using vendor shows to build your business
Vendor shows are one of my favorite things to do as an Origami Owl Independent Designer. In addition to getting to shop while I work, I love being able to talk to so many people & network with the other vendors. I’ve found that I can create a lot of connections and build great relationships at a vendor show in a very short amount of time — which is fantastic for my business!
WHAT IS A VENDOR SHOW?
Vendor shows are often called craft shows, vendor blenders, vendor events, expos, trade shows and multiple other things. A vendor show is usually 1-3 days long and features a showcase of various direct sales companies, crafters, food vendors and service providers. Sometimes they are held in order to raise money for a specific cause or organization. Many of the vendor shows that I participate in are hosted by local schools, charities, hospitals, churches and sports organizations.
HOW DO I FIND VENDOR SHOWS?
I look for vendor shows in many different places. I always check with local organizations like the Chamber of Commerce, Travel Association, PTA, Little League Association and other groups that I know of in the area. Many newspapers have a community events section where shows will be advertised. You can also use social media to locate upcoming events and even make connections with show organizers so you are the first person they think of the next time they are scheduling a show. There are also many websites that list craft and vendor shows – beware though, some are paid sites and require a monthly or yearly membership fee to have access to the show information. You will want to research the site thoroughly before signing up for any type of memberships. I always do a lot of research on the show also. If you can talk to the organizer it’s a great idea to ask questions about the advertising, how long the show has been running, the estimated number of customers, and how many other similar vendors will be there. This will ensure you are well educated on what to expect and aren’t disappointed by the foot traffic or setup of the show.
HOW DO I USE VENDOR SHOWS TO BUILD MY BUSINESS?
I use vendor shows as another avenue to market and grow my business. I can share the product, share the hostess rewards and share the business opportunity with many people in one day at a vendor show. It’s important to do some research on the show you will be attending so you can prepare. Vendor shows can have a huge impact on your business if you plan properly and being prepared can save you a ton of time and headache! Some things to ask yourself when preparing for your event:
- Will you be displaying samples and taking orders or will there be cash and carry available?
- Do you have business cards, Take Out Menus, order forms, rack cards, hostess flyers and any other marketing materials printed?
- Do you have your cash box filled with adequate change?
- If you accept credit cards, do you have your swiper and app downloaded? (Don’t forget to charge your phone and bring your charger!)
- Are there hostess packets and opportunity packets prepped and ready to be distributed?
- Do you have your contact slips and lots of ink pens?
- Is this event indoor or outdoor? If outdoor, what do you need to take in case of bad weather? (Don’t forget the sunscreen!)
- Will you have to walk with your supplies or can you drive up to your space?
- Is there a bank nearby in case you need more change?
- Will their be food on site or should you brown bag a lunch?
- Are there any restrictions that the venue enforces? (This applies more to those who belong to companies that may be burning, melting, or diffusing product)
Booth or Space
- Do you need to take extra tables or chair?
- If you use electricity on your display, is it available and do you need extension cords?
- Are you permitted to display banners or hang items on the wall/drapes?
- Does the venue inspect the booth before the show? What fire regulations should be noted? (Table cloths dragging the ground, trip hazards, electrical wires exposed)
Once you have your space planned out & have all of your supplies ready to go, it’s time to start thinking about how you will make sure your table stands out among the other tables at the event. One great thing with Origami Owl is that our branding is very unique and definitely catches the eye. When you use the O2 branded table cloths and white display pieces, you will notice that your table will be one of the most colorful and easily spotted at the show. You won’t want to just throw your jewelry on the table though — here are some things to help you create a table that visitors will be drawn to:
- Create an inviting table setup, utilize different table configurations and layouts to best fit the space
- Be visible and available to customers – Get out from behind that table!
- Have information readily available including “pick ups” that they can see laying on the table or in a vase
- Offer mints or candies
- Host a drawing at your table (if allowed by the venue, of course)
- Keep your display clean and focus on the jewelry — too many distractions or decorative pieces confuse the customer
- Stick to the O2 branding — utilize items like the chain lengths picture or the price cards provided by the Nest to make sure your table is consistent
Often times I will use empty boxes underneath my table cloth to add height to the table. You can also add pops of color (in moderation) or use a few holiday themed items on the table. Staying consistent with the color and materials of your display pieces will create a clean and put-together table. Remember to stick to the O2 branding and don’t over do it!
CREATE A CONNECTION
I really focus my time & energy during these shows on connecting with the customers and guests. Creating relationships, even with those who don’t purchase anything that day, allows you to collect their contact information and send them home thinking about your conversation or the connection you shared. What are some things that I do to ensure I’m relating to each person & I’m ensuring that I use the few minutes they spend at my booth very wisely?
- Make myself available and visible to everyone
- Make eye contact and say hello to those passing by
- Invite them to your booth & ask them a general question about them — How’s your day going? What are you shopping for today? (If they are wearing a locket I like to say “Tell me about the charms in your locket!”)
- Approach customers the way you would want to be approached
- Introduce yourself to other vendors — to build a relationship and camaraderie
- Write notes on your order forms or the contact slips that a customer fills out — use this later on when you follow up (ex. has a son in college, loves her dog, belongs to the PTA)
Follow up after your vendor show is key! I always follow up with everyone I met and everyone who made a purchase during the event. This leads to several more orders, bookings and quite a few times has allowed me to share the O2 opportunity with a new designer!
- Enter the leads into your contact manager
- Contact anyone who expressed interest in hosting or joining (if you didn’t send them home with a packet)
- Follow up with the packets you distributed
- Email or mail thank you’s to those who made purchases
It’s important to know that you will do many shows before you get into a routine & actually remember everything you will need (I have driven 2 hours to a vendor event and left ALL my TOMs and order forms at home before!) I’ve had over 2 1/2 years to work on my display and still I’m finding that I am tweaking things or trying new things all the time. The most important thing is to remember to enjoy yourself and have fun — it will show to your customers and fellow vendors. And remember, share the O2 love!