The first post in this series is inspired by the vibrant craft fair pop-up scene here in Chicago and a few friends of mine who have achieved some success selling wire-wrapped stone jewelry. There are craft fairs every weekend in the Windy City if you know where to look, and neighborhood farmer’s markets are a consistent stream of income for many Chicago makers. If your product is unique, useful, beautiful, or inexpensive (and chances are you’ve checked off more than one box here), you will likely make some sales just by showing up. But to grow a following and make a killing at every event, there are some tricks you can use to market yourself before, during, and after each event. Most of these tips can be applied to other kinds of locally focused creative businesses as well, from photographers to culinary artisans.
Networking and Social Media
You can spend a lot of valuable time posting on social media, but businesses that make sales primarily in person at craft fairs and farmer’s markets absolutely need to make a strategy with this in mind. You don’t want to waste your efforts reaching needlepoint fanatics on social media if you don’t have an online store for them to shop (or don’t want to spend a lot of time processing, packing, and shipping orders). Instead, you should focus on meeting your customers where they are.
The Local Hero should first focus on the social media presence these events and their organizers already have. Share Facebook events so your followers will know where to find you, but also tag the organizers in some of your posts and post beautiful pictures of what you’ll be bringing on the event pages. You need people to know about the event and your presence there. Don’t forget those endearing local hashtags! #chitown #artofchi
If you do sell on Etsy, you might be familiar with the Teams area of the site. Not only can you find other sellers with similar shops to cross-promote with, but there are also a ton of locally-focused teams that share event sign-ups. I found the most groups in the Chicago area by searching “Illinois” and “Midwest,” so stretching this out for a more regional scope might find you better results, especially if you’re willing to travel. (I got that tip from this post on Creativelive on How to Find Local Craft Shows.)
As a Local Hero, you might have also guessed that your customers are going to want different kinds of digital content than an online seller. You’d be right. One of the biggest tools you have to your advantage is the Live Video function on Facebook. Give your followers an inside peek at your booth as you’re setting up, and show them what a great time everyone is having once the party gets started. Each maker fair has its own unique atmosphere, so being able to share that digitally is going to speak volumes.
If you choose to write a blog (even if you don’t want to be that blogger), your most useful content will be the time-sensitive stuff: updates on changes in your business and routines to keep repeat customers in the know. Just a couple of paragraphs every now and then about when the farmer’s market moves indoors or when they can expect you to start selling your famous seasonal product again can keep that relationship intact. There’s a lot of information out there about optimizing your website for local SEO, but unless you sell in a brick and mortar location or provide some kind of service people are going to search for in your area, this might not get you much traffic.
Also, think about having a “Where to Find Me” page listing your events for the next month or so—but for the love of all that is holy, please keep this updated. Nothing shows a lack of interest like an Events page with content still up from five years ago.
Strategy: The Master Plan
To pull it all together, the main things to remember here are who your target customer is and, more importantly, where. Shoppers who come out to IRL events need practical details about when and where your shows are, what forms of payment you’re taking, and what items you will have with you that day. Again, widen your scope a bit to include people who are coming to these events who may not be familiar with your brand. Giving them some clues about what your table looks like might get you more foot traffic.
Of course, making sure you and your table are on-brand will make you more familiar to shoppers who have seen your posts. For bonus points, remind your buyers to find you on social media and slip a card into their bag with your handles and a reminder to post a pic on Instagram with their new handmade item. They’ll think about your brand at least one more time when they get home and take it out, and hopefully take that moment to engage on social media and become a fan.
If you’re eager to start implementing this level of marketing effort but need a bit more guidance, or if you’re already a rockstar and want to look at options for outsourcing some of the busy-work, send me a note! Let’s get a conversation started.