Craft shows are definitely a more relaxed atmosphere and that’s what makes them such a unique shopping experience. Shoppers get to connect and have an engaging conversation with the owners of a small business. Although this setting allows the more casual side of business to come through, you still want to be sure you keep a professional vibe and represent your brand properly. Here are 5 things customers don’t want to hear or see at your craft show booth:
If you just battled blizzard conditions, your sitter cancelled last minute and you forgot half your product at home; try not to let it show when the shoppers start filing in. The horrible roads may be an icebreaker if the customers just dealt with them too, but try not to launch into a rant about everything that went wrong that morning. It may feel good to get it off your chest but you’ll loose a sense of professionalism. You want there to be a relaxed and happy vibe when people are in your booth. If you’re stressed, they’ll feel stressed and they won’t be keen on sticking around too long.
Just as a retail store doesn’t display the day’s profits on the cash register, you shouldn’t flaunt your earnings in front of shoppers or out in the open. We all want to know where we’re at in the day but try to keep track of sold items on paper so you can easily add up your sales without having to pull out all your cash. When you do need to count out your bills to be sure everything is adding up, try to do it discretely or crouch down to count it out below table height so shoppers and vendors can’t see.
Craft shows aren’t like a typical job where you have staff to cover you while you head to the back room and eat your lunch in privacy. There will be some shows where you just can’t avoid eating in front of the customer but again, try to do it discretely. Consider your meal choices and plan out something that won’t be too messy or difficult to eat. If you’re mid chew and a customer walks in, you want to be able to set your food down without having greasy fingers to wipe off each time. Last night’s steak and potatoes are quick to throw together but you may come to regret it when you’re having to find a microwave, fork, knife and a stable surface in the middle of a busy booth.
You should never let a customer hear you talking bad about anything; especially not another customer, vendor or the event. Whether it’s craft show related or not, you want to keep all negative talk until after the show. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard retail employees talking about a private matter on the sales floor. They may be trying to multitask and cover the floor while addressing an issue but it just comes off as unprofessional.
Although you may need to line up your ride home or share a pic on Instagram, try to leave it for when there aren’t any shoppers around or when a helper can cover you. If you’re in the middle of a phone call and someone stops by, try to excuse yourself from the conversation and as a common courtesy; apologize to the customer once you’re off your phone. Your customers should always have your undivided attention and feel important.
There’s a lot to take in at a craft fair and most shoppers won’t stop at every single booth. You should be creating a setup that makes shoppers feel like they have to stop at yours. Imagine them even making a beeline to you. I’ve seen it happen and I’ve done it myself but the display really has to stand out and speak to my style.
The point isn’t to attract everyone, it’s to attract your ideal customer. Do they like feminine, soft touches or are they into bold and colourful styles? You must determine that before you build your brand or plan your display. Once your brand is on point, you can communicate its message through all the little details.
A feminine brand might use a soft pink coloured tablecloth and repeat the color throughout the space. Their signage may use a script font and be displayed in scroll picture frames. Display props should be light and feminine as well and there may even be a bouquet of fresh flowers on the table. When you apply your brand’s look and feel to each element of your display, you create a visual block of color or style in a room full of booths, which helps you stand apart.
If you’re not planning out collections before you start designing products and choosing materials, you’re missing a really important step. Think about your favorite clothing retailer. They don’t just randomly choose which products they’re going to sell each season. They buy products to sell in their stores based on the season/weather, current color and style trends, what sold well last quarter and the story they want to tell.
When you create collections, it not only makes an impactful display when grouped together, it also helps communicate a message. Imagine a scarf designer knitting a bunch of scarves in a variety of colors and patterns. What might you think when you look at all those scarfs? I’d probably think there’s some scarfs.
Now imagine a scarf designer creating a winter wonderland collection. The colors are all soft, muted tones. The textures are soft and the patterns are delicate and detailed. They’ve displayed a scarf on a bustform wearing a cream winter jacket and have wrapped one end up and pinned it in place with a sparkly vintage broach. The grouping of like-colored scarfs catch your attention, help you imagine wearing one and immediately convey the feel of elegance.
I also cover creating collections in the free sample chapter of my ebook (as well as many other important aspects to consider when it comes to your products). Download it for free here
Displays and details within it often take a backseat when it comes to time and money spent on them. But the effort you put into your products should carry over into presentation. You want shoppers to see your products and put a high value on them before they even see a price tag.
Imagine walking up to a table selling jewelry. Bracelets are piled into bowls, earrings are hanging off repurposed household items; a painted cheese grater, a meshed metal garbage can and some chicken wired stapled into a frame. The necklaces are sitting flat on the table or hanging off more repurposed items such as vases and wine bottles. There are hundreds of different rings, bracelets, earrings and necklaces to shop through. When an item is sold, the vendor places it into a brown paper lunch bag and folds down the top.
How much would you be expecting the pieces to be?
Now imagine each individual piece being showcased on a perfectly sanded and dark stained block of wood. Rings are displayed on varying heights of wood cones. Bracelets sit on low blocks of wood and necklaces hang down the front of tall, skinny blocks. The metals and gems stand out against the dark wood background. There aren’t hundreds of pieces to browse through but each item looks special and unique. When a purchase is made, the vendor pulls stock from behind the table where each item is individually wrapped in plastic bags with branded jewelry cards. They’re then wrapped in tissue paper and placed in a shopping bag that has the jeweller’s logo printed on them.
What price range would you expect these items to be?
Now imagine both tables are selling the exact same product. The first decreases the value of the jewelry while the second increases the value. When amazing products are surrounded by lacklustre details, it throws shoppers off and leads them to believe products should be at a discount.
This is exactly why high-end retailers pour a lot of money into display fixtures and store design while discount retailers (think the dollar store) spend little time and money on displays and follow a basic setup.
So many handmade vendors go overboard with their products, trying to offer something for everyone who walks through the door. But that’s the wrong approach. Imagine a vendor who knits/crochets, dabbles in painting and also takes photos once and a while. They figure, why not bring a bit of everything? That way people have lots to shop from. Their table is a mix of knitted household products (i.e. dishcloths), knitted accessories (i.e. scarves), a few paintings, cards and photos. Everything is crammed in and there’s a mish-mash of display fixtures because of all the different types of products they have to display.
People who shop handmade want to shop from niche vendors. Vendors who look like they’re an expert in their craft; doing one thing really well as opposed to doing many things so-so. They want the experience that comes with buying handmade; getting to meet the vendor, purchasing quality, one-of-a-kind items and the little details such as the care put into the the wrapping and hand written thank you notes.
You are not a department store; you do not have to offer a wide variety of goods. When it comes to handmade, you should be focusing on one category of product. The more categories you add the less time there is to do them well. Collections, finishing details, packaging, branding, etc. all get watered down and your products lose their impact when you’re trying to do too much.
You should fit the part. If you’re selling high-end jewelry and your ideal customer is a well put together, polished woman, don’t show up in wrinkly clothes, messy hair and chipped nail polish. Walk the walk, talk the talk and look the part of your brand.
Shoppers want to feel they’re buying from an authentic, knowledgable person. Even if you hate selling, there are ways to make it feel comfortable and natural. You can’t be afraid to speak up and tell shoppers about your products. They won’t know what you don’t tell them and you’ll be doing them a disservice if you don’t share the benefits of buying from you.
When you go to purchase a new laptop, do you feel annoyed by the sales person telling you the features and benefits? No! That’s because you need to know them to make an educated purchase.
Uncover the features and benefits your customers will care about and determine how to communicate them. One of my favorite exercises for finding your USP (unique selling proposition) is defining your 5-E’s. How are your products:
I explain the 5-E’s and how to use them in more detail in my ebook MAKE MORE MONEY AT CRAFT FAIRS. If you’re feeling stuck when it comes to how to start a convo, how to find your USP and how to communicate it in a way that feels natural, I think you’ll like the full ebook. You can also download a free sample chapter to check it out and be sure it’s not full of info you’ve heard before.
Once you’ve got your selling points figured out, don’t be afraid to share them. You won’t come across as a needy sales person when your intention is to educate and help people.
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