Craft Fair Vendor Sales Tips and Booth Ideas
Craft Show Sales Techinques that Work
During my time selling handmade soaps, lotions and jewelry at various events; I learned a great deal through trial and error. It took a lot of practice to become successful as a seller both closing sales and most importantly, acquiring repeat customers.
This guide is a comprehensive how-to based on my experience. Learn what works and what definitely doesn’t. Use these strategies and you’ll have the edge over all other craft fair vendors.
Your Display is More Important Than Your Products
Selling your handmade goods at craft fairs and markets can be a wonderful and rewarding experience. It requires a lot of planning and a strong booth design strategy to give you the edge over competitors. Many vendors make the mistake of believing their product will sell itself. While it is true that good craftsmanship is important – it is NOT what brings you the bulk of your new customers. Your display -the craft booth itself, is what you really need to focus on.
Work with this idea in mind and you will be one step ahead of your competition. No one wants to believe that their art is less important than their booth, but that’s how it works and here's why.
People are visual creatures. People who develop retail displays and create retail design plans are well paid for good reason; they know how to draw you in and subtly entice you to spend your hard earned money. As a vendor, you are not only there to display a craft; you are there to persuade people. There are plenty of booths with pretty things all around you, so yours had better reel them in!
The best persuasion doesn’t come through pushy sales tactics or being aggressive. It's all in the subtleties. Your booth creates the all important first impression; the most important aspect of sales. Before anyone ever gets to you or your craft they see your display and will either be drawn to it, or walk on by.
Marketing Techniques for Craft Displays
- Your booth must be visually appealing from a distance and from within. It must welcome visitors and have enough to see to encourage them to stay, but not so much that it overwhelms and all things blend together. Your booth is the equivalent of a tiny retail shop – treat it as such.
- Your entry way should be clean and free from clutter. Booths should ideally be set up in a clockwise or semi-circular fashion that encourages the natural flow of traffic. If there are traffic jams or people have to trip over each other to get to what they want to see they will simply move on to the next thing.
- Backgrounds and table coverings should be easy on the eyes and contrast nicely with what you are selling. If you are selling pastel colored items, put them against a dark or white background – not another pastel color. You want your items to be what “pops” not your signage or loud background “noise”. Color contrast provides visual interest. Contrast is also a good distance strategy – it makes your booth stand out in the crowd so use it to your advantage.
- Lighting – lighting will make or break you. Consider the natural lighting for every place you sell on an individual basis. Adjust your lighting needs accordingly. Soft light tends to be alluring – run a strand of simple white Christmas lights along the back of your display table. Wrap it in greenery for an extra nice touch that goes well with most themes. This will not distract from, but enhance whatever other lighting techniques you use. It also adds visual depth to your display which encourages people to “come in”.
- Your display should also contrast. A solid booth with 3 walls and some tables is not enough to really “grab” the attention of a visitor. It looks like everything else and doesn’t make you unique at all. You may have the most one-of-a-kind craft on the market, but if your display screams ordinary – you will get passed by.
- Use unusual displays – a coat rack, a set of shelves, stacking items, platforms – all of these create visual interest and get your products closer to eye level. Stair stepping items on tables is a great way to make booths visually interesting. Place one prominent item in the upper right back corner of your booth. It draws the eye in. Most people focus on “front and center” – don’t let that be your only focus. Eyes scan around the perimeter when deciding to go in.
- Signage is another one of those items that needs to be used sparingly for the best results. If you place a sign that has a long description of your items – your potential customers won’t make it past 2 sentences. People love to “skim” information. Place a tastefully sized sign that highlights only a very few important bullet points about your items. Near this sign, if possible, leave a stack of professionally printed business cards that are also visually interesting.
- Never ever allow your supplies and other items to be visible under the tables. Use proper fitting table covers. Seeing a bunch of stuff shoved under a table distracts from what you want people to see.
In my soaping business, I stapled small soap samples onto my business cards which I placed into a little brass claw foot bathtub. People thought that display was so cute that they started talking to me – which then gave me the chance to show off my knowledge and close the sale.
Looking for images of craft fair booths and table displays for inspiration? Check out the one's I've handpicked and pinned on Pinterest here: Craft Fair Booth Setup and Design Ideas
Make Your Customers Comfortable
Once you have caught their eye, you must engage all of your visitor's senses in an enticing way that makes them feel at ease.
If it’s hot; have a fan going. If it's cold; do what you can to block the wind. Making your space as comfortable as possible is a great way to keep people looking. When you work outdoor craft fairs and festivals, the weather is either your best friend or your worst enemy. Be prepared!
Appropriate background noise can also help boost comfort levels and sales. It can also have the opposite effect, so choose wisely. If it’s not against the rules, play soft background music that is appealing to a broad range of people. Avoid hard rock, country, rap or any music style that some people may have a strong distaste for, unless it somehow ties directly into the theme of your craft.
You may like that super speed death metal or highly twangy country star, but there is a good chance your booth visitors will not, and if they don’t like what they hear they aren’t going to stick around for the verbal assault on their ears.
Living in the heartland, I find nothing more grating than to walk into a restaurant or shop and hear loud country music. Guess what places stick out in my mind as places not to frequent? It’s the same for your customers. We don’t all have the same tastes in music, so you are better to choose something with broad appeal the same way retail stores do. Loud is not better, keep it soft and subtle.
Finally, appealing to the sense of smell. Nothing is more alluring than a nice fragrance, but LESS is more. Customers are quickly turned off by competing scents and overpowering them with smelly things. Keep a stash of fresh coffee beans on hand and let your guests to “clear their noses”. It’s a great conversation piece and works like a charm.
Smelling coffee clears the sinuses and allows you to get a “true scent”. If you sell candles, soaps, or other smelly good items this is a great way to keep your customers smelling your goods without bowling them over.
Never set up next to a “Scentsy” person who has multiple burners going – Ack! If you’re the Scentsy person, or anyone else who sells candles or melts, have respect and consideration for your neighbors.
Pick ONE scent to have burning and place other samples where people can pick them up and smell them. It makes you a better neighbor to other craft vendors which can also lead to more sales through referral. It also keeps you from overpowering customers and giving them a headache.
I did aromatherapy bath products and know that you can have your products available to smell without being obnoxious about it. People appreciate that, especially those who are sensitive or have allergies.
Even if you don't sell scented products, you can still use natural fragrances to your advantage. I keep a bottle of homemade air freshener that I prepare with citrus essential oils. Citrus is light, non-offensive and has an elevating effect on the mood. It is extremely subtle and just keeps your area fresh and clean. I learned this trick from a health food store I used to frequent and incorporated it into my booth.
Amazing Vinyl Banner Signs
I purchased an amazing vinyl banner sign for my photo restoration business from the Amazon seller above. It's affordable and the signs are sharp and crisp. Highly recommended! They are very helpful and you can custom create any design you want. Make your business stand out with a sign like this! I had before and after photos printed on mine and the sign itself was drawing people in to my booth to learn more.
Craft Show Sales Techniques - Making the Sale
Ok, the booth looks great; the people are flowing in – now it’s time to close some sales.
- Avoid being pushy or shouting out slogans. I have seen many vendors engage in this activity and watched as people passed by their booth rolling their eyes. You don’t want to be shouted down if you walk into a store and neither do those who are browsing at a craft fair.
- Smile and greet every visitor to your booth with a simple “Hi how are you?” or "Good Morning". Be genuine in your friendliness as people pick up on that. They know instinctively when people are being phony and when they are being sincere. Once they are perusing your products and their comfort level is increasing, then you can offer to help them or let them know if they have any questions about your particular craft that you are always happy to answer questions.
This empowers your customer and leaves them in charge of their shopping experience. They don’t feel the “high pressure” that comes from other gimmicks.
If you can, have free samples available or items that your customers can feel and touch and encourage them to do so. Studies have shown that holding an item forms a bond and a sense of ownership within 30 seconds. Give your customers something to do – engage them without pressuring them and they will become customers.
Even if they don’t buy today; people will remember “experiences”. Something to always be mindful of is that people remember an experience more than they remember a thing or a service.
Remember the last time you went to a store or restaurant and were treated rudely? You remember the way you were treated, but do you remember what you were buying or what the product/dinner was? Probably not. It's more likely that you remember not liking the experience you had.
Create a fun, positive environment for your visitors and give them a way to contact you in the future with really distinct business cards or samples. This reinforces your brand.
Know your stuff – and if you can demonstrate it! People love to watch crafters at work. Embrace their curiosity. If you see them watching what you’re doing; chat with them about it. For some crafts, this isn’t always practical, but you can do something else that relates to it.
For example, I couldn’t cook soap live at most events, but I did wrap my soap there and package it. I also cut samples where people could see me doing so. I made little herbal pouches and did things with my essential oils. All of these activities kept me busy (people love to talk to a busy person – it’s true!)
It was also a way for me to strike up conversations that were not sales pitches but still allowed me to demonstrate my knowledge on the subject. People are more inclined to buy from those they see as experts.
If you can find a way to practice your craft in a way that is non-obtrusive to your sales area do that. Remember, people are visual and watching a crafter is fascinating. Listening to a crafter spin a story as they are doing their craft is fun. Engage people in a meaningful way that is memorable and not overly pushy. You can subtly highlight the benefits of your craft/product and what makes it special.
Other Tips & Hints
- Network with other vendors; you are not in competition with everyone. Those who keep this in mind tend to have more customers because you can always find what someone is looking for. Refer customers to other vendors you know and trust. It’s good business and it’s good Karma.
- Be a good neighbor and have consideration for your fellow vendors. Vendors are typically very nice people who are eager to help. They are also quick to “blacklist” people who don’t play by the rules.
- Dress nicely. Wear a nice outfit and be well groomed. Ladies, if you can - wear pink. Pink and other soft, bright colors soften your appearance and make you more approachable. I didn’t believe this when I first heard it either, but it works. Anytime I wore soft, vibrant colors I generated more sales and leads.
- If you make something that you can wear – wear it. This is great for jewelry. You can often get other vendors who are not directly competing with you to wear something you have made if you offer to promote their products in return.
- Don’t eat and drink in your booth. Nothing is more unappealing than walking into a booth where someone is stuffing their face instead of paying attention to their customers. Have someone relieve you for a few minutes and eat elsewhere whenever possible. If you must eat in your booth, put your food down while customers are in your stall.
- Have traffic in your booth at all times. People draw people. If it's slow, go into the sales area and straighten your displays and clean up any trash etc. This will keep people coming in.
We love our canopy. It can be used indoors or outdoors and has the zippered sides. If it's cold or rainy, you can quickly put up the walls to protect your merchandise and also have a space for people to duck in out of the wind and other elements. It's a good investment that you can write off as a business expense.
E-Z up type canopies are very easy to handle. I was even able to put ours up by myself at a few events where my husband couldn't attend. Weigh it down on the opposing corners with ropes/cinder blocks to avoid damage in high winds.
Craft Fair Vendor Checklist
Be sure to visit my website dedicated to helping vendors find success. You'll get visual inspiration for booths, learn even more marketing tips and discover everything you need to know to run a successful craft fair business locally and online.
Have you noticed any of these techniques being used when you go to fairs/festivals?
© 2011 Christin Sander