Friday, October 15, 2010

Why You NEED To Do A Craft Show

Have you ever done a craft show? Think it's not for you?
Let me tell you why it IS!

A craft or art show puts you in direct contact with your customers. If you only sell online, you never have the personal experience of seeing someone handle your product, ask their questions and decide what they like.

Handmade Mart in Silver Spring, Md. Photo courtesy of Nestor Diaz

In a live selling venue, you get to see which pieces people are generally drawn to and which ones just never seem to catch anyone's eye. You might be creating a series or style of product that you love but that just doesn't work with many buyers. Or you may have a piece or style that surprises you by being a big hit that you never expected. It's this kind of "crowd sourcing," or creating new products based on the likes and interests of your customers that is a really cool way to get inspired.

You'll get to use your conversations with buyers to sculpt a selling technique that fits your product and your personality. You'll gently fall into a sales pitch that won't sound "pitchy" or pushy. It will cover all the main points of your product, technique or background without many of the extras that don't need to be said to everyone. A deeper sales conversation can happen as the customer becomes more interested, asks questions and sticks around in your booth to chat.

Essential Paper show booth - photo courtesy of Nestor Diaz

You may find that you're getting the same questions again and again. So, this is something that needs to be addressed in your online sales pitch or Etsy item description.

Only when selling to customers in person can you see how your pricing is working for you. Do people love your products but cringe at the pricetag? Or do they immediately bring it over to purchase? It may help you to decide if your pricing is in line with the current market.

Renegade Holiday Craft Fair, Chicago - photo courtesy of E. Bartholomew

And best of all, at a craft show, you get to meet your "people." You may not have a very specific picture of what your perfect customer might look like but I think this is essential is knowing how to market your product. Tara Gentile from ScoutieGirl always says that the more specific you can get when defining who your customer is, the better you can sell to them. Is she a mom, does she believe in green living, is she a business woman, does she like frills without wanting to pay a lot for them? I was surprised to find that my customer, or the people most often interested in my product, was a much different person than I had imagined and doing live shows with my products is the number one thing that introduced me to her... the person who loved my pieces and just couldn't walk away without taking something home with her.

Many artists and crafters shy away from craft shows thinking that they are too much work, too much time investment or sometimes too much money for a table space or booth. There certainly will be some time, thought and work that will go into preparing stock and a pretty booth space that will draw in the customers but there are many opportunities for shows locally to fit in your budget. There are shows through local churchs or community groups that may charge $20-30 for a space and shows that may charge hundreds (or more) for the very same size space! The only difference is the size of the event, the advertising budget, the area in which it's being held and the size of the crowds expected. Just be sure to think about whether the crowds attracted to the event you're considering would be interested in your product. And check to make sure that the show has a good following or substantial advertising to ensure that there will be enough people to sustain the event and make it worth your while. Nothing is more frustrating than putting in the effort and time to get things ready and then having a very slow day with few customers. Trust me, I've been there!

It's a great time of year for shows and I'm sure that there are a bunch of shows in your area still accepting applications. Check out for shows in your neck of the woods, or ask around with local crafters, team members or join a local group, guild or Etsy street team to get the inside scoop.

A craft show can be a great learning experience and a terrific way to get directly in touch with the people who are buying your products. It's a fun way to get inspired and re-ignite your creative spark by crowd sourcing for some new ideas. You're going to make some great contacts, hand out a ton of business cards, meet other artists and crafters selling at the show and come away with a clearer picture of your work, pricing, product line and who is ultimately buying your goods.

So, what are you waiting for? Get out there and start selling!

**What great lessons have YOU learned from doing a live show? I'd love to hear how it helped you to sculpt your online selling experiences!**

No comments: