We are stepping out of our usual conversations on trade show marketing in general to talk about a specific subset of exhibitors – the entrepreneurs of the craft world. If you’re working in handiwork, crafts or applied arts, you occupy a particular place as a business – one on a very small level that still finds it necessary to engage with visitors face-to-face even in the era of Etsy and other websites for arts and crafts. You can’t sell without meeting people, so the best way to drive sales and gain a recognizable brand is to make an appearance at a trade fair.
Since trade show costs can be very steep (almost prohibitive for most creators), craft workers have to know that they’re going to sell a lot (preferably sell out) to break even, if not make a profit at the event. This brings us to how to sell more at craft fairs. We recognise four major pillars that are beneficial to sales numbers.
Craft fairs are the one subset of trade events, where you can embrace flights of fancy and creativity without any restraint. A bare-bones table with you sitting passively behind it does not bring either you or your products to the forefront of anybody’s mind. It’s why you should focus on display as much as possible. How you arrange your products and their overall presentation presents a visual cue that’s hard to ignore. If your business has a particular theme or mascot or backstory, you have every right to bring those to life. Might we also suggest a colorful costume to spark curiosity in all visitors that happen your way. Everyone wants to interact with the witch, robot or fairy godmother. Of course, you can go in the opposite direction, where a minimalist approach can breed success – the key here is to understand what everyone around you is most likely to do, and then stand out!
The nature of fairs in general lies in competition. Every exhibitor wants to make sales. In direct opposition you have visitors, who are likely on a budget and deciding on who to make purchases from. If you don’t command their attention, they’d be happy to ignore you and your products in favor of your competitors. This means that you need to engage. If you see someone slow down to your table or booth, don’t let them pass you by. The simplest way to establish an interaction (the first step towards making a sale) is just smile and greet the person. Never underestimate the value of simple politeness. If you’re playing up a theme or a character, then having prepared catchphrases to draw in visitors is also recommended. Play up body language and involve props, if it makes the right sense.
Behind the pricing of every item there should be a careful break-even analysis. This analysis takes into account the price of materials needed to make a single product, then you factor in the value of your design and the value of physical work it takes to make a single product. When correctly done, it prevents you from severely underpricing your wares and should never be used as the final price. After all, you want to make a profit on your visit, so you have to think of a proper price point. Are you a boutique brand with a more sophisticated image? Then you’re able to charge above most of your competitors. Do you think you bring some fresh new ideas, but maintain a serviceable quality level? Industry average prices might be good for you, then. Pricing is dependent on your value as a brand and this value fluctuates dependent on context.
By context, we mean the venue. Where you choose to showcase your wares speaks indirectly about your value as a brand? There are craft fairs, and then there are craft fairs. Do your due diligence in advance to signing up as a vendor. Do you see any businesses that you respect and want to reach the success or recognition of? Can you determine the quality of works showcased from photos on the site? Making the right selection is crucial, because in an environment where most on display is discounted or bargain-bin material at best, you can’t command higher prices and your brand will be devalued as a result. You can get away with higher prices and a better reception at events that welcome higher-end creators in your industry. This doesn’t necessarily affect the number of sales, but definitely affects the quality of sales you’ll make.