Community fairs and markets are becoming increasingly popular, providing a nice environment for many artisans to market their wares. To maximize the potential of these short-term venues, consider the following tips.
Look like you want to do business. Too many exhibiters at flea markets, craft shows, fairs and conventions seem to think the merchandise speaks for itself. Yes, it’s hard work to stand on your feet and greet passers-by, but doing so will let people know you’re proud of what you have to offer.
It’s astonishing how many sellers seem to have missed this basic part of marketing, preferring to curl up with a book or chat with other sellers while ignoring the people that they’re there to serve. Nobody wants to do business with someone who is wearing a “do not disturb” sign.
Go out of your way to greet people as they pass. Offer a sample or brochure, even a piece of candy. Make your stand a standout by your cheerfulness. Remember, too, that special events have a holiday spirit about them, so potential customers are usually more relaxed and friendly.
Good manners matter in dealing with a wide range of people. Some time ago, I was putting together a slide show about entrepreneurship and decided to take pictures of people selling at a flea market in California. One man offered to do a product demonstration for me. When I finished snapping my pictures, I thanked him and began walking away. He hurled an insult at me for not purchasing—despite the fact that his demonstration had drawn a crowd of spectators. That’s a classic case of turning opportunity into adversity. I’m sure his nasty attitude cost him sales.
Arouse curiosity. Marketing is easier when someone asks you about your business, so find a way to bring people to your booth with a question on their mind. It will provide a perfect opening for you to talk about what you have to offer. If you market antique tools, for instance, you could display an unusual implement and ask passers-by to guess what it is. Or have a contest to guess how many dog biscuits or jelly beans are in a container. Anything that makes people stop and take a closer look increases your odds of making a sale.
Depending on your product, you might create an ongoing event by working as you exhibit. One man who travels around the country selling his popular twig furniture always attracts people to his display by working on pieces and answering questions from the crowd about his technique.
Make your booth look different from the others. Look around any convention hall or flea market and you’ll notice that most displays are almost indistinguishable from one another. While many events have stringent rules about what you can and cannot do with your rented space, you still have plenty of leeway in using color or graphics or, even, costumes to help you stand out from the crowd. Find out how much creative opportunity is permitted and take advantage of it. Simple things like soft music or a catchy theme can make your display memorable.
Plant seeds for future business. We’ve all seen those conventioneers with their plastic bags stuffed full of brochures that get tossed away once they’re home. You, of course, want to be remembered, so adding another brochure for the trash makes no sense.
Get creative. Come up with something useful, like a how-to tip sheet of information aimed at the interests of your audience. If you’re selling dried floral wreaths, for instance, you could give visitors a tip sheet with ideas for keeping their wreaths and dried flowers fresh longer. They’ll appreciate the helpful hints and be more apt to hang on to your piece. Be sure, also, that anything you give away has your name and address on it so people can find you again if they want more of your product.
Whether selling through flea markets and special events is your main business or a sideline, keep attention-getting ideas in mind, and experiment until you find the ones that help you stand out. Not only will it attract new customers, but it will also help you become a familiar presence, bringing repeat customers back time and again because you made a good impression the first time.
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