For many years I’ve had the opportunity to sell my product in public venues.
I’ve sold my handcrafted quilts at local craft shows, larger regional juried craft shows, and a local crafts cooperative. Most recently I marketed the International Association of Creative Arts Professionals at the International Quilt Market. All are great places to sell your work, meet your customers, and gather marketing information.
Whether you sell your work in a small retail venue or a trade show like Quilt Market, here are some tips to help you increase sales:
#1 Set an intention
Spend time ahead getting clear on your intention or goal for the show.
Is it to make a certain amount of sales, to get your patterns picked up by a distributor, to test a new product? Maybe your intention is to get names for your mailing list so you can connect in the future. When you are clear on your intent, you’ll be more focused, and your results will show that.
#2 Connect with your customer
Establish eye contact with show visitors, smile, and engage them in a conversation. Ask questions that will lead to an answer that is not yes or no. Share something of yourself and your product. Your customer is buying you as much as she is buying your product.
I’m sure you’ve been to a show where the craftsperson sits on a chair in the corner of an empty booth. I sure have. Of course that booth is empty; no one feels welcome to enter! Get up and greet your customer.
#3 Qualify your buyer
It’s important to separate the browsers from the buyers, particularly at a wholesale trade show.
Quilt Market is filled with what I call “the entourage,” quilters who want to see what Market is all about. They aren’t qualified to buy.
I love quilters who want to become involved in our industry; they keep our industry vital. However, while they may have some influence or be the buyer of the future, they are not the decision-maker today.
I’m not saying to ignore them or be rude. You can engage them in a conversation, only find out who makes the buying decision and try to get to that person.
That same rule of advice applies to retail shows, just differently. Many of your friends will stop by your booth to say hi. They are not necessarily your customers, so while you are chatting with them be sure you don’t neglect the buying customer.
#4 Share literature
Have plenty of handouts and brochures. Not everyone is ready to make a decision when they first meet you. Some like to take materials back to the hotel room and compare before buying. Be sure to bring an original of your handouts in the event you need to get copies during the show.
Have plenty of business cards. Be sure to include both your website and other contact information. Not all your buyers will purchase while they are in your booth or even at the show. Make it easy for them to see your product line.
#5 Make your display stand out
Look for ways to make your booth stand out from the others. As they say, you only have one chance to make a first impression. Make a good one.
This might be extra or unique signage. It could be demos – they really do get people into your booth to buy. It could be special items on display. It might be extra lighting.
Try a “dress rehearsal” in your garage to see if the booth looks comfortable and inviting.
#6 Try giveaways
Promotional giveaways are a way to extend the reach of your booth. These are most often done at wholesale shows.
These range from branded items, such as pins and pens, to a raffle for your product/service. At a retail show, it could be as simple as the basket of mints or chocolate that draws people in.
If you give away big stickers or pins, you can turn it into a game. If someone
Similar to this idea is the scavenger hunt/booth hop that I’ve seen at Quilt Market over the past few years. A group of vendors band together to offer prizes. As an attendee, you collect a stamp from each vendor to win a chance at the prize.
#7 Keep a journal
Make a point of keeping notes. You can do this digitally or on paper. I usually take a 6″ by 8″ notebook with me.
Here are some of the things you might track:
- Activities in your booth that worked and didn’t.
- People you need to follow up with. Staple their card in your notebook with appropriate notes. Alternately scan their card into your phone.
- Your general impressions of the show and whether you should do it again.
- Any problems you had with your booth set up or changes you would make in the future.
- Expenses by day
- Ideas of things to do in your next booth or at your next show
#8 Protect your biggest asset
You are your biggest asset, so be sure you are watching your energy. It’s so easy to get exhausted and burn out.
Keep up your energy. Have healthy snacks and water in the booth. Try to stick to your regular sleeping routine, something I find hard to do at shows.
Be sure to take breaks, give yourself time to eat, relax a bit from your show booth.
If possible, have someone else help you in the booth, so you can each take a shift. If that’s not possible, see if you can hire someone to come relieve you at intervals.
#9 Follow up quickly
The fortune is in the follow-up.
Follow up with new leads and contacts shortly after the show ends.
I went to a conference once and one woman followed up with an email to say nice to connect the evening we met. While that timing likely isn’t feasible at a trade show, make the effort to connect sooner rather than later.
You put a lot of energy into a retail or wholesale show. You collected names of people who were interested in your business or product. You made notes in your journal. Don’t let that effort go to waste.
It’s your turn!
What do you do to make your booth stand out and increase your ROI?