Monday, April 29, 2013

Saturday, April 20, 2013

How to Pick the Right Craft Shows

It's time to start making some decisions on which craft shows you want to apply for the rest of the year, but how do you really know which shows are the right ones for you?

etsyRAIN Handmade Holiday Show 2012
For your best chance at a great show, you'll want to research each craft show under consideration with these three key points in mind:
  1. Booth fees: the amount you pay for your booth can be an indicator of the quantity of customers to expect at a show
  2. Potential Customers: who shops the show and is your product is a good fit for those customers
  3. Your Intentions: check in with yourself to make sure you're applying for all the right reasons
Let's dig a bit deeper into those points...

Point 1: How much are the booth fees?
You know the saying, “You get what you pay for”? Well, that truism works for craft show booth fees too: Low booth fees generally mean fewer customers shopping the show.
 
Why?
From personal experience producing craft shows here in Seattle, it costs a LOT of time and money to produce and properly market and advertise a craft show. If the show producers are not allowing for a healthy advertising budget when calculating their booth fees then they are most likely going to rely on word of mouth to let people know about their event.

Without advertising, it is unlikely that they will be able to spread the word very far and as a result, there will be fewer shoppers attending the show.

No marketing budget = fewer customers.

Point 2: Is your product is a good fit for the expected customer base?
(In other words, is the stuff you make the stuff they want?)
 
Here’s where you need to be really honest with yourself about your true customer. If your product offering is just not right for the buyers who attend the show then no amount of planning or advertising will help you to sell more stuff.

Do your research on the show and its customers before committing to it. The best way to do this is to actually shop the show first before applying to be a part of it. If you’re looking at an out of town show, you’ll want to search around for honest reviews of that show and maybe even try contacting one of the vendors who show in your category to see if they’ll give you some feedback on their experience at that show.

One word of caution: Keep in mind that one vendor's "amazing" show is another vendor's  "just okay" show so take each review with that in mind and in the end, make the decision that best fits your situation.

Point 3: Why do you want to be a part of that particular show? 
There are many reasons to do a show - not all of them have to do with money.
  • Sometimes you want to do a lower booth fee show because you are supporting your local school or charity.
  • Sometimes you do a show that you've never shopped before because you've heard nothing but great things from your friends and colleagues.
  • Sometimes it's just your gut telling you that it will be a good idea to give it a try.
No matter what your intentions for doing a show, the most important thing to have prepared is a plan on how  you are going to sell your work - both during and AFTER the show is over!


Look at it this way - not having a plan on how you are going to SELL your work is like throwing money into the wind and hoping some of it will blow back into your pocket. You may get lucky some of the time, but without the proper sales skills you will never achieve your full potential profit at any show regardless of how reasonable the booth fee or how extensive the advertising.

Make it a top priority to learn how to really sell your work and watch your sales soar!

In the end, only you know what works and doesn't work for your business. Just remember that you do not have to be swayed by booth fees or locations or perceived customer value. Base your decisions on facts and ultimately follow your instincts - that way, no matter what the outcome, at least you will know you did your best!

How do YOU choose which shows to apply for and participate in? 
Please share your tips in the comments section!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Community Building: Tips for Overcoming Networking Anxiety

Networking doesn't have to be a scary proposition.
When you come right down to it, it's really just a one-word way of saying,
"Get out of your studio and meet people of like minds."
etsyRAIN networking 
etsyRAIN Networking event - Seattle, WA
Top 10 ways to make a networking meeting work for you:
  1. Show up
  2. Participate
  3. Ask Questions
  4. Be a good listener
  5. Bring Business Cards
  6. Take Business Cards
  7. Make connections
  8. Introduce people to each other
  9. Practice Your Elevator Pitch
  10. Above All Have a Good Time!
Show up
"I keep meaning to make it to a Meetup! Maybe next time!"
How many times have you said this in the last year? Make "next time" THIS time and watch your network grow!

Participate
Showing up isn't nearly enough. You have to attempt to set your inner introvert aside for just a couple of hours so you can actively engage with your community.

Ask Questions
This is the best known secret for making meaningful connections with people. Ask them about their work. About their shop. Why they do what they do. How they started making their stuff. Basic questions are great! While you're at it, be sure you include ANYONE who is in earshot of your conversation!

Be a Good Listener
Everyone likes to know they're being heard. It's sometimes hard to keep focused in a group situation, but do your best and you'll be remembered!

Bring Business Cards
Part of the fun of networking is testing your memory after the event! Bring and exchange business cards with the people you connect with.

Take Business Cards
Have a tough time remembering things? Make notes right on their card - no shame in that...it shows people that you're paying attention! (side note: do YOUR business cards explain who you are and what you do *clearly*? Make it easy for your new connections and be descriptive on your card!)

Make Connections
Whoever you end up talking to, try to find some common ground between you. There is almost always something you can connect on. Make it a goal to try to meet at least one person that you'd be willing to have coffee with after the event!

Introduce People to Each Other
Make it a point to be sure the people you are talking to have been formally introduced, "Have you two met? No? This is Jane of Jane Smith Designs - she makes handbags out of interesting materials. This is Sally of Sally Jones Designs - she makes jewelry with beautiful beads from all over the world." (side note: Don't remember everyone's name? Just say so! Like this: "No? You two should meet [turning to one person] I'm sorry, I don't remember your name!" The rest takes care of itself...trust me. It's really okay!)

Practice Your Elevator Pitch
An "elevator pitch" is just a quick way to introduce what you do to new people. Just your name, company name, and a quick overview of what you make. Keep it focused and as short and clear as possible. It's really important to practice ahead of time so when you hear the question, "What do you do?" you are prepared with a quick intro to the awesomeness that is you! 

Above All, Have a Good Time!
Walking into a room of people you don't know can be very intimidating, but try to remember that most everyone is feeling exactly the same way! Meet every glance with a smile and before you know it, you'll be chatting it up with your new friend and making plans for coffee after the event is over! 

Note: This is an updated post based on my original quick-tip article at 
What are some of your tricks for overcoming networking anxiety? 
Please share them in the comments below!

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