Whether you’re getting ready for a large trade show and have an entire booth to fill, or you’ve booked a table at a community craft show, these 5 mistakes are always important to avoid.
I’ve made every mistake on this list and when I corrected them, I saw an improvement in:
- The type of shopper who visited my booth
- The number of shoppers who stopped by my booth
- The number of sales I made
- The amount I could charge for my products
- The number of items I would sell in each transaction
- Wholesale orders from retailers
- And more
Did I make sales when I was making these mistakes?
Did I make more sales when I corrected these mistakes?
These aren’t rules but rather advice based on my experience 🙂
Craft Show Mistake #1: Too much variety
Although you don’t want an empty booth and you do want to give your customers options, you don’t want to overwhelm them.
When I started selling at craft shows, I figured: the more types of products and product options I have, the better chance I have to sell something to each shopper.
There’s actually a study proving that more options can actually reduce sales. You can read about that here if you’re doubting less selection can produce more sales.
Not only does too much variety make your craft show table look disjointed (and sometimes unprofessional), it also makes it hard for shoppers to make a decision.
If you have the choice between vanilla or chocolate ice cream, how quickly can you make a decision and purchase your ice cream?
A matter of seconds right?
If you have 50 ice cream choices, plus cake, pie, and donuts to choose from, it’s going to take you much longer to make a decision.
This is what happens at your craft show booth when you have too much selection.
Shoppers take longer to make a decision, and sometimes need to walk away and think about it.
You’re not a department store; you’re a small handmade business.
Don’t try to offer something for everyone, or serve too broad of a target market (e.g. jewelry for all women).
Determine who your target market is (e.g. people who are a mother to a daughter) and what you want your business to be remembered for (e.g. mother-daughter jewelry).
In the craft show display below, there is too much variety:
- cosmetic bags
- burp cloths
- baby blankets
- heating pads
I’m targeting a few different types of customers and serving conflicting shopping occasions. Meaning, when someone is shopping for winter accessories (mittens), they’re unlikely to also be shopping for cosmetic bags.
Trying to get shoppers to think about bundling up in winter accessories and then think about what type of cosmetic bags they need for traveling is too much context-switching.
Keep your shoppers focused on one task while at your table (e.g. accessorizing for winter OR organizing cosmetics for travel; NOT both).
What’s your key message?
I sell ___________
For example: I sell cosmetic bags.
If I have cosmetic bags, mittens, and burp cloths on my table, that message (I sell cosmetic bags) won’t be clear to shoppers.
When I remove products that confuse my message, my display looks cleaner, easier to shop, more cohesive, and more professional.
Instead of looking like a crafter who dabbles in a variety of products, I now look like a business selling cosmetic bags.
I don’t know about you, but I’d rather buy a cosmetic bag from someone who specializes in them; not someone who dabbles in them.
I’m also willing to pay more for a product when it’s made by an expert.
>> If you’d like to read about the 6 mistakes made with the first display and how to correct them, check out: 6 Simple Ways to Improve a Craft Show Display
Bonus points if your message also tells shoppers what you do differently or better than competitors.
For example, I may focus on “vegan cosmetic bags” and sell only high-quality vinyl bags. Or, I may be different from competitors by focusing on cosmetic bags for brides.
If you sell jewelry but every piece is made with a healing crystal and has a bohemian style, you have one message: you make bohemian healing crystal jewelry.
On the other hand, if you offer a wide variety of jewelry and some are bold statement pieces, some are minimalistic gold pieces, some are made with plastic beads and others incorporate healing crystals, you’re sending a mixed message. In general, you’re saying: I make jewelry. Millions of people make jewelry, but far fewer make “healing crystal jewelry”.
When narrowing your selection, you may want to consider what types of products tend to sell better at craft shows:
Or, the types of products that are trending:
If you need a little help and direction when it comes to refining your product selection, join the FREE email challenge: 5 DAYS TO A STANDOUT CRAFT SHOW DISPLAY.
Craft Show Mistake #2: Not enough variety in pricing
Although you may be narrowing your selection, you do still want to offer a variety of price points.
This not only helps you appeal to a range of budgets, but it also makes shoppers who are on the fence feel more comfortable buying.
For example, if I discover an artist at a craft show, I may not be ready to spend hundreds of dollars on an original piece of art. But if the artist is selling smaller prints for $20, I might buy a print to take home and test in my space, or to have something to enjoy until I’m ready to spend more money.
A variety of price points also allows you to increase your units per transaction (UPT) and boost sales.
If I only offer one size and style of cosmetic bag, it’s unlikely one customer will buy 2 or more of the same bag.
But when I offer a bag in different size and style options, a customer is more likely to add items to their purchase.
You can still offer pricing options, even if you only make one type of product.
Let’s say I only sell a medium-sized cosmetic bag. I can offer that bag in:
- a polyester fabric (low price point)
- a vinyl fabric (medium price point)
- leather (high price point)
A shopper who loves my pieces but is on a budget may purchase the bag in polyester fabric, while someone buying a gift and wanting to spend around $40-$50 can purchase the bag in leather.
Craft show shoppers are browsing and discovering new products and businesses.
This means, most shoppers won’t be prepared to spend a lot of money.
Try to stock up on low and mid-priced products so those who are being introduced to your business for the first time, have a selection to buy from.
Use your high-priced items as the showstoppers. Place them at eye level and in a spot that catches the eye to draw people in.
Here are several ways to add a variety of price points and increase sales:
- How to Use Up-Selling to Sell More Handmade
- How to Use Add-Ons to Sell More Handmade
- How to Create an Entry-Level Product for your Handmade Business
- How & Why a Craft Business Should Down-Sell
And here’s where to place each type of product in your display: Craft Show Table Layout Tips
Craft Show Mistake #3: Customers don’t know where to find you after the show
The majority of craft show shoppers won’t buy from you.
The average conversion rate of a brick-and-mortar store is 20% – 30% (source). Which means, if 100 people walk into a shop, on average, only 20 – 30 people will actually buy something.
Online conversion rates are lower; typically 2% – 3% (because options are endless online).
Because shoppers don’t know what they’ll find at a craft show until they walk through the doors, and there are dozens (if not hundreds) of vendors to choose from, it’s likely conversion rates at a craft show fall somewhere between brick-and-mortar and online averages.
Your conversion rate will vary depending on the type of event you’re selling at, what you’re selling, price points, time of year, etc.
Let’s say the average craft show booth conversion rate is around 10%.
That means 90% of shoppers won’t buy from you.
But that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re not interested in your products.
So it’s important to market to those shoppers in hopes they buy from you after the event.
First, your booth should be memorable.
You want to be known for something. Such as: “THE vendor selling candy-scented soaps”. Or, “the vendor selling healing crystal jewelry”, or “the vendor selling cat-themed bags”, etc.
“The vendor selling a few bags, some mittens, burp cloths, and heating pads” is NOT as memorable.
Then, you should give shoppers a way to contact you after the event.
Place a stack of business cards on the outer edge of your table so it’s easy for shoppers to grab one as they’re leaving your space (or try this trick to save money and ensure shoppers hang onto your information).
For shoppers that do purchase from you that day, stick a clever business card in their bag so they can easily buy from you again.
Even better, give yourself a way to contact shoppers after the event, by getting them to sign up for your newsletter.
There are several factors to think about and you don’t want to break any laws so be sure to read over this article in regard to newsletters.
>> You may also be interested in: 3 BIG LEGAL MISTAKES CRAFTERS MAKE.
Craft Show Mistake #4: Ignoring the numbers
Craft shows AREN’T profitable for many vendors. They require many hours to prepare for, sell at, and pack up from and there are many expenses associated with them.
I used to count my money at the end of an event, subtract my booth fees from that total, and if I had money leftover, I considered the event a success.
There were many expenses and wages I wasn’t accounting for and I’m sure I lost money on most craft shows before I started treating it like a business.
If you’re selling at craft shows for fun, you may not be worried about your conversion rates, revenue, profit, etc.
But if you’re selling at craft shows to grow your business and profits, you’ll want to track your numbers and adjust accordingly.
Although it can be harder to track numbers at a craft show than online, it’s beneficial to make notes throughout the show to gather information that can help you make improvements.
Some of the stats you may want to gather are:
- Number of people who attend the event (the organizer should be able to give you an estimate of this number)
- Number of people who stop at your table
These two numbers will help you calculate your booth’s conversion rate; how many craft show shoppers do you convert into your shoppers. If this number is low, your display or what you sell may need improvements.
- How many sales you make – this number will help you calculate your sales conversion rate; how many people who stop at your table buy?
- How many items you sell in each transaction – this will allow you to calculate your units per transaction and can help you improve your product line. When you offer items that are used by the same type of customer, for similar scenarios, or are typically used together, more people will buy more than one item.
- Here are more ways to increase your units per transaction
- Hours spent prepping for, setting up, selling at, and packing up from the event
- Money spent on craft show related expenses (here are several to consider)
When you gather averages (e.g. your average sales conversion rate at craft shows) you have a benchmark to compare future shows to.
When you sell at a new craft show, is your sales conversion rate higher or lower than your average? This will tell you if it’s worth it to sell at that event, or type of event, again.
Tracking your numbers also helps you be more mindful with your spending and time.
If you notice, like I did, that you’re putting in way more hours preparing for a craft show than you’re paid for (through the sales at that event), you can find ways to be more efficient with your time.
Or you may realize that as flattering as it is to be invited to a craft show outside your city, the cost to travel to it, stay at a hotel, pay for meals and parking, etc. may leave you without profits.
Start tracking your numbers so you can find ways to be more profitable when selling at craft shows.
Craft Show Mistake #5: Ignoring what surrounds your products
Your products should be the focal point, but what surrounds them is just as important.
Craft show fixtures, props, signs, images, and even your outfit will either increase or decrease the value shoppers place on your products.
Imagine being served a filet mignon on a paper plate in a dirty, noisy, run-down restaurant. The meat may be worth $20+ but you’re not willing to pay more than $5 based on the surroundings.
Make sure each element surrounding your products in your craft show booth add to their value, not detract from it. From your tablecloth to your price tags, no detail is too small to put effort into.
If the space isn’t designed properly, you’ll have a hard time keeping shoppers around long enough to buy.
You need your space to be shoppable and encourage people to pick up items. If shoppers don’t feel comfortable touching because a fixture looks like it might fall over, or your products look too precious to touch, they won’t buy.
I explain how to create the perfect craft show table layout in this article.
If you want to learn how to create a display that shares your message and tells a story, check out my free email challenge: 5 DAYS TO A STANDOUT CRAFT SHOW DISPLAY
This tip is one I learned while working as a visual merchandiser for major retailers.
Sales associates had to follow a simple rule to boost sales:
As soon as there were more than 2 people in line to pay, an associate had to open a register and get that line moving faster.
>> The longer the lineup, the more reason people had NOT to buy.
>> The quicker the line moves, the more sales can be made per hour.
Even if you don’t have a lineup of people waiting to pay, your customers don’t want to stand around waiting for you to find your credit card machine, searching for change, or rummaging through boxes to find your tissue paper.
The longer you take to complete a transaction and wrap the purchase, the less time you have for other customers.
Keep everything you need for making a sale in one area and if possible, prep bags beforehand by pre-stuffing them with tissue paper and business cards.
Which mistakes do you see vendors make most often at craft shows? Share in the comments!
Hey, I’m Erin 🙂 I write about small business and craft show techniques I’ve learned from being a small business owner for almost 2 decades, selling at dozens of craft shows, and earning a diploma in Visual Communication Design. I hope you find my advice helpful!