making vendor shows work for you (part 1)

Local craft and vendor shows are a great way to keep your Who Do You Know list fresh, bringing new names and contacts into your pipeline. Finding success at a vendor show can be hit-or-miss. There are a few things to consider so you can maximize your chances at success.

I typically do 3-4 vendor shows throughout the year so I thought I'd share some insight. In fact, I recently attended a local Spring Bazaar where I employed these tactics!

[I had so much to say on this topic, I'm going to split it into two posts. Be sure to Subscribe to the blog for an update when the next post is up!]

First and foremost, deciding which events to commit to and which to pass on is extremely important. The best way to prep yourself for this decision is to simply do your research! You want to make sure the event will be worth your while and the biggest factor tied to that is event attendance. There is no way to predict the actual turnout for these types of events, but you can make a pretty good judgment call when you keep these things in mind:
  • Date and time of the event. Are there other events happening in the area that day? Is the event marketed to 'shop for Mothers Day' but any orders you take that day will need time to ship? If it's a particularly busy time of year for you, would your time be better spent doing an in-home trunk show (the bread & butter of this business)?
  • Location. Is the event in a well-known and easy-to-find location? If it's at a rec centre or conference venue, are there other events/activities happening that will draw attendees? If the event is large-scale and expecting attendees who have traveled quite a distance, will you be willing to travel if your new contact wants to book a TS?
  • Awareness. Are the event organizers experienced with this type of event? Are they familiar with marketing strategy? Where is the event being marketed? Has this event been held before? Sometimes a company/group will hold the event at the same time every year, for several years - this is great! Look for events like that.
  • Vendors. What other vendors will be there? Are there other direct sales companies that are well known and will bring attendees? Are there many vendors selling homemade goods? [When I attend events with lots of homemade jewels, my S&D jewels always get that 'Wow, that's expensive!' look.] Be sure to ask if there is already an S&D stylist attending before you commit to the event.
  • Audience. Who is the event targeting - New moms? Business executives? Entrepreneurs? Retirees? Crafters? Don't discriminate (since S&D is great for everyone) but it's important to keep the audience in mind when you're deciding your strategy [which I will discuss in Part 2 of this post!]
Another thing to consider while you research is cost. I have participated in events (like national bridal shows) that cost upwards of $1000 for the 'booth' space; I have also done events where it cost me $5 for the space but I had to bring my own table. If you've looked at all the factors in the list above and your event in question seems to be scoring pretty high, you'd probably be happy with paying a higher vendor fee. However, if the list raises a few concerns, be wary.

I have done a few shows that missed the mark on a lot of the points above, and drew very little attendance, but ended up being very successful days. One show, for example, was a local fundraiser for the high school swim team - it cost me $20 for the table and resulted in two dozen new leads and two new trunk show dates. Those shows ended up selling $2000+! I'm glad I took the risk and did it... but as I said, it can be hit-or-miss.

Once you've decided to do the vendor show... what comes next? I'll discuss that in Part 2 :)
making vendor shows work for you part 1

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