Although craft shows typically have more of a casual setting, you still want to keep a professional vibe and represent your brand properly. Doing so will reflect positively on your sales.
With over a decade of crafty events under my belt, I thought you could benefit from me sharing some of my mistakes and lessons learned from encountering thousands of craft show shoppers.
DON’TS: What Craft Show Shoppers Shouldn’t See
5 things a craft show shopper shouldn’t see, followed by a list of what they should see instead.
#1 – Items they could ask another vendor to make
When I sold my purses at craft shows, I started with a wide variety (I mean really wide; no two purses were alike).
I made purses but couldn’t really define what kind of purses I made. There was a bit of everything and a few times I saw other vendors at an event selling purses made out of the exact same fabric or in a similar shape/style to mine.
It’s not that anyone was copying; it was a matter of me not going out of my way to find something to really set my purses apart.
My totes, shoulder bags, and coin purses were cute, but no one was coming to me specifically for what I did differently.
(This is one of the mistakes worst-selling Etsy shops make too. Read about the other 4 big mistakes that kill sales here.)
Craft show shoppers would buy if they found something they liked, but I didn’t get many return customers or a flood of emails after an event from shoppers telling me they saw one of my purses, had been thinking about it, and they had to have it.
I did, however, see that type of response when I introduced my weekend bag. It was completely different from what other vendors on the local circuit were selling and really stood out to craft show shoppers as something different. If they didn’t buy from me that day, or take a business card to get in contact with me after the show, they would have a really hard time finding something similar anywhere else.
If your items don’t have anything truly unique about them, you’re not creating a signature style (here’s how), or giving shoppers a unique experience, it’s easy for them to go to another vendor or forget about your business once they leave the craft show.
#2 – Everything you can make
Conveniently, my “best” product ideas would always come the day before a craft show and kept me up until 2 am making “just one more”.
I used to think:
The more types of products I offer, the more likely it is someone will find something they like and buy.
Not only is offering a wide variety of products exhausting, but it also dilutes your brand/message/expertise.
Let’s say you’re at the mall and decide you want to get your hair cut. There are two salons to choose from. They both charge the same price but…
- One salon cuts men, women, and children’s hair and you see a lot of styles walking out you would never wear, a couple you don’t mind and a few you really like.
- The other salon focuses on your gender of haircuts and the majority of people you see walking out have beautiful cuts and their hair is styled just the way you want yours done.
Which salon would you choose?
The one offering something for everyone but doesn’t 100% fit your tastes? Or the one that seems to be catered for you?
Show shoppers what you’re really great at making, what your passion is, and why they should buy from you, by keeping your product selection limited.
A craft show display with too much variety also starts to look cluttered and messy. Sticking to 3 – 5 types of products, colors, materials, etc. keeps your display looking and feeling cohesive.
#3 – Display fixtures borrowed from your living room
Don’t do what I did for my first few craft shows: empty out baskets, picture frames and strip your dining room table of its cover to piece together a display. It doesn’t send a strong or clear message to craft show shoppers.
Unless your home is decorated in the same colors and style as your brand, it’s unlikely your household items will work as both home decor and display fixtures.
You don’t have to go out and spend hundreds of dollars on craft show display props, but do make a trip to the dollar or thrift store and find some items that all have the same style or that you can re-paint, re-cover or re-purpose to build a cohesive display.
Not only is piecing together a variety of items not a great display look, it’s also a bit of a pain.
I hated having to put my living room back together after an exhausting craft show and found it much more convenient to keep all of my craft show props tucked away in a bin so I knew where everything was and could simply throw the bin in my trunk without having to ransack my house.
Finding the right style for your craft show booth, working in your brand, and making sure your display fixtures don’t bring down the value of your products, is covered in DO #3 below.
#4 – A display with no story
The first craft show table I set up said: here’s some stuff I made…and there’s also some photos my friend took on the other side of the table.
My second craft show table took a different direction and said: here’s a bunch of purses I made…oh and a few photos my friend took on the end.
I was showing people that I sold purses. But I did nothing to help them imagine how or where they might wear one of my purses.
- What type of woman were my purses for?
- What type of style did she have?
- Where would my purses be worn?
- What would they be worn with?
- How would someone feel when they wore one of my purses?
I didn’t have a clue. I just wanted someone, anyone, to buy my purses. And thus, my craft show display was a don’t.
This FREE 5-day email challenge will help you come up with a story that helps you sell more: 5 DAYS TO A STANDOUT DISPLAY.
#5 – A vendor who doesn’t know what to say
No judgment. I spent my first few craft shows meekly saying “hi” and awkwardly watching people shop. I’m sure craft show shoppers didn’t appreciate it and my sales numbers certainly weren’t thanking me for my efforts (or lack thereof).
You’re not annoying people by selling your work.
“Hey! Come over here!! Have you heard about my fabulous purses? No?! Well, let me tell you why you need to walk out of here with one today!” might annoy people. But I’m sure you’re not looking to become that type of seller.
- Telling people about product features they can see for themselves (e.g. it’s 8″ x 10″, made with a green plaid material, etc.), is not helpful.
- Watching people shop and saying nothing while they’re at your table is awkward.
- Looking at your phone or talking to other vendors while they shop is a little rude.
You have to uncover the features people care about and share your story.
People buy handmade because of the authenticity that comes with it. They’re not buying one of a million made or items made in a factory as quickly and cheaply as possible.
Give craft show shoppers an experience, teach them something they didn’t know, and leave them with a story they can re-tell to friends and become more interesting themselves, just by meeting you 😉
If you really hate selling, check out these ideas to promote your products without speaking.
DO’S: What Craft Show Shopper SHOULD See
Now that the don’ts are out of the way…what exactly SHOULD a craft show shopper see? Here are my top 5’s:
DO #1 – You selling something unique
I would like to tell you the fact your products are handmade by you gives them a unique angle, but that’s just not the case anymore.
Handmade is everywhere and people can hop online and buy handmade products at any time so there must be something truly unique about what you’re selling so shoppers say “I have to have it!” rather than, “let me think about it, see if anyone is selling something similar I can get at a lower price”.
People buy without hesitation when they know they’ve found something truly unique, they won’t find it anywhere else.
The hunt is over, there’s no question; if they don’t buy now, they may miss the opportunity to own your amazing piece.
>> Are you selling word art people could ask another vendor to make or that they themselves could whip up on their computer using a similar font and text?
>> Or are you selling word art in color collections that match popular paint colors, with inspirational messages hand-painted on old window panes gathered from farms around the city?
The latter is a little more difficult to replicate right?
>> Are you selling a variety of jewelry using different stones and beads or are you THE vendor to turn to if someone wants authentic, high-quality turquoise statement pieces in a bohemian style?
>> Are you selling bars of soap in a variety of scents or are you offering astrology-themed bars of soap infused with crystals and stamped with astrology signs?
>> Are you selling a variety of knitted scarves or oversized, chunky-knit scarves in a high-quality, animal-friendly, environmentally-friendly yarn?
You get the idea.
Your work is amazing but you can take it to the next level with just a few small tweaks and watch your sales increase. You just need to find your niche and unique selling position (USP).
It will set you apart from vendors selling similar products at an event (or online), have craft show shoppers remembering you, and getting more repeat customers because they can’t find products as great as yours anywhere else.
Finding your USP is covered in step 1 of my FREE 5-day challenge, which you can sign up for here or below:
DO #2 – You selling something specific
Working off point #1, part of creating a strong USP is narrowing down your selection.
So many handmade vendors go overboard with their products, trying to offer something for every crafts show shopper who walks through the door.
But that’s the wrong approach.
Offering too much variety adds stress to you. How do you know which products to make and how much to make of them? How many different tools and materials do you need to make each item? How are you going to display everything properly?
And it adds confusion for the shopper.
>> What’s your expertise? Is it a jack of all trades, master of none scenario?
>> Do they have to worry about their item falling apart?
>> Which pieces actually go together?
People who shop handmade love 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.
You are not a department store.
Don’t stress yourself out trying to offer a wide variety of goods.
You’ll actually increase sales by reducing options.
When it comes to handmade, you should try to focus on one category of product and one specific style. The more variety you add the less time there is to do everything 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.
DO #3 – A Branded eye-catching display
There’s a lot to take in at a craft show 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.
The point isn’t to attract everyone, it’s to attract your ideal customer.
Does your customer like delicate feminine details or are they into bold and colorful 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.
For example, a feminine brand might use a soft pink-colored tablecloth and repeat the color throughout the space. Their signage may use a script font and be displayed in mirrored 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 out.
Need help determining what your style is and how to bring it to life in your craft show display? That’s covered in my FREE 5 DAYS TO A STANDOUT DISPLAY.
I’ll walk you through each of the elements that make an attractive (to your ideal customer) display and one that not only attracts craft show shoppers but also converts them into buyers. Read a bit more about the challenge here or jump right in and sign up for free below!
You also want your display to say: QUALITY
Craft show displays and the details within them often take a backseat. But the effort you put into your products should carry over into the way they’re presented (online or off).
You want craft show 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 re-purposed household items; a painted cheese grater, a meshed metal garbage can, and some chicken wire stapled into a frame. The necklaces are sitting flat on the table or hanging off more re-purposed 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.
How much would you be expecting the jewelry pieces to be?
Now imagine each individual piece being showcased on a perfectly sanded, 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 jeweler’s logo printed on them.
What price range would you expect these items to be?
>> The first booth decreases the value of the jewelry
>> The second booth increases the value of the jewelry
When amazing products are surrounded by lackluster 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.
DO #4 – A display that evokes a feeling
When’s the last time you purchased something you didn’t need that made you feel “meh”? Probably never.
We buy things that excite us and that we can imagine in our lives.
>> We think about how great a piece of art will look in a room and the conversations it will spark or how it will make us feel every time we walk by it.
>> We imagine how great our skin will look after switching to a soap that’s free of harsh, irritating chemicals and how confident we’ll feel showing it off in the summer.
>> We picture the exact outfit we’ll wear a pair of earrings with and how amazing we’ll look.
You have to pull those thoughts and feelings out of your shoppers so they have a positive feeling while looking at your display, products, or signage.
It’s simple to do once you think about the feeling you want to evoke or the way a customer might use, wear or display your products. Then it’s just a matter of applying those ideas to the finishes, props, signage, etc. in your space.
I’ll walk you through how to find your story and evoke a feeling through the FREE 5 Day Email Challenge.
DO #5 – A helpful vendor
If I’m selling high-end jewelry, I need to dress the part. If my ideal customer is a well-put-together woman, me sporting casual wrinkly clothes, messy hair, and chipped nail polish sends them a conflicting message.
If your products say “sophisticated”, your look and language should too. Walk the walk, talk the talk and look the part of your brand.
Craft show shoppers want to feel they’re buying from an authentic, knowledgeable 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 salesperson telling you the features and benefits of each laptop? 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:
- Exclusive – people always want to feel like they’re part of an exclusive club or the first to know about something. Do you make a limited number of products or give first dibs on new product lines to subscribers of your newsletter?
- Extreme – Are your products “too” something for most people but “just right” for your ideal customer? i.e. too healthy (muffins that are too healthy for most but perfect for the health-conscious, gluten-free, dairy-free, sugar-free, preservative-free eater), too moisturizing (too thick of a cream for most but perfect for those who suffer from really dry skin in the winter), too bold (too “in your face” for most but perfect for those who love to make a strong statement). This is a good way to find your niche and create products that solve a specific need. What is it about your product that makes it a bit too extreme or over the top for some people but perfect for your ideal customer? Seth Godin explains this concept in the book (affiliate link) The Purple Cow *Affiliate link means I’ll receive a commission if you purchase through my link, at no extra cost to you. Please read the full disclosure here
- Exciting – excitement is hard to hide and it’s infectious. What is it about your products that get you really excited? The materials, the process, the way they can be used? This is info you’ll want to share with shoppers.
- Exceptional – when you go above and beyond, shoppers are blown away. They then become cheerleaders for your products and your business and can’t help but talk about how amazing the product, customer service, etc. is. What do you do that goes beyond what most shoppers would expect?
- Expertise – the more you become an expert in your field, the easier it is to talk about your products and the more people feel they’re getting value. Which area would you consider yourself an expert in? Have you put a ton of time into researching materials, production techniques, or sourcing biodegradable packaging?
I cover what’s really essential when it comes to selling and your sales pitch in the FREE 5 DAY CHALLENGE.
Once you have your selling points figured out, don’t be afraid to share them. You won’t come across as a needy salesperson when your intention is to educate and help people.
If you’re looking to continue on your journey to learning more about craft shows and making more money at them, check out these options:
- MAKING PRODUCTS THAT PROFIT (free download)
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!