I’ve attended a lot of craft markets. I’ve RUN a lot of craft markets and I can tell you that there is one very common mistake being made that is dramatically decreasing how much people make and in some cases actually squashing their business dreams. This mistake is made universally, by new kids on the block to old hands, and 100% of us have made it. What is it? Grab yourself a beverage, little one, and settle in while I tell you a story.
I deal with a lot of crafters, hundreds in fact. Often I get asked for help either by people who are new to the scene or from people who just can’t quite make it work.
They’ve worked on, refined, perfected, played with, ripped up and started afresh on their product. It’s beautiful, gorgeous even if they do say so themselves. And it is, absolutely is. They know absolutely everything about every material they’ve used from how and where they themselves are produced to any care requirements they have or any problems that might arise, or that people think might arise. They’ve posted photos on their social media and they’ve got loads of likes. Their products really are gorgeous and they should totally be proud.
They’ve set up, dismantled, re set up, changed and refined their display until it’s a thing of true beauty. Multiple levels, beautiful props, clear pricing. They’ve thought about lighting and whether or not they’ll need it, or if a socket will be available. It’s taken them hours and a fair bit of cash but the outcome is great.
They’ve got beautiful branded promotional materials. They’ve designed and ordered a branded stamp and have stamped all their bags, and have gorgeous, appropriately coloured tissue paper to wrap their sales in, with or without complimentary washi tape, so that the buyer feels extra special when they get home or upon receiving the item as a gift. The promotional materials mean people will know it’s from them too! All this has taken a huge amount of time, months even, and again it’s not come cheap, but the finished packaging and branding is really something to be proud of.
They’ve thought about how to take sales – they’ve bought themselves a nice cashbox, receipt book in case someone asks and have got themselves a card reader so it’s convenient as possible to buy from them. (Card readers are the thing I get most commonly asked about FYI). They’ve even checked with the organiser that there will be Wi-Fi or sufficient mobile internet to use the card reader. They’ve had a few practices with it to make sure they know how to work it too, just in case. I mean the cash reader wasn’t cheap, but it’ll be worth it.
They’ve wondered, and asked, about footfall, about how many hundreds or thousands of people will be coming through the doors. They’ve worried about this number, if they think it’s low they’ve thought about how to manage their disappointment, if it’s high they’ve done some basic maths to figure out how much they’ll sell if X% of those people buy from them. They’ve researched what the conversation rate will likely be (they’ve just Googled ‘conversion rate’!) They’ve arranged for a friend to come at some point through the day to let them off for a comfort break and some food.
They’ve visited the event at least once to ‘get a feel’ and to chat with some stallholders and get their thoughts. They’ve researched the venue, checked out where the doors are and how the stalls are laid out, how far away parking is, how much parking costs. It was fun and they took a friend and bought some things and had a nice lunch after and got excited about their own fair!
They’ve thought about what they’re going to wear, even going so far as to have t-shirts printed up. Gah it’s so exciting!! People will really be able to see their brand! They’ve practiced packing their equipment, banners, stock and made sure it will fit in the car. They've had a trial run of the route just to make sure they wont be late.
Yes it’s taken loads of time, and quite a bit of money too, but they’re now ready for that big leap into craft market attendance and even I can sit here and feel excited on their behalf! These are all GREAT things. Brilliant things. If you’re doing all these things, wow well done you, you should be chuffed with yourself and know that you are doing way more than me!
I get asked about all the above topics fairly regularly, asked to help with it or asked to tell them where they are going wrong. But here’s the crux, here’s the truly biggest mistake…
No-one ever asks me EVER, ‘how do I market my attendance at events?’
They’ve spent lots of money plus hours, days, months researching, designing and refining their offering and processes that they will use from the event onwards yet have spent little to no time thinking about how they will ensure that people who like their product and already want to buy it are actually at the event they are attending. Who is going to see that beautiful packaging if nobody buys anything? Who’s going to appreciate the card payment option and nobody will care about your cash box anyway! (ok some of us more geeky stallholders might, I’ll give you that)
You see we all like to blame other people for our lack of sales- not enough people through the door, enough people but ‘not the right market’. When you’ve done SO much work and your items are SO nice and so is your display and your packaging and your product of course it is disappointing to sell little (or nothing at all). But with the best will and largest advertising budget in the world, there is no guarantee that even if 20 thousand people come through that door that any of them will want to buy your stuff. Many of the people reading this post will have attended events with huge footfall and either experienced low sales or who have seen others sell little or nothing.
Now I’m not saying for one second that there aren’t events where little advertising has been done by the organisers, nor am I saying that some events just aren’t the right fit. But I AM saying, if you’re running a business you are daft not to be taking responsibility and making damn sure that there will be enough people there who want YOUR product. And how do you do that? Marketing.
You should be spending between 25% and 40% of your time on marketing, depending who you listen to. Patricia Van Den Akker of the Design Trust says you should spend 40% of your time on making, 40% of your time on marketing, how do you measure up to that?
I know at least one of you threw up a bit there. You didn’t sign up for MARKETING, WTF even IS marketing?? You signed up for making nice things, presenting them nicely in beautiful packaging and making a lovely display. And and AND YOU’VE JUST GOOGLED ‘WHAT IS MARKETING AND IT SAID ATTENDING EVENTS AND PACKAGING AND DISPLAY AND ALL THAT IS MARKETING SO STFU CAROLYN YOU’RE SUCH A KNOW IT ALL SO THERE!!!’
Yeah you’re right, those things ARE marketing but they only work if you actually see people who are interested in your goods and/or buy them. Attending an event without telling people WHO ACTUALLY LIKE YOUR STUFF that you’ll be there is like opening a shop without having a sign and without telling anyone you exist. If a shop wasn’t doing well, or heck if an event is quiet, people very quickly say ‘not enough marketing’ so would it not follow that if you or I as individual stallholders are not doing well that maybe it’s not something external to us, and maybe that it is that us who are failing in our marketing?
I’ll answer that for you – yes, yes it is and we’re the ones who need to take responsibility.
I’m not an expert in marketing, I’ve been doing a lot of learning recently and I’ve definitely made positive changes however I don’t feel like I’m qualified to be giving a ‘how to’. I will give some easy tips in a second but I have something important to add first…
Nobody is forcing you to market. If this is just a hobby and you just want to make stuff and have nice packaging and a pretty stall, that’s totally cool. You do you, babe, you do you. However you do have to remember that if you’re not treating what you do as a business, you won’t get the outcomes of a business. That too, is ok, but if it’s eating you up inside that you’re not getting the sales and successes of those who are behaving like business people then you either need to come to terms with it being ok being you and doing what you’re doing OR you have to think and act more like you’re in business to get the results you want.
And if you’re sitting there saying to yourself ‘well Blahblah doesn’t behave like a business person and she’s making a great living!’ please know that you think that because Blahblah has made you think that through her very clever marketing . Either her marketing of her business and product is so skilfully done that you don’t realise it’s being marketed to you OR her marketing of how much she’s earning or selling is giving you a false sense of her success (does it make you buy from her though or is her success hearsay?). Either way she’s made an impression on you so bitch got skillz, watch her and learn!
Anyway, here’s just a tiny few basic marketing tips for complete novices.
Use your social media sensibly.
By this I mean, post about events you’ll be attending on your social media, but don’t do anything that’s going to annoy your audience (like repeated spamming) and be mindful of how often and when they might need to be told about an event for it to make a difference to them – ie it’s great if you post that you’re attending an event on the day of the event, or post from the event, however if your audience is only seeing that then , or later even, it’s really unlikely they’ll be able to make the trip. It’s fine to give them a reminder then, but that alone won’t bring them in. Similarly adding the event to your page when you sign up for it then never mentioning it again won’t work either. If you’re doing limited events, keep slipping your next event into your conversation from the last event to the next, but in a natural way so people don’t get annoyed (‘I just made this cool thing! I’ll have to pack it away until DMoC next month’ etc etc). If you’re doing more frequent events you’ll have to devise a way to be saying ‘and this is my next event’ so that people know what’s happening without feeling inundated by events and giving you plenty time to still be producing ‘value added content’ (ie content where you’re not selling anything).
Nobody cares about you enough to search for stuff!
They do care about you, they do I promise. I care about you, I think you’re just smashing, but at the same time I ain’t searching through websites or events lists to see if you’re going to be somewhere near me in the near future. People need information presented to them, you can’t make them hunt for it and expect that to work. Yeah it's fine having all your events in a pinned post but it relies on someone bothering to do the extra work to find the pinned post before they see it.
Don’t run before you can walk
If you do not understand SEO or algorithms, or indeed know what they are even, don’t waste your time trying to use them or beat them. You need to take time to learn about things properly so your work time, which is precious and limited, is not wasted with attempts that bring you nothing when you could be doing less advanced things that would work. Keeping an email list and sending periodic, interesting, personal newsletters is a lot easier and more effective than SEO tinkering or trying to beat the ever evolving social media algorithms. I really neglect my mailing list and I know I shouldn’t, it’s really really stupid of me. Now I’ve shared that with you all I might be more likely to fix it!
Don’t join ALL the social media networks just because they are there!
Anyone ever actually look at Vero??? Anyone??? No, me neither.
We’ve all heard it a million times ‘I’m not getting anywhere with Facebook, I’ll sign up to Twitter!’ Right Meg cos you haven’t managed to get the first one to work you’ll add a second one to your to do list? No, stop it.
There will be one social network that is more relevant to your demographic than others. Pick that one and use it and learn about it until it works. When you’re comfortable with that one, try another. Yes loads of us have loads of accounts but we may have been around for much longer than you, or are more confident with the whole ‘social media concept’ or, and this is true for many of us, there is at least one we are fucking shocking with or that we ignore. Hands up if you’ve got at least 1 social media account you’ve ditched? Yep, me too.
If you have multiple social media accounts, promote on ALL of them
This is a common one – loads of info on Facebook but none on Instagram, and this is even more bizarre when they have a low number of Facebook fans but a really high number of attentive and engaged Instagram followers. Perplexes me every time! You might have to market differently on different platforms, but don’t miss any out if you’re active on them.
Figure out who your customer is (demographics) and how best to reach them
Figuring out your demographic can be easy, but can also be a complete headfuck that makes you question everything you do.
Mini story for you here – when I started out I made this range of jewellery that I thought was funky, trendy, suitable for women aged 16-25. Right for a start the fact I used the work FUNKY there tells you I know nothing about young people! This jewellery range sold almost exclusively to older women (60+) for their primary school aged grandchildren. All the marketing and branding I had done with my perceived demographic in mind was a complete waste. It really made me question myself because I had got that SO wrong.
When you’ve done a few fairs, even if you sell nothing, you’ll see who stops at your stall. Those people who are interested, they are your demographic. If you ARE selling, make a note, a real actual paper list note, of the people you are selling to – perceived gender, age range, any additional information you get while chatting to them, is it a gift, what work do they do, do they have kids etc etc. I’m not suggesting you actually ASK them these things, but just glean any information you can. You’ll begin to distinguish between who actually buys and who browses, and you’ll know who to aim your marketing at, which in turn will tell you how you need to go about it.
Also don’t try and force a demographic that isn’t right – you might WANT to sell to hip young things, but if they don’t like your stuff they don’t like it, stop wasting your time trying to reach them and concentrate on the demographic who DOES like your product, they’re absolutely as valid.
A website only works as marketing if something else is pushing people to it
It's great if you have one, but unless your SEO is really good, aint nobody seeing it so having a website alone will bring you in little custom that you haven't driven there yourself.
Use your offline networks too
I know this is one makes people a bit uncomfortable. Sure if you tell people then you might fail and they’ll know about it and that’ll be embarrassing, but wouldn’t you, as a friend to other people, like to know about what’s going on in their lives? If you, with a huge blushy face and staring at your feet, can manage to tell your mums and toddlers group, drinking buddies, yoga class or office colleagues about this event you’re doing that you’re excited and nervous about, yeah some of them might be dicks but others will support you.
Mentioning you are doing something isn’t shoving it down people’s throats or asking them to do anything.
Today in our local shop for example I was chatting to one of the staff who asked what I was up to at the weekend and I told her and she’s off with details scribbled on the back of a receipt, dead excited with herself about this event she now knows about that she's looking forward to! You can also, of course, access your offline networks online by inviting people to the FB event, listing on your work intranet, dropping it into the group chat etc.
AND FOR THE LOVE OF GOD INVITE YOUR FRIENDS TO LIKE YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA PAGES! I once discovered a stallholder had a Facebook page 6 months after she’d stopped doing events. It had ZERO likes but she’d been bashing away at it all the same without telling anyone it ever existed. Dude, your friends like you, you don’t need to hide things.
Be kind to yourself, you’re just learning
You won’t get it completely right the first time. Identify what went wrong, read stuff, try again, repeat.
Moral of this longwinded as usual story is, you need to think of marketing as an integral part of your ‘craft market plan’ as much as you think about how things look and what impression people will have of your brand during and after the sale. Instead of asking ‘how will I let people pay me’ ask first ‘how am I going to get people to come and buy from me’. Your success at this might not be measured in sales, it might be measured in ‘I saw you on social media!’ comments but if you ARE getting those then you know you can bring people in and you can switch your focus onto why you’re not ‘converting’ (selling to them). If you are already selling ok, then improving your marketing will only make this easier and more frequent.
If you haven’t already read it, you might find this also helpful if you’re a newbie http://knittykittybangbang.co.uk/blog/4568248214/Selling-at-Craft-Markets-Some-advice-to-make-it-a-better-day/9406955
I hope you found this helpful. Feel free to share if you did!