Are art fairs and craft shows a significant part of your sales strategy? If so, you know that getting people to come to your booth and buy is absolutely critical, which means that it’s important to pick shows that are a good fit for your work and that are well advertised and well attended.
But just picking the right show isn’t the only thing you can do to help ensure that you have good sales at a show. There are some things that you can do beforehand that can help point potential show goers to attend and to visit your booth. And much of this can be done online. Here are some tips to help you build your show following.
Use your website and/or blog
If you have a website or a blog or both, this should be a central place to help you promote the shows that you will be participating in.
1. Provide a detailed show schedule on your website– Posting your upcoming show schedule on your blog or website is starting off in the right direction. But simply providing a date, location, and time does nothing to actually encourage people to show up. Think of your show schedule as an online invitation to come see you in person. Provide details such as:
your booth number (don’t make people search all over the show to find you)
a map of the show with your booth highlighted
directions to the show
parking information (if they need to pay and where to park)
information about special events (kid’s activities, entertainment, etc)
a link to the show website (if available)
information on any demonstrations, show specials, or exclusive lines you’ll be offering at the show
insider information (if you’ve done this show before, provide some useful tips like the best place to park, restaurant recommendations, the best time to arrive, etc)
Yes, people can get all of this information directly from the show website, but they’re already on your website. Use the opportunity to give them what they need and to persuade them to visit you at the show.
2. Offer downloadable show coupons on your website– Show exclusives, whether it’s special items, a free gift with purchase, a discount, or some additional service with purchase are one way to get people who may have been planning to attend the show to specifically seek you out. One way to track this is by providing something tangible to remind them to visit you, like a downloadable coupon. It can be a PDF download or a web page that visitors can print out and bring to the show to receive your special offer.
3. Blog about your shows– Blogging about your shows is great way to build anticipation about the show. Plus it’s also just great content for your blog. Some good show related topics can include:
Show schedule announcements- write a blog post on your upcoming shows
New work and show exclusives- write about any show exclusives or new work you’re planning to debut
Pre-show preparations- highlight some of the behind the scenes prep work you’re doing for your show
Show set up- let customers peek behind the curtain to see how you set up
Local color- blog about interesting facts about where the show is being held, interesting artists you meet, work you admire, local points of interests, great places to eat, etc
Triumphs and fails- you most definitely want to highlight any awards or compliments you get about your work or if you’re being nominated for an award or some other type of recognition. And don’t be afraid to relay stories of when things don’t go so well…like getting a flat tire or getting lost or bad weather. It’s all part of making you and the show experience real.
Use your mailing list
You email list can be a valuable tool in promoting the shows you will be participating in. So what if you don’t have an email list? Here’s how you can use your next show to remedy that:
1. Collect email addresses at your shows– Ask visitors to your booth to sign up to your email list. It can be as low tech as subscribers filling out a paper sign up sheet or guest book or you can use a tablet and an app like Mailchimp Subscribe to gather sign ups electronically. Don’t forget to ask for email addresses from the people that purchase from you as well. If you’re using a card reader like Square or the Sell on Etsy app, gathering email addresses from the people who buy from you is
2. Offer an incentive for signing up for your list– Most people will sign up for your list if you simply ask them to. Offering an incentive or a thank you gift upon sign up can help tip the scales for those folks are are a bit reluctant to sign up for yet another mailing list. A sign up gift could be a coupon, a free gift with a first or next purchase, or access to exclusive offers. Think about what your customers find valuable and create a gift that captures that value.
3. Send a welcome email– One mistake that a lot of artists make when gathering email addresses at shows is getting the emails, and then failing to actually use them until much later. Your show subscribers aren’t likely to remember who you are and why you’re sending them email if your very first communication is weeks or even months after the event.
Solve that problem by sending a welcome email immediately or within a day or two after sign up. If you’re using an electronic sign up app like Mailchimp Subscribe, you can create a “Welcome” email that automatically greets new subscribers to your list. If you’re gathering email addresses through a paper sign up sheet, you’ll need to add all of your email addresses to your email list provider as soon as possible after then show…definitely within a day or two. Once you get them into your system, send each of your new subscribers a welcome email reminding them that they signed up for your list at the show.
Also, don’t use Outlook or Gmail to handle this process. Use an email list management service like Mailchimp (it’s free up to 2,000 subscribers) to handle your subscribers and to manage your emails.
If you do have a current email list, here’s a couple of things you can do to encourage more visitors and more sales:
1. Send a special show mailing– Send out a special show centered mailing to your list a few weeks before the show. Provide the details of the show, a link to the detailed show schedule you have on your website and/or blog, and links to any relevant stories you may have written about the show on your blog in the email. Don’t forget to include information about any incentives or show specials you’ll be offering and provide a link to any if you have a downloadable coupons you’re offering as well. You may even wish to drop a quick reminder email a day or two before the show.
2. Follow up after the show– Sometimes the best sales come after the show is over. You may have someone who meant to come back to your booth but didn’t get the chance. Or perhaps someone is better able to buy something a couple weeks after the show. One way to encourage after show sales is by sending a follow up email to new show subscribers a couple days to a week or so after the show. Specifically target people that signed up for your list during the show, but didn’t purchase anything yet. You can offer an extension of your show special, or you can offer a time limited after show special specifically to your new subscribers.
And don’t neglect to send a mailing to all of the people who did purchase from you as well. It can be a simple note to thank them for their purchase. Or you can provide an offer on their next purchase, or you can encourage them to follow you on your blog or on social media. Use the after show mailing to deepen your new relationship with your customers.
Use social media
Social media is a very valuable tool when it comes to promoting the events that you’ll be participating in:
1. Piggyback off of the event’s social media– Most shows will be doing their own social media promotion, so be sure to join in. See if the show is using a hashtag to tag their updates. Use it in your own show related updates to get yourself in front of the people following that tag. Reshare and repost official updates in your own social media channels.
2. Find influencers associated with the show– One cool thing about social media is that it’s much easier to come in contact with some of the movers and shakers associated with the show, like the show promoters, other artists, and art collectors that attend the show every year. Visit the social media pages of the show you’re participating in and see who’s following the show. Find out who’s actively promoting the show and follow them. Find some of the other artists who will be participating in the show and start networking before the show. See if there are local journalists that will be covering this show and follow them on social media. Local gallery owners, gift shop owners, and other small businesses often visit shows to find potential artists for their shops. Do a little research and see if you can find some of these folks on social media as well.
3. Create a social media strategy– The idea of using social media is to build excitement around the show. From a few weeks before the show until the day of you should have constant updates about the upcoming event in social media. Sending out one or two tweets the day before the show isn’t going to cut it.
So a couple of months before the show, sit down and create a social media strategy. Decide which channels you’re going to promote on. Figure out what hashtags the show promoters will be using and incorporate that into your plans. Decide what kind of show related updates you’ll be sharing and when. This could include things like:
- Sharing photos of the new items you’ll be offering on Instagram
- Creating a show pinboard on Pinterest and post pins of recommended restaurants, points of interest, and other show related information
- Sending updates about pre-show preparations on Twitter
- Doing a Q&A session about the show on Periscope
- Writing a show announcement on your Facebook page and pinning it to the top of the page
Use a social media management tool like Buffer or Hootsuite to help you preschedule and manage these updates so that you’re not spending all of your time on social media. And don’t forget to include your booth number and location in some of your updates so that people can find you.
4. Photos…share lots of photos– Take advantage of the visual nature of Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook and Twitter and include plenty of images with your updates. These images can include:
- Finished work you’re exhibiting at the show
- Works in progress
- Images of you
- Images of your booth
- Images of your studio
- Images of any exclusive work or show specials you’re offering
5. Don’t forget to be social– Unlike your website and your mailing list where the focus is pretty much all on you, remember that social media is…well social. Have a good mix of promoting the show as a whole along with promoting yourself as a show participant. Join in on discussions about the show where you can. Like and comment on updates from other show participants. Reshare and repost other people’s updates about the show. Remember, you also want to help create excitement about the show in general so that more people will attend. You can do that by participating in the community and helping to create the buzz.
Often success at an art or craft show can seem to be somewhat out of your hands. In truth, there is a lot that’s out of your control. What is in your control is the shows you choose to participate in and the promotion that you do on your own behalf. Take advantage of the tools you have, and with a bit of planning and effort, you can help make your next show the best one ever.
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