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November 5, 2013

How to Have a Successful Craft Show: 20 Tips and Tricks

'Tis the season for one of my favorite things -- craft shows! I've wanted to put together a "craft show tips and tricks" post for quite a while now -- mostly because I remember scouring the Internet before my first event for information, and I don't remember finding anything too helpful. Let's just say I was more than a little clueless at my first show. I had only been seriously selling my paper products for a little over a year at the time, and putting them out there in person before an audience seemed totally intimidating. How should I set up my booth? Should I offer discounted pricing? How much money should I bring with me for change? Will people buy any of my stuff?! I didn't want to break the bank on my set-up, and I was still figuring out my price points for everything I was going to sell...

Well, I've learned a lot since my first craft show, which was December 2011. You can see my booth progression in a few photos below. Even though I stumbled through my first couple of events, I've had a blast at every single one I've been a part of! Craft shows are a great way to meet new people, talk with your customers and get your creative juices flowing for new ideas. Putting yourself out there is always a good thing!

Of course, I'm always learning, but here are 20 craft show tips and tricks I've picked up over the last couple of years:


1. Mark every product with a price; don't rely on signage alone to communicate this for you. This was the biggest mistake I made when I was a first-time vendor at a craft show. I thought that because I had framed signs near my products, I didn't need to mark every single item with a price -- but I quickly realized that wasn't going to work. People didn't always notice the signage, and even worse, they were reluctant to ask about pricing, moving on without buying anything. So...

2. Use signage in addition to marking all products with prices. Also, if you're offering a deal to customers for buying more than one item, make a separate sign with this information; there's no need to include it on every tag. Also, I wouldn't spend time pricing items by hand. Use a scrapbook punch to make tags or small signs, or format address labels or other stickers with pricing information on your computer.


3. Invest in a 6' x 4' banquet table. This seems totally obvious, but I didn't invest in a big table until my third craft show. At first, I used what I had at home: a card table, my folding bar cart and a bench. It was too much to carry and lug around, and in the end, my set-up wasn't strong. Having one or two banquet tables makes things a lot simpler, plus the end result looks neat and solid. Try to find a table that folds for easy storage and transportation, and shop around -- sometimes you can find a table at a thrift store or Craigslist if you look hard enough!

My booth progression, December 2011 to November 2013:




4. Keep everything at eye level. Try to avoid setting up a low bench or small table that isn't in plain view, because most of the time, people aren't going to see them! Set up displays on banquet tables, and consider building them vertically -- place a bench or box under certain products to give them height and visibility, or hang framed items on large shutters or dividers. A good rule of thumb is to display everything at waist level or higher -- but be creative in how you do it!


5. Organize products and put similar objects together. Before you set up your booth, consider which items will look best next to each other by comparing complementary colors and themes. And place any holiday items together in one spot so customers won't miss anything! 

6. Consider lowering your prices for craft shows (a la wholesale vs. retail). I live in a college town, which means many people who come to local craft shows are on a tight budget. No matter where you live, you need to consider your customers and the price points they'll be comfortable paying before you set a dollar amount for each product you sell. Of course, always value your hard work and craft first and foremost! Try asking yourself what you would pay for something -- or ask a good friend. I sell most of my products at retail prices, but I've found I sell more of certain products if I slash the price in half for craft shows. As long as you're making a decent profit, everything is all good!

7. Be available and say "hi." I greet almost everyone with a "hello," or "good morning!" Don't hover, but be friendly and available if customers have a question.


8. Have professional business cards made before each show. I print mine through Overnightprints.com, and I'm always pleased with the quality and price. I set my business cards out in a few spots at each show so customers can easily grab one before they leave. Make more than you need -- most everyone takes a business card when they visit your table, so I recommend coming to shows with at least 100 to 200 cards just in case you run out.


9. Use tablecloths. Tablecloths should definitely be used; they make your table(s) look crisp, clean and "finished." However, sometimes you might have to use multiple cloths to make your set-up look neat and hide any storage under your table. I personally prefer natural, light solids for craft show tablecloths because I think too much pattern or color can visually compete with your products. Shop around; you can often find a seamstress to make tablecloths for you that will fit a banquet table and cover all sides evenly if you don't like the layered look. Or, if you're good with a sewing machine, you can always make them yourself! (Unfortunately, sewing is not my forte.) I recently purchased a couple of fitted banquet tablecloths from Linen Table Cloth; they're just long enough to hide any boxes underneath my tables. I also drape a few natural linen tablecloths (cheap, from Walmart!) over them to break up the bright white. Both could use a good ironing...remind me to bring Wrinkle Release to my next craft show!


10. Use what you have for displays. Poke around your home, or search thrift shops and antique stores for pieces that could double as displays, like crates, racks, dishes or interesting drawers. And save your receipts so you can write off any craft show-related purchases at tax time!


A vintage seed display I bought for $20 that I use to display my notecard sets


A drawer from a desk in our home -- I love the paint color and the hardware 


A crate and two card catalog drawers I use for displays

11. Set out a notebook or pad to add to your subscriber list. I am still in the early stages of setting up and using a MailChimp account -- I'm planning to have this finished when my new  product website launches (likely early next year). In the meantime, I'm going to set up a small notepad to collect as many e-mail addresses as I can at shows.

12. Make a QR code! I didn't realize until recently how easy this is to do; I went through qrcode.kaywa.com and made a QR code that directs traffic to my Facebook fan page. I display it on my magnet board at shows:


13. Consider making coupons for social media follows to use at shows. send through social media, like on a Facebook Fan page the day or two before a show, on a blog, etc.

14. Make a sign with your logo. In the past I printed a simple sign on card stock and used a wooden hanger to clip the sign and hang it in my booth. I recently made a sign through VistaPrint, and I was really pleased with the result! I took the banner to Kinkos and had grommets installed to each corner for about $5. I also bought Kinko's bungee cords to hang the sign on my tent (under $10 for 4).


15. To stand or sit? I find I do better when I stand behind one of my tables; I think sellers look more approachable this way. (Plus, standing burns calories! Win-win.) Of course, it's nice to pack a chair if it's going to be a long day -- everyone needs to sit down and take a break from time-to-time.




16. Square -- don't leave home without it! These days, most people don't carry a lot of cash around with them -- even when they know they're going to a craft show and may be buying a bunch of goodies. Most vendors these days accept cards, so I recommend signing up for a Square account. I've used it since the beginning, and I've never had an issue with them. Their site is easy to navigate, easy to use, and money is quickly deposited into your bank account within one or two business days after a show. Don't forget to make a few Square signs at your table to let customers know you accept credit cards! 


Square rocks. Photo via The Flickcast

17. Pack a snack, lunch, water and coffee. Depending on how long or busy the day will be, you may not have time for breaks, so be prepared when hunger or thirst strikes! I usually bring my thermos of coffee with me if it's an early morning, and pack a bag lunch with an apple, sandwich and some nuts -- foods that will stay with you and be easy to pick up and put down in between transactions. Stay away from foods that have a strong odor, like those with onions or garlic, or worse -- tuna or anything with a fishy smell! Your craft show neighbors will thank you.


18. Pack a lock-box with craft show necessities. Put your money in a safe place -- a lock box, apron, or stylish fanny pack! I found mine at a thrift store for about $2. Always keep a lock box full of cash behind your booth where it isn't visible to those passing by. Also consider packing a small container with necessities like a calculator (if your phone doesn't already have one), a roll of tape, a pen and any other small items that might help with your display, like clips, yarn or string. Store all of these items in one place, and you'll quickly be able to find them when you're in a pinch!


19. Have bags handy. I used to only buy kraft lunch sacks for purchases, since at first I was only selling notecard sets. Now I'm selling magnets, rubber stamps, iPhone cases, rubber stamps, art prints and framed art prints! More stuff usually means you need bigger bags. I bought kraft gift bags via Nashville Wraps in bulk and stamped my logo on them with a stamp I made through RubberStamps.net. Both companies are wonderful to work with and will provide you with excellent products at fair prices. 


20. Last but not least: Always pack more product than you think you'll need! Even though I've been doing craft shows for a couple of years and know what sells well locally, I'm always running out of certain items. It seems that sometimes I just can't make enough -- which is always a great problem to have! Try to pack as much as you think you can sell, and then add a little extra. It's always better to have too much than too little. 


Happy crafting + selling! -- Natty

5 comments:

  1. Your set up is adorable! Will you be doing any more in the future in the athens area? Would love to come shop!!

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    1. Thanks so much! I am going to be at the Indie South Fair December 7 and 8 in Athens :) Hope to see you!

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  2. Great tips! You're such a pro! I totally support using Square for credit cards. I am so bad about carrying cash, so it is nice to see lots of retailers getting on board with this.

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    1. Yes! Square is the best. If I didn't have one, I would miss out on a lot of sales :)

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  3. hello Natty, thanks for all those tips I translated into french and shared with my readers, they loved it. Also this Square service isn't available in France but force me to have a look for them on what is available on the market for french craft sellers and I did find a solution so I wanted to thank you for it ! You can find my article here, I mentioned your blog of course and use few of your pictures, the idea is to send my readers to your blog as my translation is light !
    http://entrepreneuses-creatives.blogspot.fr/2014/05/20-conseils-pour-reussir-ses-marches-de.html?showComment=1400095177316

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