Monday, April 4, 2011

Learning Experiences

I had my first-ever table at a craft show this past weekend. I made a few sales, which was nice, but nothing to get terribly excited over. But I didn't do this show so much for the sales, as for the learning experience.

I knew it was going to be a small venue with fewer than 100 visitors, and fewer than 10 vendors. I didn't expect to make any significant sales. Basically, I went because the entrance fee was low, the venue was near-by, and it would give me good practice in organizing my items, setting up my area, creating my marketing materials, and perfecting my face-to-face product pitch.  It's also nice to meet other crafters and artists and talk with them about their experiences and get their feedback.

Self Rescuing Princess Society table at the KPFX fundraiser.
Some of the lessons I learned:

Lesson #1: Make more stuff. The first big a-ha moment for me was to gather up all my products into one place. Seeing them all together was certainly eye-opening for me. When I look in my etsy store front, I see that I have 70+ items for sale, and that seems like a lot. But when I gather them all up and put them into one crate, it reminds me that it's really not very many things at all. Certainly not enough to warrant getting a booth at a larger craft fair.

Lesson #2: Keep pricing consistent and easy to understand. This can be a challenge since similar items can have different components that create variations in the cost. But when placed on a table, you don't want there to be any confusion about the price. In my etsy shop it's easier to just place a specific price on each item, since they're not really grouped by price. But on a table, I found it easier to keep all similar items in the same price grouping. That allowed me to arrange them by similar feature, and make one large price sign, keeping it simple for the shopper to see and understand.

Lesson #3: Look good. Be the prettiest/sparkliest/most-eye-catching table there. This, I think, I managed to do quite by accident. But it helps. People are drawn to bright colors, and fun items. It also helped that I was off on the side, with an open table next to me and was easily seen from all spots in the room. I know that location isn't always something that one can choose. But even when surrounded by other tables, it helps to have a clean, colorful, well-organized table.

Lesson #4: Look organized. I still need to work on this one. When I looked at my table myself, it looked good to me. But that was because I already knew what was on it. When I look at the photo I took of me at my table, I can see how cluttered and confusing it may have looked to someone unfamiliar with my products. I will be experimenting with presentation arrangement, and possibly investing in some table-top organization equipment to help make my items easier to see, and to make my table look more professional and "put together."

Lesson #5: Check out the competition. There really wasn't any direct competition at this show. The seven vendors there all had very different items for sale. But it is still good to walk around the room and watch them in action, to see how they do what they do, and whether I can learn anything from their methods. Do they set up their table in an interesting way? Is their signage clever or eye-catching? Do they sit back and let the customers shop quietly, or do they stand out front and chat with everyone? 

Lesson #6: Don't be shy. I don't really have a problem with this. Anyone who knows me knows I am not shy in any way. But I do hesitate being a sales person at times, for fear of coming across as pushy. I think that comes from being a customer and having had bad experiences with people trying to sell me something I clearly do not want. But the difference is that these people who are looking at my items, are at least somewhat drawn to them. What's the harm in giving them a card with a coupon code on it?

Lesson #7: Perfect the spiel. Selling online is very different from selling in-person. I can edit what I post on my product descriptions until I get it right. But in a one-on-one conversation, I only get one chance to get it right. Keep it simple, keep it upbeat, and keep it relevant. As much as I envision my care packages going to people in hospice or chemo, that not exactly what people want to think about on a beautiful spring day. Instead, I can explain how a friend got one when she was recovering from a broken collar bone, or how nice it would be for someone who is "sick" -- keeping it non-specific allows the customer to fill in the blank themselves.

Lesson #8: It's all marketing. I knew going in that not everyone who stopped at my table would buy something. But everyone who left my table got a card with my store name, store tag-line, the link to my etsy store, and a coupon code. I encouraged them to check me out online, and to pass the code on to their friends. I have no idea how many of those people will actually take the time to check out my etsy store, but even if only one person does, that's well worth it for me. With any luck, one or two people will look at my card again and smile at the name "Self Rescuing Princess Society" and maybe tell a friend who will also think it's cute. Every new person who learns about my shop is a potential customer, or a friend of a potential customer. For now, my main marketing goal is just to get more people to know about Self Rescuing Princess Society, and the items I sell. 

Lesson #9: Listen to the customers. It's important to listen to what the customers are saying, But it's equally important to listen to what they're not saying. The fact that more people seemed interested in using my care package blankets as baby blankets is something that hadn't really hit home yet. It had crossed my mind, but I had dismissed it. But when people saw the blankets at this show, that was their first thought. One customer even managed to convince me to break up a care package set so she could buy the blanket, which I was flexible enough to do to make the sale. As much as I like making care package sets, you can be sure that I will be working more stand-alone blankets in the near future.

Lesson #10: Have fun. When you're having fun, you're more likely to have a natural smile on your face, a gleam in your eye, and an open and welcoming demeanor. Customers can sense this. If you look bored, or are otherwise unapproachable, they will pass you by. Also, when you're having fun, you're more likely to discuss your products more passionately, and that can help you with your sales. Customer know when you're talking with genuine feeling, and that excitement in contagious.

All in all, it was a good experience. And the fact that I did wind up selling enough items to cover the cost of the table and still have money left over to buy more supplies, is a bonus!


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