers. These are the ones who are never satisfied with anything you do, say, or sell. I could never quite work out why they were this way, but I knew I had to serve them quickly, brush myself off and move on. Just like with the crocodiles it’s not worth showing yourself up on your stand in front of other customers by rising to the bait. These wasps are not for soothing, or pacifying. Instead let them pass and brush yourself off, as you will find everyone on your stall will soon mention how awful they thought that person was and how well you handled yourself.
Most customers will be as you would expect, but always prepare for being swept of your feet by a giant bear hug, to tread carefully around the deers and to soothe the crocodiles. Being prepared is also confidence in itself.
Getting customers to enter your virtual world
Remember that you show doesn’t have to end at the end of the day. You do have an option of taking your customers home with you.
So make sure to take business card with you and to get email addresses for your newsletter list.