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Mark C.

Anatomy Of A Great Show

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In my personal opinion, the wealthier the prospective customer is, the less likely they are to be taken in by marketing trends/cons/fashions.  I'm not talking about the newly rich, but the established long-term professionals.  If they don't smoke/drink much/gamble and are savers not spenders, no amount of marketing hype will open their wallet.

 

Good products, attractively displayed by a relaxed sales person, are more likely to sell than those under an orange sign. 

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I agree hole hardheadedly with what was said, some great points were made.  Color and decorate an object to to suit the trends or to separate yourself from the herd. We are marketing to a target group rather than a broad audience like a big box store. Know your target group!  I do think an educated relaxed sales person will close more transactions and sell more than a desperate pushy sales person. 

 

I like to have a focal point to a display that draws in customers and shows off what can be done. It's usually an extravagant unusual  piece that may not sell, but it draws in the target customers to look and touch. I try too keep the focal point new and fresh. If they get their hands on something the odds are better that they will be a buyer. Some may not promote touching, but I think it's usually a biggie in what sells the product.

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"What potters call personal aesthetic marketers call branding."

We call it branding too. I think only the very new and very young are under any illusions about making pottery being all romantic, in that "if you build it they will come" kind of way. And they get disabused of that notion rather quickly. Proper business practice is a must, including a marketing plan that makes sense to the business owner.

 

Aesthetic, and conveying it consicely and efficiently is a huge part of any branding campaign on any scale. Shopping habits play out differently in a big box store than they do at a craft show of any kind. The mechanics of scale render what is good business sense at a big box into a tactic that backfires horribly at an artisanal craft booth. In such a small space, distractions and novelties that don't pertain to what you're selling draw in looky-loos that aren't going to buy, and those people take up valuable real estate that real shoppers could occupy. You have under than 5 minutes to close a deal in a 10 by 10 booth, and even less at a 6 foot table. If people can't get into your booth and take in the information you want them to have at a glance, they move on. For the record, I think an on-brand centrepiece is probably a good idea, on-brand being key. There is no room for random, or distraction. Plus, it all has to set up and pack down in a reasonable amount of time, and be able to fit in your vehicle.

Building displays for stores is a lot easier.

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The wealthy hire interior decorators to do their shopping for the most part. Which also brings up another source of revenue- setting up relationships with interior decorators. They like to make money, and offer unique products to their customers. It is also an avenue to sell ultra high end pieces.

 

Nerd

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Mark evidently knows his shows and the people who attend them; and he has devised a booth approach that is extremely successful.  He knows his customers.  And that is the key lesson to learn.

 

Different venues (weekend art/craft fairs, Smithsonian Craft Fair, ACC shows, etc) all cater to different attendees.  And you have to learn what those attendees are looking for and the price points for different types of shows.  How you present your booth/wares will either invite attendees in for a serious look or let them pass by without a second glance and no regrets.  If you over-present, you can scare people away as they think they may not be able to afford your items.  And, you are selling your pottery -- not the stands, the tablecloths, or the items in the bowls for decoration.  Don't distract customers from the pottery. 

 

I know of one potter who has an agent who secures his large scale ceramic installations (mostly in corporate settings) for a percentage of fee.  If your interest is selling high-end items, getting an interior decorator to feature one of your works in a photo spread in a magazine can make your career.  (I would not be surprised if artists pay interior decorators to feature their works.)  Or, the Washington Post recently featured an artist who was making garden markers . . . not high cost, but was selling them on the internet by the boatload -- so, a little press never hurts either.  You have to learn to market yourself and your story. 

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A few notes on shows

All the shows I do now I have done for a long period of time so the customer base builds over time.

I'm at a point in my show life where I do not even consider a new show so I concentrate on the shows I do and try to always do them well

That means lots of stock and choices and lots of stock and choices

I'm not after this customer or that customer meaning my work sells itself.I never try to make a sale or engage a viewer unless asked. I have said I'll answer any questions but thats rare these days.

I never engage folks trying to sell anything. It sells itself it always has. I only answer questions or clarify prices if asked.

The work always sells itself. I try to cover lots of price points so everyone can afford the work .I have a large customer base which over many decades builds.

Often My own customers will answer questions asked for example even though I have a sign right above my french butterfishes and inside each one there are instructions I still get asked about 100 times a day what are these or how do they work and many times my existing customers will answer for me when they hear this in the booth .

I gave up cloth covered tables in the 70's so my displays  now are about 7 generations of wood displays made by professional wood workers-they made my design which has morphed about 7 times now over the past 40 years.

I have noticed once a line forms folks get the idea that they better buy it or loose it to another. I spend a lot of time restocking so the display is as full as it should be.

I present the customer with a tired shelve system so one can see into every form displayed except for top shelve.I do also have some straight up displays out front that are narrow and I have them in 4 different lengths  in pairs of two for different setups (3 foot 4 foot 5 foot and 6 foot pairs)

I'm in a double 3 times a year as well as one 10x 15 and some 10x 10s and a few unusual shapes as well so have different setups for me is key

I should mention I gave up indoor shows long ago and all (Except one which is covered by a roof but outside ) are all outdoors.

Its not that I have not done indoor shows ( done a ton) I just settled on better outdoor ones over time.

I have not done a new show in decades so I'm stuck in my ways

Where to display what is also very key to this -meaning mugs vs bowls vs flat stuff like pie plates or platters

This could be a whole other topic.

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Thanks for sharing all of this Mark.

 

For everyone who wants to follow in Mark's footsteps, note that the reason Mark has so much clarity about where/how/to whom to sell his work, is due to his exceptional production capabilities, and the shear numbers of pots he has sold over many years. Just like in all other areas of pottery, THERE IS NO SUBSTITUTE FOR REPETITION. For those of you just starting out, remember that finding your right audience is a long process.

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Jeff

One of my ways to really increase sales for every show I do and what I mean is bring home a few extra thousand per show is to offer small stuff. This lowers the average sale because

it dilutes the total and brings your average way down but when I sell say 400 5 dollar spoon rests that's another 2 k I,m bringing home

I sell many 40 to 80 dollar sales but those small spoon rests and 10 dollar sponge holders and soap dishes lower the average

So I offer at least 3 items that are 10 dollars and under and folks most always get a few of then along with other items

A few buy just a spoon rest and at Xmas it's often 10 or more spoon rests

This decesion to offer small stuff which I made only about 15 -20 years ago has been a financial boom for me

It's not for everyone as many potters will not make small stuff as its beneath them but I,m laughing about it all the way to the bank .

I can extrude soap dishes fast throw 50 spoon rests in 45 minutes and knock out the sponge holders fast

Most of them fit in kiln spaces as stuffers for free firing anyway

When you bank your 1st 100 k in small stuff sales you will feel different about making the,

I track how many spoon rests I sell at a show so I know to bring 100 more next time

I, at a show to make money and am long over any ego issues on what items that may involve.

I should add that every item in terms of these small items has a sweet spot price wise and when you exceed that price point sales go way down on that item. I have learned to keep that price at the spot that maximum sales occur.

My take on your question is many buy small items as add ons to other sales some just go for the smalls but thats ok to.

Mark,

I remember your advice from a few years back, that small stuff will pay your mortgage and your kids' college bills, so I brought a bunch of spoon rests and ring holders to a recent show and sold out of both. Next time, I'm bringing more!! A LOT more!! And really, they are easy to make. I can't make them fast, like you can, but they aren't painful to make.

 

You deserve every bit of your success!!! Thanks for sharing,

Nancy

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Thanks for sharing all of this Mark.

 

For everyone who wants to follow in Mark's footsteps, note that the reason Mark has so much clarity about where/how/to whom to sell his work, is due to his exceptional production capabilities, and the shear numbers of pots he has sold over many years. Just like in all other areas of pottery, THERE IS NO SUBSTITUTE FOR REPETITION. For those of you just starting out, remember that finding your right audience is a long process.

Mea,

This is great advice. I love making jewelry, probably more than making pottery, truth be told. (It may be that I have a lovely art cottage for jewelry and am in an unheated basement with no water available for pottery, though) But jewelry is a much harder sell for me. I haven't found my niche yet at all. I seem to find it more easily with pottery. I don't know what that means, yet, but hope I figure it out soon!!

Nancy

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