Jump to content
Sign in to follow this  
Chris Campbell

Craft Shows... Tips For Success

Recommended Posts

It's summer which means a time for craft fairs ... time also to share some tips for success.

 

ENGAGE your customers. "hi" "welcome" "nice day" good morning" "good afternoon" :D

 

DO NOT SIT ... yes, I know the little tootsies get tired but when is the last time you walked in a good store and saw the staff sitting?

STAND UP, WALK AROUND, SMILE. :)

The very act of standing up when someone comes in your booth is aggressive and will scare them off. However, if you are already standing you are meeting on the same level.

 

DO NOT CHAT with other neighboring artists, or on the phone, or with personal friends who dropped by to visit, not to BUY. It is also NOT the time to read your book or newspaper, check your facebook page, text your friends ... look up, smile, engage.

 

It is amazing how many artists get someone to help them in the booth then spend the whole show chatting together instead of selling.

 

Bizarre as this might seem, you are going to have to talk to people about your work. No hiding. The crowds are not monsters but simply folks who want to see crafts and the people who make them. A smile goes a long, long way.

 

"How's the show going?" ... fabulous, thanks.

"Enjoying the weather?" .... yes it is hot/cold/rainy/chilly, but this is a great place to be.

"You must be getting tired." ... nope, I am having a great time.

"Selling much?" .... yes I am ... its been a great day.

"Do you make all this yourself?" ... yes, I do. Which pieces do you like best?

"I'll be back." ... Great, enjoy the rest of the show!

 

It is sad to see artists at a show killing their own sales, then blaming the venue for a "bad show". Sure there are times and places where anyone would be hard pressed to make great sales but you can always up your personal sales by being the one who tries. Being the booth people actually do go back to because you stood out.

 

Let's get some more tips from veterans ....

 

 

 

CarlCravens, terraforma, TJR and 1 other like this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Think of a show as you only have a few hours to get the sales job done-

If you only have say 7 hours for a job would you read a paper or wonder off or space out or feel its someones elses fualt the job mneeds doing? well this is what a show is like for many.

You have a very few hours to make the sales so you should give it your best effort-whether its 1 day 2 days or 3 days or a 4 day marathon weekend.

You can do all those other things on another day

Keep a chipper attitude as in the sales business attitude is everything.

 

Figuring out the best venues for you work is a whole seperate issue

It starts with your attitude at all venues.

Mark

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Chris, as someone who has never stood on your side of the booth (yet?), but has spent plenty of days in the customer's shoes... you're spot-on.

 

I am more likely to buy from an artist who engages me.  I *have* walked away from an intended purchase, pot in hand, from a vendor who wanted me to wait for him to get off the phone.  (And it was clear that the phone call wasn't critical, and I *did* wait, but he took too long.)

 

I know it's been a long day (or weekend), and sometimes the show is slow and sellers get bored... but I shouldn't see that.  Potential customers don't want a "hard sell" but I think most of them *do* want to talk about the work.  (And I'm someone who generally likes to be left alone.)  Tell me a story about your work, your process, the pot I'm holding, whatever.

 

At good Renaissance Festivals, vendors are expected to play a character... to take on a role and *entertain* the attendees.  I think a good artist does this in any venue... not to play a false character, but to *entertain*.  To make the potential customer feel welcome, to create a connection between artist and customer.

 

For me, the #1 reason I buy hand-made stuff is PEOPLE.  I want to buy pots (or paintings, glass, etc) from the guy or gal who made it instead of a factory, and I want to know something about them, maybe about their process.  I don't want to just buy a product... I want to buy a connection, a memory.  The more *memorable* you make the experience, the more likely it is I'll want to buy a tangible connection to that memory.  Not everyone is influenced by this as heavily as I am (or is conscious of it), but I'm sure everyone is influenced a little.  Personal connections create meaning.

 

And you thought you were just selling a few pots.

LeeU, terraforma and Chris Campbell like this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I had a great experience at my recent show ... Two ladies shopping stopped to looked at one of my more expensive pieces ... They stayed a while so I stepped in and told them the vessel was from a series I did called "Connections" ... It's about our lives and the people we meet ... Connections old and new ... They lit up ... The perfect gift for a second wedding they were attending. They were thrilled with the story and I was thrilled it would be meaningful at the wedding. Talk about win/win. Nothing better.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

many craft fair visitors wear many hand crafted items.  it is very easy to say "what a marvelous pendant, (purse, bracelet, pair of sandals) may I take a closer look?"

 

or, "that is a great pattern on that sweater,(shirt, dress, hat, whatever) may I use it on a pot?"

 

almost any question produces a pleasant exchange with the potential purchaser and the conversation slows traffic and calls attention to your booth.

 

and do not forget that the people dragging their long-suffering pets will usually respond favorably to an offer of water for the dog in a nice bowl on the ground.  ( it was hard not to say idiots instead of people.)

ChenowethArts likes this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Chris, I had a similar experience with two women looking for a girt for their 3rd sister, not with them that day.  I told them about the thought behind a large $$$ piece I had and it lit them up, and said what they wanted to say to the missing sister.  They bought the piece, one of 3 similar with the same motivation behind the making, and later that weekend, both came back separately and bought the other 2 pieces.  They wanted them to all 3 have the 'story' in their respective homes.  I will never forget how that made me feel.  It's why I sell pots.

CarlCravens likes this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I used to be in sales and I always did the local county fair booth.  It was amazing how many people just sit back in their chair and read. I would stand in the isle and invite people to enter my drawing and had hundreds of people visit my booth. The people who sat still had maybe a dozen.  I was offered 2 jobs one day, I usually ended the county fair with at least 1 job offer in sales.    

 

One thing I see people do when they try to "be a salesperson" is they immediately put on a fake high pitched enthusiastic voice. This is the fastest way to be perceived as fake and aggressive. Its important to be sincere and real too.  Asking questions that lead their mind the direction you want it to go is key.  I like the question Chris asks "What pieces do you like?" (it requires their brain to decide what they actually like, the mind likes to be consistent and do things that go along with their idea of liking something)  "What stands out to you the most?" (it encourages them to identify with a piece)  "Do you have a favorite morning mug yet?" (gets them to think about the lack of a favorite mug or reminds them of the connection they have with pieces in their home, maybe adding to that)  Are you shopping for anyone specific today?  (gets them to rack their brain and think of upcoming reasons to purchase a gift)  It's also a good practice to ask a question that seems somewhat an obvious "yes" answer. "Are you having a good time at the fair?" or "Enjoying this beautiful weather?" People get in the habit of YES or NO… it's best to get their brain in the Yes mode.   It's ok to be funny or unique, they want artists to be that way.. not stiff.

 

Example: Q: Oh is this your only job?

A: When I break free from my 500 kids yes!

vs A: Yes, I am also a stay at home parent. 

People would identify with the feeling and humor in the first reply, thus seeing you as a real person and deciding wether they like you or not. People are more likely to buy if they like you. The second reply is not bad, it's just vanilla.

CarlCravens likes this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm kinda more laid back...most of the approaches that have been talked about as a shopper would have me looking for an escape as fast as i can. I want to look first then if i'm interested in something then talk. So as a seller i wait til the shopper makes eye contact or touches something to say hi, then let the customer guide me to how they want to they want the sale to go down. Some like chatting about process, some want to talk colors, some form, or function, or who is it for and some just want to buy and leave.

 

I'm a shy shopper. A seller standing outside their booth inviting me in would have me making a wide berth of the booth, and weird questions about what i am wearing sounds fake and makes me self conscious, and quizzical questions to me about your work...oh my...a shy shopper's nightmare...

 

My favorite way of shopping is to have a smile or nod as i enter a booth, let me shop in peace yet be ready for my questions. If you see me fingering something, i don't mind a few words about the work...please don't tell how much you like the piece, i assume you do cause why are you making it if you don't like it.

 

My least favorite shopping experience, go in to booth vendor busy with other people, not even a nod, find a cool gizmo i'd like to know more about, vendor still talking to the same people, i finger gizmo, look in vendors direction...still talking. I wait, still talking, i leave...i make my rounds to all the other booths in the general area...go back to the first booth...the dude is still talking to the same 2 people, i then walk the entire show and make my way back to the booth with that gizmo i liked...he is still chatting up those same two people. I don't even bother to enter just walk away.

clay lover, Stellaria and Celia UK like this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

As well as having a good positive attitude and being able to read customers and make appropriate comments I think dress is very important. Most of my customers are well dressed and groomed which leads me to believe a couple things, firstly they have money and secondly they care about appearance. If they can relate to the way I look, even if it's on a subliminal level, I think they are more likely to enter my booth / tent in the first place.  In my workshop my hair is tied back, I wear yoga pants and T-shirts, when I'm selling the good clothes come out.

terraforma likes this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

 

I'm a shy shopper. A seller standing outside their booth inviting me in would have me making a wide berth of the booth, and weird questions about what i am wearing sounds fake and makes me self conscious, and quizzical questions to me about your work...oh my...a shy shopper's nightmare...

 

 

Perhaps my comment about Inviting people in was perceived as advice for how to sell art. What I was selling back then is very different from art and the art crowd. I wasn't a top sales trainer because I couldn't' read the comfort zone of people. My goal at the time was to get as many leads as possible, that meant getting them to fill out an entry form and then try to turn that entry form into a booking to try product. Standing as Chris had suggested is very solid advice.    I don't plan to do giveaways or book appointments with people at art shows  ;) 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Good clarification!

'Cause yeah, I steer clear of people inviting me in to see their things. Something in the selection inside the booth should catch my eye, not the artist or salesperson.

But yes, being on your feet, alert, and looking willing and ready to answer questions (or volunteer a tiny tidbit of information about something I've touched or picked up) is a good middle-of-the-road tactic to engage just about anyone.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

 Make sure to speak in a language they understand and explain things .   Not everyone knows what horse hair means or a cone temp.  It can be done with out them even knowing. When they look at the pot say "It is so fun to put the horse hair on the molten pot and see what design its going to make!"

   and of course SMILE ! 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

PSC, I think you're imagining it in the worst possible light. I'm reluctant to talk to people... like you, I generally don't want to be bothered.  But an artist good at making a connection with a potential customer comes across as natural...  it takes practice, but someone experienced at it shouldn't be scaring people off.  I don't like it when someone is clearly trying to sell me something... when making the sale overshadows any personal interaction.  I agree, that's off-putting and I'm likely to turn tail and run.

 

As Rebekah said, it's about learning to read people... to understand when you're coming on too strong, or when someone in your booth *wants* to be drawn into conversation.

 

But mostly, it's about being friendly... not artificial, but a real person, interested in the people who come look at your wares.  And that is a big drawback... if an artist genuinely isn't interested in the people who might want to buy their work, working an art fair is going to be hard.

 

I think the core message I'd like people to hear is this: Be engaged.  Be present.  If you can't begin a conversation, at least make it clear that you're willing to let *me* begin a conversation.  That's the core of the message I'm trying to give.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I want to expand on two subjects that were brought up earlier in this thread: clothing and likability.

 

I totally agree with Min that people who buy pottery have a certain amount of wealth. We need to dress in a way that makes us relatable to them. It does not mean you need to waste money on fancy labels, it just means don't dress like a slob. LONG GONE are the days when customers expect festival artists to look like hippies. I repeat, LONG GONE. These days customers expect us to look like someone who can give them good advice about home decor.

 

Having said that, another really important aspect of festival clothing is that is must be comfortable. Especially your shoes. All the talk about the importance of maintaining a good mood goes out the window if your clothes are binding and your feet hurt. I have a whole collection of dresses and skirts that are as comfortable as t-shirts. I allow myself to wear pants or shorts on the last day of a show, because I don't want to pack up in a skirt.

 

This all relates to likability, it's not really "does the customer like you?" but rather "does the customer relate to you and find you credible?" I'm sure you all know people who have an "I need you to like me" demeanor and the truth is they are difficult to like. Instead the purpose of your clothing and your attitude should be "I'm here to represent myself and my work, and I'm really proud of it."

 

To me these things seem basic and obvious, but at shows I see so many artists who have not put much thought into this.

 

I'm leaving for a show in an hour ... I'm wearing gym shorts, tank top, and running shoes for setting up. When the show opens at 5pm, I'll pull one of my t-shirts dresses over my head, and change my shoes into sandals. Easy, comfy, and still polished looking.

Chris Campbell likes this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This will sound dumb, but you actually have to put prices on your work where they are visible. Not on the bottom. On the handle, or the rim. Customers hate asking how much something costs. Some sellers don't bother pricing at all. Not a good move. This says that you are unprepared, or that you are making up the prices as you go along.

TJR.

terraforma likes this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This will sound dumb, but you actually have to put prices on your work where they are visible. Not on the bottom. On the handle, or the rim. Customers hate asking how much something costs. Some sellers don't bother pricing at all. Not a good move. This says that you are unprepared, or that you are making up the prices as you go along.

TJR.

I think this is such good advice.  Doesn't matter what is being sold, if there's no price/price list some people won't stop and look for fear of being out of their depth.  Also a good idea to have pieces in a range of prices, so that people can buy something even if they can't afford the bigger things.  It might draw them back next time.

terraforma likes this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This will sound dumb, but you actually have to put prices on your work where they are visible. Not on the bottom. On the handle, or the rim. Customers hate asking how much something costs. Some sellers don't bother pricing at all. Not a good move. This says that you are unprepared, or that you are making up the prices as you go along.

 

My rule of thumb on art without price tags is: If I have to ask how much it costs, I can't afford it.

 

If you don't put prices on your work, you're telling the customer that your work is pricey and only the well-to-do need ask how much it costs.  Worst thing you can do is lose a sale because the potential customer didn't ask the price.  (Unless, of course, you're making high-end art and only sell to the well-to-do.  If that's the case, carry on.)

 

I do expect to find prices on the bottom of functional ware.  I don't like tags stuck on the outside of the piece, interfering with my admiring the work, and tags on the bottom are consistent... no searching the sides and handles of mugs, bowls and jars, wondering where the sticker was stuck on this one.

 

Alternately, I like placards next to the pieces... either stand-up tents or labels on the edge of the shelf.  Those probably work better for potters with lower prices, though... a sign saying "Small Mugs $45" tends to keep a lot of people from doing more than browsing to start with.

Chris Campbell likes this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Just remember to affix lids! It is so sad to see a fabulous pot ruined due to the customer picking the piece up to check the bottom for the price, only to have the lid hit the floor.

 

Maybe for some to make another lid is simple.

 

I once saw signage in a pottery store that said "we break it, we cry...you break it, you buy"...

Peppermage likes this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

TJR is so right on the tags

I use 3/4 inch removable round tags on the sides of pots or inside flat forms and bowls.

Hunting for prices is an obstacle to be avoided.

This is a key point I feel. No matter how you personally feel about it.

If your work is hundreds of dollars price the pedistal it sits on next to the work.

If yoiu are a funtional potter like me price the pots.

 

As far as lids I loose one every 5 years max from someone bobbling it. So it goes.

Mark

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I don't like price tags on the front either. I put them on the bottom EXCEPT for my boxes, I don't want someone picking one up flipping it over to see the price and dropping the lid. For boxes I put it on a bottom corner on the side to the back of the shelf. If I have a basket of small items like bracelets or mini dishes I do up a tent card and sit it next the or on the edge of the basket. I don't hand write! I print everything on the computer I think it looks nicer, or maybe I just have sucky handwriting.

 

Terry

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

LONG GONE are the days when customers expect festival artists to look like hippies. I repeat, LONG GONE. These days customers expect us to look like someone who can give them good advice about home decor

 

EXCELLENT and very important point Mea.

 

So in the forums I often mention Japan and selling there.  And most folks here reading this are already aware that in general the valuation of ceramic work by the public in Japan is generally far higher than in the USA (or likely any other country in the world). 

 

When working (I chose that word deliberately) a show opening when I am in Japan, here is how I am typically dressed:

 

post-1543-0-43358000-1402772630_thumb.jpg

 

(Japanese press interviewing me in that shot)

 

In Japan ceramics is serious business.  Serious business deserves serious attention TO business.  In a business setting...... appropriate dress is required to be taken seriously.  So.... nice suit and tie.  With just the right "flair".

 

The USA is certainly not Japan.... but how might our approach TO business and our approach to professionalism here tend to affect not only our own succeess, but also the success of the field in general.  (Back to my pet peeve of the curse of,  "I play with clay!") 

 

Food for thought.

 

best,

 

.......................john

post-1543-0-43358000-1402772630_thumb.jpg

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm in deep trouble I have never owned a suit and tie. At 61 I think I may make all the way without one.

I tend to wear comfortable clothes at shows and always a fish shirt.

I have done many a press camera talk this way as well when a show asks for someone who has been doing it forever they send them to me.

I try not to look like a slob but stress comfort is also a big factor.

Foot comfort is key.

 

Mark

ayjay likes this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this  

×