I’ve been selling my work as exit343design for close to 12 years, both in person at events and on the Interwebs. If I had to describe my business activity, I’d call it “slow and steady.” Throughout the years, I’ve sold and discontinued a variety of items, have vended at shows large and small around the country, tweaked my show setup every year, and have watched makers arrive on the scene, then disappear into a different career. If I had to describe the industry, I’d say it is always evolving and it keeps me on my toes.
This background story leads me to the point of today’s post. Recently, I happened upon something a bit disheartening on good ol’ Instagram. A maker whose work I really enjoy started selling their work at local markets this season. They were taking to the ‘gram to share how disappointed they were with their sales and commented that maybe certain shows weren’t for them.
I applaud the effort to be real with your followers. It’s refreshing! I also understand that every show is not right for every maker. I’ve totally done my fair share of ill-fitting markets. BUT . . . something just didn’t sit right in me when I read that. Guys, as I have said before, I’ve vended at A LOT of shows. I’m still always learning from them. One thing I’ve noticed? You can sell literally ANYTHING. One time I did an event where my neighbor was selling logs and they sold out. SOLD. OUT. You’re allowed to feel discouraged if a show doesn’t go as well as you’d hoped! But, it definitely helps to set realistic expectations beforehand, then reflect upon what you can improve before the next event. It took me four years of selling to clear $1000 in a weekend! It took me another few years after that to make that much in a single day. Being an instant financial success is an exciting prospect, but not realistic. What can you do to increase your odds at selling more? Here’s five things to think about before you do your next event:
1. Have you evaluated your pricing?
Be real with yourself- are your price-points in the right place for a retail market? One thing I’ve worked hard to do is to provide a variety of price-points in my booth. If someone likes my work and only has a couple of bucks, they will always be able to find something to spend those couple of bucks on. Pricing is a delicate balance (if you plan to wholesale, don’t forget to account for those margins as well!) but it’s good to evaluate on a regular basis. I’m now in the habit of revisiting my numbers annually.
2. Have you tried to shop your display?
Seriously- you may have spent hours to building a “pretty” display full of vintage props, but can you actually shop in your booth? Is there enough space to move around in your booth? Is there adequate signage? Is your work priced? Customers should not have to work to buy and they should not have to ask you the prices.
3. Are you showing your customers how your product fits in to their lives?
This can be a tough one, but always an important thing to think about. Customers have very little imagination. Meet them where they are and show them WHY they need your product using examples, photographs, samples, a sales pitch, or whatever else you have in your arsenal! Think about what season you are in- do you have items that are a great gift for mom? Are they the perfect stocking stuffer? Could you offer gift sets to make it an easier sell?
4. Are you showing up to sell?
Arguably, this should be the easiest thing to do. I’ve had days where the load-in was a nightmare, so I did not start my day on the right foot. Do your best to power through it and show up for your customers! What does that mean? Get off your phone, stand up (or get a directors chair to be eye-level), and greet anyone that comes in to your booth. Share you story, ask customers questions, and show them why buying at an event is a better experience than shopping at a big box store.
5. Are you putting in the time?
Selling takes time. Often, it can even be about the long game, not just the event you’re at. There is research that shows people need to see things more than 3 times before making a purchase. How could you be reaching your ideal customer at least 3 times?
6. Bonus: Are you splitting a booth?
Newbie vendors and cheapskates (ME) alike sometimes opt to split a booth. It does have its positives: less financial risk, a booth-mate to help with sales or bathroom breaks, less space to worry about, potentially a new friend. However, one thing I’ve found to be true while splitting a booth: you are essentially forcing customers to make a decision about who to support. Sales with both vendors were rare and there was always a “winner,” whether you want to admit it or not.
Look at what is working for other vendors. Look at what isn’t working for other vendors. Look inward and think about what you’re drawn to when shopping. If you’re not carving out time to evaluate your hits and misses, you’re doing your business a disservice!