Friday, May 8, 2009

Part II of Craft Show Marketing Series - Finding the Shows

I know I don't usually run the segments of my Marketing Series on consecutive days but this Part is merely a continuation of the posting from yesterday. The next segment will not run until next week.

Okay, now that you’ve figured out what type of show you are looking for, how do you go about finding one?

First of all, set a date in your mind as to when you would want to do such a show. Having a goal date will keep you focused and help to move you forward in your plans. Be sure to allow time to obtain any tax permits you will need, time to gather all the supplies and equipment you will need and, most important, time to make enough product. (Each of these aspects will be discussed later.)

If this is your first craft show ever, I suggest you aim at a smaller show, located semi-near home and in a moderate price range. It is best if your first show is a one-day affair, or at least no longer than 2 days. There will be a lot of responsibilities and new problems coming at you and you don’t want to be totally overwhelmed with your first effort.

If you already have a specific event in mind that you have seen and thought would be the right venue for you, try to obtain information concerning that show. The most obvious approach is to go online and search the name of the event if you know it. Most well-established events have their own website. If you know someone who has exhibited there as a crafter or vendor of some sort, ask them who you can contact. Do you know who sponsors the event (the City, business association, school, etc.) ? If so, call that office and ask if they can provide a contact name.

*It is important to realize that many larger and established events take applications up to a year ahead of the event’s date and you may not be able to simply waltz in and sign up. Many shows have a limited number of crafts spaces and have a waiting list for available spaces. If you run into this, simply ask to be put on the list for next year and keep looking for the right venue for you to do this time around.

Ask at your local craft supply stores and check the bulletin boards in your local grocery stores, libraries and coffee shops. Keep an eye on your daily paper and check local weekly and monthly publications for both your community and others nearby. All of these publications tend to run calendars of community events. * As many of these events are not listed until a week or two before they occur, I have also gone online (or to the library where necessary) and checked last year’s issues for the time period I am considering. Most events occur annually at or near the same time of year. Contacting last year’s contact name will usually get you to who is running that event this year.

You may also call your local Chamber of Commerce and your parks and Recreation Council and ask if they know of any upcoming arts and crafts events in the area. As my merchandise is child- oriented, I have, at times, even called a selection of local schools and asked if they were holding any such events within the next few months. (I long ago discovered my target market is frequently found at private grade schools.)

Most States have a tourist office that publishes some sort of state-wide calendar of events. This is a great place to start. In just about every State, you can access this information online. I live in Maryland and find this info very easy to find by simply searching the words “Maryland Events.” In addition to the State’s listing, you will also come up with a number of other listings relating to activities in your State. Some sites will be produced by counties, municipalities, non-profits and more. You can also search “arts and crafts fairs in [Maryland]“ , or “art festivals in […]“ Try any variation of these terms you can think of.

As I like to do street fairs and community festivals I also use those terms but, I would not recommend them for a first time craft vendor. I pick and choose these carefully. At those events, you will be competing with many others for sales, not just craftspeople. There will be lots of by/sell, imports and junk in general. Customers are not attending a street fair necessarily looking for crafts.

Some sites will be trying to sell you a subscription. For now, stick to the free listings. If you decide to go into doing craft shows on a frequent basis later, you can consider such services.
Jot down the names and dates of those events you feel you may be interested in. Unless you are new to the area, you should be familiar with some of these events and can make an educated guess as to which would be appropriate for you. Hopefully, you will have even visited a few of these events in the past and have a feel for those. I know our State calendar lists phone numbers and/or websites for contacting each event‘s committee. Should that information not be available, try searching the name of the event online.

Generally, crafters are a friendly lot and, as long as your product is not in direct competition with theirs, will usually be more than happy to provide advice and information about upcoming events. Walk through as many craft fairs as you can and talk with the vendors. Tell them you will soon be doing your first show and ask them what shows you might consider. If you have signed up for one already, ask if they are familiar with that show and do they have any specific suggestions (or warnings) about doing that show. (Warnings can be as innocuous as knowing the crowds swarm very early in the day, sometimes before the official opening. This does happen - often. It is fantastic to know this as you can’t sell if you’re not set up yet! We do one show that “opens” at 9 a.m. on a Sunday, but there are large crowds milling about by 7 a.m.!! We have actually begun setting up in the dark there.)

If you are an active participant in an online forum, you might also try asking there if folks in your area know of shows you might try. A number of sites actually have threads devoted to this information for specific geographical locations. Once you have signed up for a show, you might also ask for advice about that particular event on those forums.

There are also numerous publications and paid craft sites that list shows and helpful information about each. I will, at some point list those sites I am aware of but that will not be part of this particular Marketing Series. I’m sure you will come across some of those in your general web search. Until you are sure, you want to continue doing shows (Yes, a number of folks only do them ONCE!), I see no reason to make such financial investments.

*There’s still more information about finding shows I want to share but I’ll put that at the end of this series as those events are more appropriate for the experienced show vendor.

In Part III of this Marketing Series, I will address the questions you should ask and the information you need you get when you make contact with the show director.

Again, we’ve reached the point where we should all take a breather. You need to turn to and work up that list of possible shows and find the appropriate contact numbers or sites. I have some shows to visit this weekend (assuming the weather cooperates.)

Have a good and creative weekend.

1 comment:

Hollyrocks said...

This is a very helpful series you're putting together, thank you!