Craft Fair Secrets: The hush hush Ps of a great experience

There was a time when craft fairs were known as “Christmas fairs”, precisely because they were held towards the last quarter of the year. Recently however, there seems to be an explosion of sorts and i can count at least 7 happening just between the May-July period. An indication that the sector is growing? Perhaps. One thing is for sure though, the growing frequency of craft fairs signify an increase in craft entrepreneur numbers. It also means there is increased competition for the same customers.

So how do you get to the finish line first? Here are the obvious and not-so-obvious P’s of a great craft fair experience.


 1. Product: Understand your product
Sounds obvious? Apparently it isn’t. You will be surprised how many craft vendors don’t understand their products. Remember that when customers are buying crafts–as is the case when they are purchasing products of cultural value-they are buying your story, your experience, your values. Communicate your inspiration clearly and draw the customer into your world. Ask them what they think of your product. This is especially important if they wow at your work, but don’t end up buying. Find out what would otherwise have made them buy. That way, you assure them that you are creating for them, not for you. And remember–stay calm. You may hear things you don’t necessarily like!
2. Packaging: Invest in good quality packaging material
How do you wrap your customer’s purchase? No matter how beautiful your creation is, unattractive packaging will in an instant put a smudge on all your effort. Look for packaging that adds value to your product. If, for example, you are into recycling, use packaging material that is also recycled and that gives continuity to the product. If you can get your packaging materials customized with your logo design, by all means do so. Either way, the golden rule is to stay away from black polythene bags and old newspapers. Unless of course you are selling donkey meat!
3. Presentation: Appeal to the sense of vision
Your arrangement can attract or repel a customer before they even get to know what you are selling. I have found that vendors often focus too much on the product and too little on its arrangement. Here are some tips on putting together a fantastic display:
         a. Create a sense of height–avoid flat table displays. Think “outside the table”. Use props, boxes, shelves etc to create level variation. You could even consider lifting the height of the entire table.
         b.Pick a theme–consider your product and select a theme that will enhance it. I once sold next to a stall selling pickled jams, fruits and cheese. The set up of their stall looked like an Italian kitchen–complete with hanging garlic onions, frilled checked red curtains, color distressed cupboards, Opera music in the background– I couldn’t get enough of it!
        c. Price labels–do you prefer to have price stickers on your items or would you rather tell the customer once they ask? Psychologically speaking, customers feel intimidated when they don’t see price tags. They assume it is too expensive to be  displayed, and some may even be too embarrassed to ask. So, wherever possible, display the price and be ready to justify it if the customer does a double take at the price.
        d. Access–do not be so eager to show the customer all your wares that you cram everything into your display, leaving little room for movement or touch. Customers like to touch-and fit- so take this into consideration while you are arranging your stall.
4. Pricing: Have a pricing strategy
A common question i ask crafters is how they arrive at the prices they quote.
How does one cover all their production costs without seeming too cheap–or too expensive? Find a pricing strategy and stick to it. Do not sell your wares at one price at this fair and still another at the next one. Finally, and most important, be confident when quoting the price. And be ready to take the customer through the production process if they feel they are being ripped off. There is nothing worse than a customer feeling exploited.
5. Publicity: Let people find you (and remember you)!
How do you advertise yourself before, during and after the fair?
        a. Over and above the craft organizers doing publicity for the event, do your own publicity using your E-mailing lists, face book and twitter profiles to let people know you will be exhibiting at a certain fair.
        b. As discussed in an earlier article, consider flyers that showcase your designs instead of business cards. The latter don’t say much about your product and it is likely that by the time the customer gets home, they have forgotten which card belongs to which business.
        c. Invest in a customized guest book (avoid those used for funeral wakes) and get your customer to give you their legit contact address by assuring them you will not flood them with text messages or worse, share their contact details with another company.
        d. One of the simplest, yet least often used tactics of making sure the customer remembers you is to email a thank you note after meeting them. Whether they made a purchase or not, the fact that they took time to come by your stall and make conversation is enough reason to say thank you. Make them feel they are the reason you are there.
            In conclusion, Let me remind you that craft fairs are not for making crazy amounts of profits. If it happens–sure, why not. But a better way to use the forum is to exhibit. Get people to see your product and understand the value it will add to their lives. Follow up these conversations as you would a business inquiry. You are likely to do more business this way.
All the very best and see you at the next craft fair!