There are clear benefits to selling your handmade work directly to the public in a face-to-face environment. Art and craft fairs and festivals are perfect venues to meet the very people you want to target, and get to know them.
Interacting with retail shoppers enables you to:
1. Understand the customers who respond to your work. When people show interest in your work, speak with them, and listen. Find out about their lives, their interests and what it is about your handmade work that connects with them. This will enable you to create profiles of your target audience. Use what you learn through personal interaction to hone those profiles. They will help you fine-tune your collection, your booth display and your marketing approach to appeal to those customers.
2. Deal with objections. What’s holding people back from buying your work? Are they looking for something larger, smaller, lighter, a different color? Do they understand how to use what you make? Make note of reactions, and reasons they pass on making that purchase. Then, place yourself in their shoes. As you see objections arise that are barriers to the sale, you may be able to overcome them through making changes in design, or in your terms and policies.
3. Develop new ideas. Believe it or not, conversations with customers can give you wonderful ideas for designs that will become mainstays of your line, or even bestsellers. Ask people to name their favorite pieces in your collection, and tell you why. When people throw out new ideas, take notes. Back in the studio, you can sort out which suggestions would make sense for your brand and your line, and which would not.
4. Become comfortable speaking about your work to others. It may seem daunting at first, but dealing with the public in person gives you the perfect opportunity to step out of your comfort zone and talk about yourself and your work. Once you’ve taken this step, it gets easier to engage with other people and talk about your work. It’s important to be able to tell your story, share your process, and start those conversations that lead to people becoming interested in making a purchase. As you gain experience at shows, you will gain confidence, too.
5. Gather names, addresses and emails of interested prospects. Making sales is not a once-and-done activity. After all, the word “collector” means someone who owns more than one, right? To cultivate repeat sales of your work, you will need to stay in touch with people who buy from you. And stay in touch with prospective customers who have shown interest in what you make, too. Place a guest book at your event and ask people to sign up so that you can contact them with new designs and special offers! Then, make sure to follow up with a regular email campaign, sent once a month to your list.
6. Make sales! Meeting customers and selling your work is a fun and satisfying experience. Nothing is more motivating than success.
How do you find listings of shows and fairs? Start with these resources:
Take note: Bargain hunters are not your customers. Unjuried shows, and free or extremely low-cost shows, are rarely good choices. They don’t tend to attract serious shoppers who value handmade work and are looking to buy quality pieces from artists.
Choose the right show: Ideally, you will want to visit fairs and festivals that interest you before you apply to them. Are the exhibitors showing work of the same quality as yours? Are retail prices in line with yours? Are shoppers actively buying and carrying bags?
If you cannot preview shows, or want to schedule them relatively soon, be sure to read reviews of events online. This will give you the exhibitors’ viewpoint on show management, their experience and sales made. Or, contact people you know who have exhibited at shows to get their feedback. Then, decide which shows seem best suited to your work.