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January 27, 2016

How to Apply to Craft Shows like a PRO



Of course you want to start with applying to the right shows and the basics of having great products, great photos and great branding. If you can put a checkbox next to all of those but are worried about your chances of getting in due to some stiff competition, there are some best practices to take you above and beyond.

If you want to earn some brownie points with craft show organizers, try the tactics below.

And if you want to make sure you're avoiding common mistakes that make it easy for organizers to reject your application, check out 5 Mistakes that get your Application Tossed.


Show your Display

First and foremost you want to follow their directions; if they ask for 5 product photos, stick to product photos but if they ask for 5 photos of your choice, including a photo of your table or booth will let organizers know that you’re capable of creating an attractive display. If the application form has a spot for links to your website or Facebook page and you don’t have room to include a display photo in the application, make sure they see some when they follow your link.

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Displays play a huge role; you can take an ordinary product and make it extraordinary through the way it’s displayed.

Imagine homemade cupcakes and candies sitting flat on a table. Now imagine those cupcakes and candies displayed on cake stands and in candy jars which are sitting on a pink and white striped table cloth. Table signs are in the shape of lollipops, there are pink balloons floating above the table and you're helping customers in a pink and white striped apron. Kind of takes it to another level doesn’t it?

Looking for tips to improve your display? Check out these articles:

If you haven’t participated in a craft show yet or you haven’t remembered to take photos of your display, create a mock set up at home. Move a small table or dresser to a blank wall in a bright room and start layering it with a table cloth, risers, display props and of course your products. Explain that you created this set up at home to give them a sample of what your display might look like.


Do your research

Craft show applications are like an interview; and you wouldn't walk into an interview knowing nothing about the company would you? You'd want to do some digging beforehand so you could show them your interest and knowledge of their brand and reference how you think you'd fit in.

If you're applying to a show that has occurred in the past, check out their Facebook page or website to do some snooping. Look for photos of vendor booths from past events, lists of participating vendors and pay attention to the event’s branding, achievements and anything you have in common. These are all things you can use to your advantage when communicating with the organizer or filling out your application.




Tweak your application

Here’s where your research above comes in handy. You never want to mislead an organizer into thinking you’re selling something you’re not but there’s nothing wrong with playing up a different side of your products or brand. Just as you may cut back on the swear words when you’re at a family function as compared to a party with friends; you’re not being misleading or fake, you’re just adjusting to your environment.

Based on Vendors

If you’re looking at past vendors or work they’ve featured on their page and they tend to all have one element in common, determine whether you can work that element in or play it up in your existing products.

For example: if you’re seeing a lot of quirky, funny and really unique products, can you add a new product to your line or change a small detail in an existing line? Maybe instead of using floral fabrics you use a print with dancing cats or robots. If you make bath and body products you could introduce a line for a very specific problem that just requires you to tweak the label or packaging; “mid-life crisis” bath bombs or “over the hill” creams. Whatever you decide to do, make sure it still fits with your brand; you don't want to turn off any existing customers or feel completely out of your element.

Even a small change to your photos or display could do the trick. If the show has a vintage vibe, can you edit your photos or adjust your display to add a touch of vintage to them? A lace tablecloth, some vintage props and tea stained table signs may give your existing (non-vintage) products a vintage feel.


Based on the Event

What type of photos do they share on their Facebook page? If they’re clean product shots on a white background, can you mimic that in your photos? If the show’s poster is bright, bubbly and heavy on the turquoise, submit photos of your brightly colored products (as opposed to your neutrals) or use an app like PicMonkey to add some turquoise text overlays to your images.

Slipping in that you’ve visited their event in the past or bringing up some facts they’ve shared lets them know that you’re familiar with their craft show and not blindly applying. You don’t want to say anything insincere or come off like a brown noser but when explaining why you would love to be a part of their event, showing your interest and knowledge of it can go a long way.

For example, you could say something along the lines of: “I visited your event last year and was blown away by the quality of vendors. I understand how important having unique vendors with top of the line craftsmanship is to the success of a show and I think my brand and products consist of just that.”


Again, make sure that you show up with the vibe and products you told the organizer you’d be bringing. Include a description or photos of the other types of products you may sell and stock up on the ones you applied with. You’d be doing yourself a disservice if you sell them on one idea but show up with another; organizers choose vendors based on what they think the audience they’re marketing to will want to buy. If you added some vintage products to your application but show up with a modern display and stock, your sales may suffer since shoppers are going to be looking for vintage.


Don't give mixed messages

Don’t explain how quirky, fun, unique and high-end your work is only to include low quality, boring photos of basic products. They won’t know what to trust; your word or your pictures. Your brand and style should come through in your writing, photos, products, display, etc. and be consistent.

It may be a good idea to have a friend or family member look over your application to see if anything seems inconsistent. We may miss what stands out to others since we're so close to our work.

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Make it easy for them

This includes following their instructions to a T, doing your research, sharing what makes you unique, only giving them information they need and being friendly.

Attention

If you require them to follow up with you because you didn’t attach the right kind of photos or they can’t find your website, you’re creating extra work for them. Pay attention to the details and instructions.


Research

If you’re emailing the organizer questions to determine whether the event is a fit for your brand and schedule, don’t ask them the dates and times of the event when they’re plastered all over their social media and website. Show them you've put some work in and aren't relying on them to do it all.


Show & Tell

Don’t make the organizers dig to figure out how you’re different from the next vendor. You may travel overseas to find the most unique and high quality materials for your pieces but if you don’t explain that in your application, they have no way of knowing.


Simple

On the other hand, don’t go overboard with your answers. Making them wade through tons of information to find the answer they’ve asked for is a whole lot of extra work they don’t need. Include important details but make sure you get to the point.


Kindness

Regardless of how much money a customer is paying you, nobody likes dealing with grumpy, demanding people. Make sure all your communication with the organizer is friendly and the way you would want to be treated.


Any way you can make their life easier and bring a little positivity to it will be noted.


Tell them what you’ll bring to the table

Application forms are all about you, your business and your products; it’s how the organizers determine whether you’re a fit or not. But consider adding in what you can do for them. Do you have a popular blog on your site that you’d love to use to talk about the event? What about a huge following on Facebook? Or maybe the contests you run get a ton of interest, especially when you’re giving away tickets to an event.

Of course you don’t want to come across like you’re bribing them (i.e. “if you accept ME, I’ll do this for you”) but finding a way to subtly slip in that you love to do your part when it comes to spreading the word will come off as helpful, not coaxing.


Share any tips you have in the comments section!




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