One of the scariest things I've incurred as a creative business owner is getting out of the office, from behind my computer screen, out of my slippers and in front of the public. It became apparent very early on with Crown and Glory that I couldn't rely on my website alone to grow the business - you can't open a shop and just expect people to come flocking! Tireless promotion needs to be tackled from all angles, and one of the best ways to meet potential clients and spread the word about your company is to set up shop at fairs and events. From local vintage and handmade fairs to international trade shows, there are a huge variety of opportunities available to get your wares in front of public and increase your brand visibility. But leaving the comfort of your office, the online identity you've carefully crafted for your brand and into the unknown can be incredibly scary. I didn't even turn up to the first few fairs I booked myself into! I was just so scared to leave my comfort zone - what if no-one bought anything? What if my weirdness and awkwardness in front of strangers put off people buying? What if people thought I was a fraud?! I made so many excuses in those early days - the packaging wasn't right, I can't take card payments and no-one carries cash, I don't have enough money to spend on furniture - but the long and the short of it was that I was afraid.
Well, life is too short to be crushed by our fears so I forced myself to get over it and get in front of the public. Now, 3 years on, I'll attend the opening of an envelope if they'd have me! Meeting likeminded folk and talking about my brand has become so natural I can't imagine being that shy, awkward girl anymore, hiding behind a computer screen. It took a long time, but looking back at how I approached these events I can definitely share a lot of tips and tricks for getting the most out of fairs and events. Split over a 2 part series, here are my tips for finding the right event, and how to prepare for them.
How do you find fairs and events that are suited to your brand? How do you know which ones are right for you? Start small, with local gigs - use google and facebook to track down events in your area, and treat these as a test run - to test your visual merchandising, your sales patter and your market.
Vintage and handmade fairs have exploded over the past few years, but also don't discount school fetes, university fairs, artist residencies and markets. Ranging from £15-£50 a pitch, these are a cheap and effective way to test your market. Our first Christmas with Crown and Glory, we attended at least 2 fairs every weekend throughout November and December, travelling across the South West and South Wales - it was exhausting, and sometimes disheartening when we were stuck in yet another cold, empty church hall, but it was so useful to figure out which events were worth our while and which we'd rebook for next year.
So you've got a string of pitches booked, but how the hell do you prepare for them? My advise at this stage wouldn't be to go all out and invest every penny you have in your visual merchandising. It's likely that after you've attended a few events, you'll start dreaming up creative ways to display your wares. Keep things clear and simple to start - make it as easy as possible for your perusing customers to understand what it is you're selling. For us this meant buying a few mannequin heads for headbands and crowns and cake stands to display clips and bobby pins.
The jury's out about whether or not displaying prices is useful or offputting, it's very dependent on your price point and market, but I'd suggest if you're nervous or shy about talking to your customer to start with, displaying prices will stop you having to trip over your words.
Consider introducing some lower, entry level priced pieces for your public events and stalls; often customers aren't looking to spend a lot at these events but if you entice them with some pocket-money honeys, ensure you're packaging them up with a business card and often they'll go online and make more considered, larger purchases later on.
To encourage higher value purchases, get yourself set up to accept card payments; your business bank can provide card machines, but a much more viable option when you're first starting out is iZettle or Paypal's new mobile card machine service.
Ensure you have plenty of business collateral on hand - a lot of people are just looking for a nice day out and a browse, but if you can get a piece of your brand in their hand and into their pocket they're more likely to remember to look up your website or social media later on. You can add a dedicated discount code or similar to track the success of your efforts and to encourage them to spend in the comfort of their own home. Why not get creative with your collateral - branded sweets, useful freebies like pens or notepads and eye-catching cards will all be more effective than your average Vistaprint business card.
Pop back next week to find out my non-cringey sales tips and shy-girl networking advice!
Images from the One Love Wedding Show by Alexa Clarke Kent