Thursday, April 2, 2009

Tips for Having a Successful Show

Most artisans sell their creations at shows. Even though more and more are joining the Internet community, successful sellers realize that their potential customers want to see and touch the creations in person; after all the subtle nuances of a piece are often what attracts a buyer, and many times these can only be appreciated in person.

If you are used to mainly selling over the Internet, the idea of doing a show IRL (in real life) can be very intimidating. There is a certain safety towards your ego when selling over the Internet–you can’t see any negative reactions to your work…but you can’t experience the joy of someone falling in love with one of your creations either.

If you have decided it’s time to branch out into shows, or even if you have a few under your belt, here are some suggestions to help make your experience a successful one, both financial and mentally.

Make certain you visit the show before you agree to sell there!
Unless you have sworn testimonials from many trusted friends, you need to actually attend a show to see if your items will be well received. A local church craft bazaar or small summer craft fair may not be the right market for your creations. If a local craft show has an open vendor policy, that means anyone can set up a table and sell pretty much anything. If you make beautiful, handcrafted, wire-wrapped jewelry, why would you want to sell along side of grandma’s foam cut-out Christmas trees (no offense to grandma)! You wouldn’t expect to sell your jewelry at Wal-mart, you would look for higher-end shops that appreciate your work, mainly because customers that will appreciate (and buy!) your work will seek out those shops.

Also by visiting the show, you can see the conditions for yourself in regards to the lighting and spacing. You can determine if the organizer is on the ball and has arranged the artists for optimal traffic flow. You can also observe the type of people who are already attending this event; is it a nice mix of customers, people mainly looking for a bargain, or art conisseurs looking for a one-of-a-kind piece?

Set up your display ahead of time as a dry run.
You will already be running on adrenaline before your show starts, even if you are an old pro! You definitely don’t want to be stressing out because you didn’t think ahead as to how you wanted to set up your display. Also, when you set your display up at home you can immediately pack up everything as you pull your practice display down, reducing the likelihood that you will forget something important! In addition, this planning ahead will force you to think of everything you might need. Since I mainly sell my jewelry at shows, I know I need to include:
  • hand-held mirrors;

  • clipboard with newsletter sign-up info;

  • business cards;

  • extra pens;

  • extra price tags; and

  • scissors to cut the price tags in case the buyer wants to wear their purchase immediately.
Make arrangements to accept credit cards!
Considering there are so many affordable merchant services available now, there is no excuse for the serious artist not to accept credit cards. I currently use a service that many people recommended, Propay. I personally find this service very easy to use, and sell more higher-priced items as a result. There are others out there as well, I just don’t have the personal experience with them to recommend them to others.

If you do accept credit cards, make a folder for your credit card receipts. Make a “cheat sheet” with the instructions and information needed to process a credit card and tape it to the inside of the folder. This will also come in handy if you have a booth helper; they won’t have to interrupt you to take the card info, since they will have the directions in front of them. Once the show is over, you will already have your credit receipts in a folder making it easy to keep organized for bookkeeping purposes.

Be friendly!!!
This is probably the most important advice, and also the one thing you can absolutely control. You can have a million things go wrong, but the customer doesn’t need to know that. You would be amazed at how many shows I have been to, both as a vendor and as a buyer, where Sally Sourpuss is just sitting along at her table, ignoring nearly everyone who walks by (she may occasionally make eye contact with someone she thinks may have money to burn). There is no way you will have a good show if you don’t smile and acknowledge the people who are taking the time to look at your work, however briefly. Don’t be afraid to ask them how they are doing, and don’t get discouraged if they don’t buy something right away. They are more likely to remember you for being nice, and return to you for a purchase at a future show.

And if you feel you are having a horrible show, and inside feel anything but happy, I have two words of advice: Fake it! Being nice never hurt sales, but being unfriendly definitely will.

This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the amount of advice that is out there for having a show. However, it should be enough to get you going and have a great time while meeting your customers face-to-face. Believe me, there is nothing that beats having a perfect stranger come up to your creations and re-affirm that your work is, indeed, beautiful.

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