Do you make these mistakes that drive away your customers?
Like every artist and craft vendor, you probably see it often.
But have you ever wondered why exactly these customers don’t buy your art?
Sure, it could be about them. Maybe they don’t have the money for their favorite piece. Or maybe the customer just doesn’t have space in their home for it. Or it could be any number of things.
I go to a LOT of art shows and craft fairs both as an artist and as a customer. And I see plenty of mistakes that vendors are making. They’re driving away their customers.
And then they think it’s a bad market, or that the show just isn’t a good one.
Too often, they don’t even see how they are driving away customers.
. If you’re doing these things, you want to stop. Now. And you’ll probably notice an increase in sales at your very next event
Let’s start simple. I know that setting up for an outdoor show can be a dirty experience. A lot of vendors dress for this stage but forget that between set up and tear down, there are customers to impress.
People who are in sales dress to impress customers. They dress to inspire confidence so that customers will trust them.
I’m not saying that you need to dress in a suit for a craft fair. But you do need to look professional.
So, skip the t-shirt and shorts. At the very least, you should be in nice, neat jeans and a polo for men or women. But feel free to go for slacks and a nice shirt or blouse.
Or dirt from when you set up that morning. Or you lost a button, tore a sleeve, etc. You get the idea.
You may even want to consider bringing spare clothing along to change if something happens.
No one wants to interrupt your meal, so customers will walk right by if they see you chowing down. I recommend that you eat in shifts with a partner so that no one is eating where a customer may see it.
If you do your events alone and must eat (especially for longer events), keep finger foods that you can eat without a mess. You can take a quick bite and drink between customers without having chipmunk cheeks. And you don’t have to worry about trying not to talk with your mouth full.
This really shouldn’t need to be said… but hygiene counts. I have actually walked out of booths because the artist figured that being outdoors meant they could skip their shower.
I also suggest carrying gum just in case you left the house without getting a chance to brush your teeth. Nothing is more off-putting than asking a question and having the answer come out in a wave of horrid breath.
Check your breath after eating, too. You never know what food is going to do to your breath, and it’s hard to tell until someone tells us.
Ok, this one is a biggie. One of the big selling points for hand-crafts is that feeling of connection to the artist. Every customer who enters your booth is a chance to create that connection.
Many, many artists are introverts. So talking to customers can be difficult. But saying, “Hi!” in a warm tone is a great way to start a rapport with a potential customer.
So, talk to your customers, offer information about your art, answer their questions. Even if they don’t purchase today, you’re developing a reputation and a relationship.
That’s right… this is a job. You may think your art is your job. Or maybe you have a full-time job, and your art is about relaxing.
But showing at an art show is a job. Even the best art cannot sell itself.
Stay off your phone or tablet to pay attention to your customers. Even if your booth is empty, customers will often walk right past a booth where someone is on the phone. And even customers who do come in will avoid interrupting someone on the phone out of politeness.
You don’t want your customers to be too polite to buy your product.
I don’t care how slow an event is, you cannot look bored.
If you appear to be bored, your customers get the unconscious message that you don’t want to be there. That vibe sends them on to a more stimulating stand.
On the other hand, if you putter around cleaning and arranging your booth, customers see someone engaged with their product. This sends them a signal that the product is exciting and that you care.
Shoppers are far more likely to enter your booth if you’re bustling about than they are if you’re just sitting there.
Which leads me to…
Just like your attire, your product needs to dress for success. Keep your displays clean and dust free to showcase your product in its best condition.
During downtime, clean products, wipe down displays, use a lint roller on your tablecloth. This shows how much you care about your product and helps customers see its quality.
If a display gets damaged, use items from your Murphy Kit (Build your Murphy Kit, you won’t regret it) to fix it. Or rearrange to hide the damage until you can get it back to your shop and fix it properly.
Damaged or dirty booths drive customers away.
This one is a doozy. You want your customers to see you. This is about that relationship we discussed earlier.
Plenty of vendors wander during shows.
We visit with our neighbors. We see something across the way that we just have to see. And we wander off “for just a moment.”
I’ve gone into plenty of booths to find them empty. The artist was MIA.
After looking around, sometimes the artist will realize that someone is in the booth and dash back, but by then, the damage is done.
My questions have gone unanswered until I’ve talked myself out of the purchase and am thinking about the next stand.
Don’t ever leave your booth unattended, take someone along to act as a runner and cover the booth while you take necessary bathroom breaks.
And you should stand in your booth or just in front of it when you’re not actively with a customer or cleaning something.
You want to be SEEN!
Let’s be clear… do not sit down. Not at all. If you look all cozy and relaxed in your chair, customers won’t want to disturb you.
I know that standing all day isn’t fun. It’s hard on the feet and the back. But it is critical that your customer knows that you are there for them.
But what about those of us who can’t stand all day? I get it. I have back problems, so it’s not always an option for me to stand all day.
If you must have a chair like I do, then I recommend a high director’s chair or stool. This will keep you at eye level with your customers without the perception that you’re taking a break.
And keep that chair near the front of the store so that you’re visible when someone is strolling past.
Just don’t. Save the chat with your buddy or aunt for a more appropriate time.
If a customer sees you’re speaking with someone, they will be reluctant to interrupt. And if they overhear that the conversation has nothing to do with a particular item, they’ll lose interest in your stand and just leave.
So, if a friend or family member stops by to visit, promise to call them tomorrow to set up a coffee date or make other plans. Don’t let them hang out with you in your stand unless they’re going to work.
And then, keep all conversation customer and product focused on encouraging shoppers to engage you.
A customer has made the choice to purchase from you, yay! But now you can’t break that $50 that they’re using to pay.
Or worse, you just broke $100 for another customer, and you’re out of change for the very next shopper.
This is a bigger problem than you think.
Sure, a customer may tell you they’ll come back once they’ve broken that bill somewhere else. But they rarely come back.
Once a customer has made the decision to purchase, it needs to go smoothly to avoid risking a change of mind.
If you don’t take plastic yet, you’re losing money. Customers expect to be able to whip out a card, swipe and go. And if they can’t, you’re almost guaranteed to lose the sale.
There are so many simple and inexpensive plans to make plastic accessible to even the smallest businesses like yours. Most don’t require a subscription or other service payment. Instead, they take a portion of what you swipe and nothing more.
In this day, not taking plastic is just downright lazy.
Eliminate coin change from your prices. Or at least, knock the coins off the total when you ring up a cash customer.
Sure, the total may be $46.76, but just take $46. This speeds things up for you and the customer. And the sooner you’re able to cash out a customer, the sooner you’re available to the next shopper.
We keep our pricing simple by rounding everything to the nearest quarter and then knocking the coins off every cash sale. I can’t tell you how much easier our cash drawer is to manage now that there are no coins in it. And we save so much time!
We all network at these events, and we all discuss how the day is going for us. But too many vendors get upset if the day isn’t going well and talk about how terrible it is. Worse, they often do it in front of or within earshot of customers.
I’ve spoken with vendors who criticized everything from the setup to the advertising, to the organizers of an event. And I’ve heard vendors talk about customers being too cheap to know what good art is.
Customers hear these comments and wonder why they’re wasting their time at such a terrible event. It certainly doesn’t make them think highly of the commenter, and they’re going to move away from the negativity as quickly as they can.
There is just no room for negativity at a vendor event. If you’re networking with another vendor, that’s great. We’ve learned about some of our best events this way. But keep it positive, upbeat, and a smile on your face while you talk about it.
These are the worst vendor mistakes I’ve seen at craft shows and art fairs. Any one of these crimes can cost you sales. And most of us start out making several of these mistakes at every show.
Do what you can to avoid them and see what happens to your sales at your next event. And if you’ve seen craft show crimes that we didn’t include here, be sure to tell us by commenting below!
In the meantime, remember always to have a great attitude, a winning smile, and be ready to talk about your art!
Hi! I'm Sandy, your Head Gypsie here at Art Market Gypsy. I've been working the markets since 2003 when a friend asked me to show some jewelry I'd made at an event she was coordinating. I cobbled together what I could with the limited answers I could find to my questions, and I've been roaming art and craft events ever since. I've expanded my line to include wire and bead sculpture. I'm exploring French beading, and I've recently discovered the joy of clay! But no matter the medium, writing about those questions unique to art market vagabonds is always on my mind!
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