{Business Tips} A Strategy for Events

Events.  Some artists spend most of their weekends all year long traveling to events near and far, while others don’t do events at all.  For some, an “event” is a trunk show in their living room with 15 close friends, others wouldn’t consider anything with less than 100,000 attendees.

How about you?  Do you participate in events?  Are you more inclined to show in small settings or are the large venues the right ones for you?  Do you have an event strategy?  No matter how you’ve answered these questions, I’m hoping to provide a few suggestions to make your strategy moving forward even stronger than it is today.

Why Consider Events?

For those who do not have events in their marketing mix, I would ask “Why?”.  Events are the opportunity to get your product in front of customers live.  They can touch, interact, and fall in love with what you create.  Connections that are made at events can lead to strong, loyal customers over time.  The exposure and awareness gained can increase your following online.

Where to Start?

The best way to create your event plan is to just dive right in.  Events come in all shapes and sizes and you need to develop a plan that fits your budget and your schedule.  While I’m sure I won’t cover all the options, the big categories for eco-friendly artists are as follows:

  1. Large, traditional art fairs – These are typically the most expensive to get into and you probably know the “top 5″ art fairs in your area.  The art fairs bring in large numbers of shoppers – some will be interested in eco-friendly products, others may not be.  Depending on what you sell, these venues may or may not be right for you.
  2. Green Fairs – Green Fairs continue to grow in popularity and vary in size and scope.  These fairs are great for eco-friendly businesses because you know the attendees are interested in living greener lifestyles.  A key difference I’ve seen between Green Fairs and Art Fairs is that consumers come to green fairs to “learn” and they come to art fairs to “shop”.  So, sales may be higher at art fairs.  However, deeper, long term connections can be developed at green fairs.  Cost for participating in these shows is typically less than the large art fairs.
  3. Healthy Living Expos – Most environmentally focused consumers are also interested in Healthy Living.  So, participating in these events can be a right fit for many green companies.  Natural Awakenings is one example of a publication in cities across the US that tends to host events once or twice a year.
  4. Farmer’s Markets – Many Farmer’s Markets are starting to expand beyond food and include local artisans in the market.  Similar to the Healthy Living Expos, the market tends to be full of consumers that are living healthy, green lifestyles.  The great thing about Farmer’s Markets is the low cost of entry to the event.  You could try one week and see if it is a right fit for you.
  5. Partner Events – Connect with a retail store, parents group, gardening club, or any other group that feels like a good fit for you.  Work together to set up an event that will showcase your product and provide a benefit for the partner.  Partner benefits could be things like traffic to their store for the event, a presentation on green living/art/etc., or a percentage of your sales going to the club.
  6. Home Parties – Whether at your own home or at someone else’s house, these events are the most intimate.  You have the opportunity to interact with all attendees and can focus the time in any way you want.

If you don’t already have an event plan, I would encourage you to give a couple types of events a try this year.  Over time, you might want to consider putting one event on the calendar each month.  Some months may hold large venue events while other months are focused on small, home parties.

For those with event plans, have you tried all the “types” above?  If not, maybe it’s time to give a new option a try.  You never know, you may discover that you are missing out on the type that would be most productive for you.

Applying for Events

Karen Meyers

Once you know the events you are interested in, the next step is to apply.  For some events, the process is very simple – fill out a form, send in your money, and you are set.  However, the larger events will tend to have much more rigor in their selection process.  They will as about your craft, require photographs of your work, and many times require pictures of your display.  A great reminder from KarenMeyers the next time you are at an event:

It’s important to take updated photos of your display so you can look your best in applications.

For many events, you will have options for things like location, electricity and size of display.  Depending on your goals and needs, the cost of these upgrades may make a lot of sense.

Heather, of EarnestEfforts, recommends that you “ask for a corner location and pay the extra amount.  Our sales are dramatically lower when we are not in a corner space”.

Setting Goals – Role of the Event

For each event you participate in, you should consider your goals for the event.  Are you looking to increase awareness for your company?  Do you want to collect leads?  Is a sales goal your primary motivation?  There are no “right” answers to these questions, but the questions will help you focus on what to do at the event.  The goals are likely to be different for each event you participate in.

Developing Your Message and Print Materials

Different events may cause you to make small adjustments in your messaging.  Consider the audience that will be at the event and determine if some messages will be stronger or weaker with that group.  Ensure you are emphasizing the strengths that are most relevant to each audience.  The message you define should then be the focus of the print materials that you prepare for the event.

Herbanlifestyle

When considering your print materials, the simplicity of a business card rather that a brochure can be the perfect, eco-friendly solution.  Mary, from Herbanlifestyle, has this great resource and suggestion:

I always have a bunch of business cards in a holder so that customers will have a reminder of my display.  I love Moo Mini Cards.  You can use several different product images, so people can take a visual reminder of your item even if they don’t buy it.  Plus, they offer recycled paper as an option and they are half the size of regular cards, making them stand out from the rest.

Setting Your Prices

Antique to Chic

Another area to consider prior to the event is the pricing of your products and how to display them.  Simplicity in pricing is best when you have a busy show.  While your prices may vary slightly for an item type in your Etsy shop, you may want to consider one price for that item at an event.

Erin from Antiquetochic displays her items by price to ensure there are no questions.  She will have an item, like bracelets, at three different price levels.  Each price level is placed on a different plate in her display making it clear which bracelets are offered at which price.

Earnest Efforts

A great suggestion from Karen of KarenMeyers is to have an item that you can price in a “2 for deal”.  She finds this especially helpful at Christmas when people are buying a lot of gifts.  The price for her triangle pouches are $14 each or 2 for $25.  She says this pricing technique works great for her.

Another great idea from Erin, Antiquetochic,  is to offer coupon codes for your Etsy shop or on the spot discounts for people who spend a certain amount.

Heather from Earnestefforts sums up pricing well with the observation that without clear prices on everything, customers will walk away before they will ask.


Giveaways and Sweepstakes

Yellow Finch Designs

If a goal of the event is to expand your list of leads, hosting a sweepstakes or giveaway is definitely worth considering.  In the giveaway process, you are essentially trading your cost of time and materials in a piece for the opportunity to communicate with leads after the event.

Elizabeth from Yellowfinchdesigns creates simple giveaways where customers only need to provide their name and e-mail address to enter.  In addition to capturing the e-mail address for future conversations, Heather from Naturalgrace finds the drawing to be a great conversation starter with event attendees.  Even if the individuals don’t buy at the event, they may make purchases at a later date.

Erin from Antiquetochic sees giveaways as a great idea, but likes to use them just for home parties.

It’s hard to track people down after a craft fair and shipping costs you money.

Natural Grace

Summary

A little bit of planning upfront can really make a difference when it comes to events.  Create a strong, focused plan and the events themselves will each become more successful.  If you haven’t participated in an event to date, I encourage you to give it a try.  For those who do events all the time, please add to the ideas in the post by sharing your thoughts in the comments below.

This post was focused on the up front strategy to create a strong event plan.  Two weeks from now, the post will cover the display itself and how to ensure your event space expresses your personality and stands out at the show.

Comments

  1. I really enjoyed this post. I am attending the largest craft show in Hawaii in August, the ‘Made in Hawaii’ festival. I’m racking my brain to come up with great, cost effective ideas for my booth (especially since I must fly myself and my products to Oahu-I’m on a neighbor island). I appreciate the tips. I’d really love any ideas about the best way to display handbags and purses :)

  2. This is a great article. I’ve done fairs, shows, heritage events and the local farmers market. If I didn’t work a FT day job I would do more. This is a great way to meet consumers and get yourself out there. It’s a great way to share a booth with another artist and bond. Also, having a deadline helps you to focus on keeping up on your inventory. Thanks for the info. Lisa

  3. Great article, thanks!
    I made the following interesting experiences:
    1. At a Christmas event in Germany I set the prices of my felt works really higher than I really wanted to sell them for (don’t misunderstood-on many I work for more days by felting and embellishing so they are worth it). Than I watched the people and with those who stopped and I saw that they are interested in my style I began to talk. In a few seconds it came out if they are REALLY interested or not. Some bought for that given price (yippie!). To those who said with a bleeding heart that it is too expensive for them I whispered that I make them a lower offer. Minus 30-90 Euros. They took the pieces and were soooooo glad! For me the result was balanced and I had made really a gain.
    2. Some told me that they also like to felt at home. I told them that I make online courses for felters but I didn’t have any leaflets on me (because I wanted to sell felt on the event). They left their e-mail address and I connected them from home and they joined. Now I know that I also have to take a nice and big poster about my courses and not only the felted pieces.

  4. Thanks! I am new to the event game and have one coming up on Sunday. I will re-read this post and use some of the tactics suggested that I haven’t tried yet and see how it goes.

    Thanks for the tips and encouragement to get out there.

    Lauren

  5. Thank you so much for this article! I am getting ready to do my first Farmer’s Market on May 14th and have been feeling overwhelmed. This timely article has helped me simplify my approach!

  6. This is a wonderfully thorough and helpful article. Your point about setting goals for each event it very important. When I first started out, I learned this through trial and error. For example, I saw green festivals as the same as craft shows, but, as you pointed out, people are there more for information than to shop. Understanding this definitely helps to set your expectations about what to items bring and what goals to set. Thank you!