My handmade business started when I sold at my first craft fair. I used them as a staple to grow my business and was always on a quest to sell more at craft fairs, so I went to work on several aspects of my business. I chose a name I liked, had logos, business cards, product tags, a website, etc. designed to suit my preferences and made products I wanted to make, when I had time to make them.
When it came to craft fairs, I signed up for ones that suited my schedule, were put on by organizers I knew and would be filled with other vendors I loved. I created stock based on what I thought might sell and how much I could fit in before the event.
I created my display based on what was most convenient for me. Baskets from around my house were emptied and used as display fixtures and my dining room table was stripped of its tablecloth. Signs were printed the night before, sharing the name of a product and the price.
I made all the decisions based on what suited my wants and needs best.
But a successful business can’t operate based solely on what makes the owner happy.
It needs sales.
In order to make sales, a business must operate based on what makes the customer happy.
Imagine if a clothing retailer operated in a similar way to my handmade business.
The business owner only stocked shelves with pieces they loved. And since they didn’t like showing their legs, they didn’t carry shorts (or skirts or dresses).
They preferred not to get up before noon and wanted every weekend off so their doors were closed most hours their customer was likely to shop.
There wasn’t a schedule followed when buying new items for the store or refreshing the sales floor, so there was only a winter selection when customers were ready to buy summer clothes.
Their product was displayed on pieces of furniture pulled from the storeowner’s home; an old dining room table, a coffee table from the basement, a metal storage unit from the garage and an old bookshelf from their office.
Would you shop at that store?
Because the business owner has put their own wants and needs before customers’.
We typically like to surround ourselves with people who are thoughtful and considerate of our feelings in our personal lives, so why would it be any different when it comes to the businesses we support?
THE KEY TO MORE CRAFT SHOW SALES: BE CUSTOMER-FOCUSED
To sell more at craft fairs, you must put the customer first.
At first glance, it may seem you’re already putting your customers first. After all, the products you make are for them, you set up at craft fairs for them, spend hours talking to them throughout the day, etc.
But chances are, “what would my customer really appreciate?” isn’t at the front of every decision.
A business owner is usually thinking: “I hope people will buy this”.
Customer-focused companies are 60% more profitable according to this stat, a pretty good reason to change your perspective. Customers are also willing to pay more for a better customer experience, according to this article.
Being customer-focused doesn’t mean having great customer service (although that’s part of it).
It means, thinking about customers’ wants, needs, likes, dislikes, problems, etc. when making any decision in your business.
Consider the dentist performing a root canal on you. You don’t just want good customer service when it comes to dealing with the receptionist, paying bills and booking appointments.
You want the atmosphere to be calming, maybe even spa-like. The dentist chairs to be comfy, for people in the dental office to be friendly and sympathetic to your anxiety, privacy from other patients, and you’d probably appreciate the dentist being extremely gentle when freezing the area and working on your tooth. You might also be grateful for headphones to block the sound of drilling.
Imagine how many people would book appointments with that dentist and refer friends and family.
Almost every detail of your business can be focused on your customers and making them happy if you want to sell more at craft fairs.
STEP 1 – KNOW WHO YOU CAN BEST SERVE
Don’t look at who your products would be the best fit for…that’s putting the cart before the horse.
But rather, which group of people do you share common interests with? Who do you really understand? Who can you bond with? (products you currently make aside)
That’s who you should be creating products for.
Yes, even if you have existing products that aren’t exactly a match for them. You can change your products; you can’t change your customers’ behavior.
For me, I totally get cat people. I know what it’s like to be obsessed with cats. I understand the need to pet a cat when there’s one in a room and that cat lovers don’t look at cats as pets, but rather members of the family.
I can speak cat-lovers’ language.
If I already had an existing product (handbags, jewelry, scarves or soaps) and wasn’t feeling like I was connecting with customers, didn’t have a strong brand or was struggling with marketing and sales, I would brainstorm and test ways to alter existing products or introduce new ones that would appeal to my kind of people (cat people).
I could shift to cat-themed products, make my products more animal-friendly, donate a portion of sales to a cat cause or simply brand my products towards cat lovers…even if the product had nothing to do with cats. (Wine has no obvious connection to cats, however, there’s a popular wine in a cat-shaped bottle that I receive as a gift every time I host dinner, just because friends & family know I love cats).
What type of customer do you understand and are able to speak their language?
Try filling in the blank based on your interests:
I’m a ____________ lover.
Are there thousands or millions of other people who are also _____________ lovers?
Can you create a product or service for them or alter your products or brand to be better suited for them?
Tip: forget what you already sell when filling in the blank so you don’t force a connection.
Be sure the product you choose to sell to your kind of people is profitable. To get an idea of what I mean by profitable, check out:
And if you need product ideas that could work with a new direction, check out:
STEP 2 – GET IN YOUR CUSTOMERS’ HEADS
Once you’ve found people you can connect with, think about their idiosyncrasies.
Consider how they think and behave as they go about their day.
What do other __________ lovers get joy from during the day?
What problems do they tend to run into?
In my situation I completely understand the passions around cats; wanting to feed them the best food, see them happy, buy toys we think they’ll love, being entertained watching them play, etc.
I also understand the problems related to being a cat owner; cat hair on everything, smelly litter boxes and litter being tracked out of the box, stressful vet visits, wanting to save every cat in the world, etc.
I would write down all the things I love about cats, the issues I run into having a cat as a pet, the solutions I wish there were, etc.
Also, consider your fellow ________ lovers’ thoughts and behavior when shopping.
>> What goes through their minds when shopping for a product like yours?
>> What are their objections? What makes them think, Hmmm, I don’t know…
Consumers are either talking themselves out of a sale or into one when shopping, so you must understand both sides.
What is someone talking themselves out of a sale thinking? Perhaps:
I don’t really need it
I’m not sure if this will be a good purchase
What if the quality isn’t good?
It’s kind of expensive
Maybe I could find something similar for a cheaper price
What might someone be thinking if they’re talking themselves into a sale? Perhaps:
I’d get so much use out of it
It’s actually a pretty good price
I’d have a hard time finding this anywhere else
I’ll get lots of compliments
This information will be beneficial when shifting your business to be more customer-focused on your path to sell more at craft fairs. We’ll apply it in the next step.
STEP 3 – APPLY CUSTOMER INFORMATION
Once you’re familiar with the type of customer you can best serve and have uncovered a bunch of information regarding their wants, needs, likes, etc. you can apply that information to elements at a craft fair to sell more.
For example, going through my list of what cat people love about their cats and have problems with, I could uncover several ways to make a cat lover’s life a bit better. It may be through products that appeal to a cat lover’s passions or problems, or I could make people feel good about their purchases by donating a portion of sales to a local cat shelter. I may wear a funny cat t-shirt at a craft show, create a cute cat-themed display and build a connection with other cat lovers by asking about their cats.
There are so many little details you can get into once you start thinking about all the areas people connect with your brand. Here are a few craft fair areas to start.
A) YOU (THE VENDOR)
What type of person would your ideal customer be drawn to at a craft fair? Someone who’s a Chatty Cathy, high energy, life of the party or someone who’s a little more reserved, speaks quietly and has a very calming energy?
How might your ideal customer dress when using your product? Birds of a feather flock together so try mimicking how your customer might look when wearing the earrings you make, while in the kitchen using one of your handmade cutting boards, how they want their skin to look after using your cleanser, oils and lotions, etc.
B) YOUR DISPLAY
Consider the overall vibe and style your ideal customer is attracted to and how you can convey that in your display.
Take the free 5-day challenge to help sort out your display’s vibe and style and how to build a powerful display. Find out more and join for free here
What color(s) or shades of colors is your ideal customer drawn to? Do bright vibrant primary colors catch their eye or are they attracted to soft pastels?
These colors can come through in display fixtures and props or you can plan product collections that alter with the season.
For example, your customer may love pastels in spring, neons in summer and deep rich colors in fall and winter. Your display elements may stay neutral so your product colors stand out.
But you must strategically plan collections based on what your customer is shopping for and when. You wouldn’t want to showcase a neon collection and a burgundy & rust colored collection at the same event.
Learn how to create product collections when you join the free 5-day challenge; it includes a free download that covers how to properly plan and build product collections.
Also consider how your ideal customer prefers to shop. Are they a show-me-exactly-how-this-should-look, I’ll-buy-what’s-on-the-mannequin type shopper or are they someone who likes to sift and sort through treasures to come up with their own look/style? Apply this shopping method at a craft fair to sell more to your ideal customer.
C) YOUR PRODUCTS
What might your ideal customer buy together at a craft fair? If someone’s looking for a new pair of earrings, they aren’t likely to be in the right mood to shop for paintings. So instead of filling your craft table with everything you can/want to make, think about which products are convenient for your ideal customer to buy together.
How can you make it easier for shoppers to choose you? Think about their objections, problems, wants, etc. before they do, so when they say, “this is great but I wish it had ________”, you have an option and get rid of the excuse for them not to buy.
Make it easy for them to spend their money.
*Don’t go overboard thinking about everything a shopper might want to buy or you’ll be right back in the “offering too much” position. Think about your ideal customer and their specific wants. I wouldn’t try to appeal to every cat owner and every possible product a cat owner might need, but rather those who share my sense of style, choice of colors/prints, have a similar sense of humor when it comes to their cats and who are interested in the specific product I’m offering (e.g. handbags made with cat-themed fabrics) and closely related products (e.g. coin purses made with cat-themed fabrics).
D) YOUR SALES PITCH & SIGNAGE
What do your craft fair shoppers need to hear to be ready to buy? Don’t assume they understand every feature of your products or know the options you offer.
Recall their wants, needs, passions, problems, etc. and communicate how your products address them.
Be sure to use the keywords you used when describing your passions/problems as they’re likely the same ones your ideal customer would use.
I wouldn’t say “The fur from my cat appears on all my clothes, it’s quite frustrating” I would say “There’s cat hair on everything! Every time I sit down, I’m covered in cat hair. I have to vacuum every second day in the summer because he sheds like crazy when it’s hot”.
Go back and look at what you came up with in STEP 2 when thinking about the objections shoppers might have. Speak to those first so you don’t even give doubt chance to creep in their minds.
For example, the “I’m not sure this will be a good purchase” doubt can be remedied through signage sharing a few testimonials. The idea that “maybe I could find something similar for a cheaper price” can be stopped in its tracks by simply letting shoppers know you’re familiar with similar products on the market and that they won’t find this quality for a lower price.
When it comes to what your ideal customer thinks when talking themselves into a sale, be sure you feed that momentum and don’t have anything in place that might bring it to a halt.
For example, you can build momentum on “I would get so much use out of this” by using table signage at a craft fair that shows pictures of all the ways one can use your product.
You can also use your common interests as a subject to base small talk on and build a connection.
If my brand was all about cats and attracted other cat lovers, don’t you think I’d sell more at craft fairs if I sparked conversations with shoppers about their cats, asked questions about them, found common ground, etc. rather than if I simply let them shop my products in silence?
It makes people feel good when they make connections, and a lot more willing to spend money. Have you ever felt like spending money when you’re in a bad mood or when a salesperson isn’t being helpful?
It’s easy to slip back into what’s the quickest/easiest/cheapest/etc. way to complete this task-type thinking. But if you keep reminding yourself to think about the customer and how they want to feel, you’ll start to see noticeable changes in your business and how people interact with it.
How are you going to add more of a customer focus in your business to sell more at craft fairs? 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!