The spring and summer craft show season is upon us and if you are planning on applying for a booth as craft show vendors, you should plan on being just as prepared in the marketing department as you are in the products department. If you thought all you needed to do was show up with your folding table, handmade goodies and a smile you were wrong. Well not wrong, but maybe not utilizing the show for its full marketing potential like you should.
My first rule of thumb is never trust anyone else to do the marketing for you. I don’t care how big or small the show is that you are participating in; if you are counting on them to do all the publicity and marketing you might be holding your breath. Some shows are better at this than others. I did all the marketing and PR for Stitch here in Austin and yearly busted my toosh making sure that Stitch got mentioned on the radio and TV as well as in magazines and newspapers. You would be surprised how many events don’t even bother to submit to the free calendar guides in the local paper. I’m not saying do the craft shows marketing job for them, I’m saying make sure you fully market your involvement in the show.
These are a few tips I have learned through the years from running Austin’s largest independent fashion and craft show as well as from participating in tons of craft shows locally and nationally. I’d love for you to leave me any comments with suggestions that you might have or tricks of the trade that you utilize when participating in a craft show.
TAKE OUT AN AD – Most of the larger craft shows will have a program that they are handing out free to everyone who walks in the door. Events like Stitch, The Renegade Craft Fair and Austin City Limits all have slick full color programs for the shoppers. How many times have you flipped through an issue of Bust magazine at your computer and looked up all the fun shop ads? Same goes for these programs. People take these programs home with them and then shop online later. If you have a snazzy ad inside with a picture of your adorable headbands, candles, dog collars – whatever people might check you out online and shop. Most of these ads are very reasonably priced and often trades and vendor discounts are available.
SCHMOOZE – I have met some really amazing people at craft shows through the years. Some who have turned into friends and others who have become contacts now crucial to my business. Walk around and introduce yourself to your fellow vendors, you know you want to shop anyway. Also a lot of larger craft events like Maker Faire are corporate sponsored so there are lots of major craft companies there just waiting to meet you and hear your ideas. Do you have an idea for an article that would be perfect for Craft Stylish? Walk right over and give them a card and chat them up about your idea. Do you make the cutest painted dresses using Tulip fabric paint? If Duncan is there stroll on over and introduce yourself. You can never have too many crafty friends or crafty business connections. Many times these craft events are crawling with reporters looking for a story, companies looking for the next crafter to feature in their endorsement program, stores looking for new lines to carry and more. Don’t be slimy, but being a shy reclusive crafter won’t get you much of anywhere. Also don’t forget to smile and greet your customers. After all selling at a craft fair is all about the customer service.
CONTACT THE PRESS – This is something you need to do several weeks ahead of time. For instance the last time I traveled to New York to participate in the Renegade Craft Fair in Brooklyn I did a little postcard campaign. I have Naughty Secretary Club postcards that have pictures of my product, all my contact information and a little blurb about my company. I sent one of these postcards to the accessories editors of every major fashion magazine in the New York area letting them know about the Renegade Craft Fair and the fact that I would be there with bells on in booth #120 and would love to meet them. The jewelry editor for Elle Girl Magazine stopped by and from there my jewelry appeared in several issues of the magazine and I still have a rapport with the editor who now runs a fun blog called I Heart Daily. You could also email these press contacts if you have that information.
GET TAGGED – True story… I bought something adorable at Maker Faire Austin 2008, got home and wanted to blog all about it and possibly even order more. The problem was that there was no tag on the item and no card in the bag. Who the heck made this adorable garment? I was not about to waste a ton of time going through the online vendor list scouting for the creator so that person missed out on a chance for me to give them some free press, buy more of their goodies and this particular item was a gift so the recipient will never know who made it either if they wanted to get more. For the love of all things holy sew tags into your clothes, put a sticker on your greeting cards with your URL and get little metal tags with your company name made for your jewelry. Don’t send unidentified cuteness out into the world it’s a bad business move.
WEB BANNERS – I don’t trust craft shows that don’t have web banners on their website for you to download and display on your own blogs, websites and My Space pages. Most of the biggies do and you should take full advantage. It is a reciprocal relationship where you are helping them spread the word about the show as well as letting everyone who visits your site know that you are going to be there. Larger craft shows have these downloadable banners on their site in all different shapes and sizes making it super easy for you to find the right one to fit the aesthetic of your site.
FREE SWAG – Be sure to have something to hand out with your business name on it at the show. Whether it is stickers, business cards, postcards – what have you. At the last Austin City Limits festival I split a booth with my friend Amy Barber of Sweet Tooth Bags and we split an order of 5000 postcards. One side had her design the other mine. On my side I also included a note that said “Enter ACL into the coupon/voucher field when you check out to receive 15% off your order” this way I could somewhat track how helpful the cards were. Either way these postcards got put into every bag of every person that bought something. There was a large stack next to the check out for people to pick up and take for free. A month later when Amy and I participated in Maker Faire we had separate booths, but left over cards. We were both basically marketing for each other in two separate booths since everyone who got her postcard in essence got mine and vice versa.
VINYL SIGNS – There is nothing magic about vinyl, but do make sure you have a sign in your booth letting people know what your company name is. Vinyl signs are relatively inexpensive to have made and more importantly are very durable. Say it loud and say it proud, it’s all about branding people and you want customers to remember your company name when they get home.
WHOLESALE ACCOUNTS – If you are coming from out of town why not contact a few stores in the area that you think might be interested in carrying your wares. Look online at places like Yelp, send out a request for suggestions through Face Book, look at the websites of other indie designers and see what shops carry their jewelry. Once you have the names of these stores send them the same kind of postcard you sent to the local press. Suggest that they come out to event and take a gander at your wares and assure them you are just sure their customers would dig it. If you have time before or after the show load up a mini traveling trunk show and pop into some of these boutiques and ask to speak to their buyer. The worst thing they can say is no and the best thing that can happen is they buy a bunch of your jewelry, purses or magnets and start carrying your line.
SOCIAL NETWORKING – If there is a Face Book group about the craft show you are participating in – join. If after the show there is a Flickr pool upload your pics all tagged with your company name. In between sales Twitter the happenings of the day at the event as things unfold.
DOOR PRIZES – Who does not love a door prize? We have people lining up at Stitch 3 hours early to make sure they are one of the first 500 people through the door to receive a gift bag. People love freebies and will be checking out your website from the comforts of their own homes later. Remember that studies show that 40% of people who receive free stuff remember a companies name up to 6 months later. Not all craft fairs have door prizes, but if they do make sure you are included even if it means just getting your business card inside the bag. You might get lucky and end up getting some press out of it too like this contest run by Funky Finds in 2007 giving away a Stitch swag bag.
RAFFLE PRIZES – Same concept as the door prizes except these items tend to me a little higher end. As to where you may need several hundred door prizes and might want to opt for something a little cheaper like stickers or nail files a raffle prize is something that people want to win. A smart choice for door or raffle prizes are tote bags with your company’s logo. I carry around my Loyalty and Blood tote bag from Stitch 2007 all the time doing free advertising for their company every time that I do.
Sure you could have an enjoyable and lucrative experience vending at a craft fair without taking any of the steps, but your business could have had an even better time. Why not take full advantage of your craft fair vending experience with a bit of your own marketing campaign next time?