Whether you are a local brick and mortar, a mobile artist or a national retailer, fairs, farmer's markets and vegfests are great opportunities for generating interest and sales. Connect with your local clientele or educate a new city about your brand. Be selective and strategic, because they can take a lot of time and resources. Rudder & Fern participated in its first exhibition event at the North Florida Vegfest in Tallahassee this past March. Our post-fair feelings..."We should have known better" and "Can't wait for the next one!"
Here's what we learned:
1. LEAVE AN IMPRESSION: BRANDING
Rudder & Fern has a sharp, distinguishable online presentation and we wanted to ensure that transferred to our booth. T-shirts, table cloths, banners, postcards, business cards and stickers can all be artfully branded. Create a coherent, memorable appearance for customers and passersby. It's worth spending a few dollars at VistaPrint. We received multiple comments and compliments on our branding.
2. OFFER DISCOUNTS (STRATEGICALLY)
I played hard to get and it lost me sales. Attending a fair is about gaining visibility and making money! Don't undervalue your products, don't hand out 50% discounts to every Peter, Joe and Mary, BUT you could LOSE sales if you don't strategically offer discounts. Predetermine the discount capacity for each product and then use them incrementally to entice customers. Engage customers and gather more social media followers by offering a discount for an action deal. "Like us on Facebook and we'll take 5% off your purchase."
3. KNOW YOUR PRODUCTS; KNOW YOUR PRICES
I was constantly turning products over and looking on my website for info. UGH. Don't scramble for your fact sheets or to find price tags. Familiarize yourself with your products and pricing PRIOR to the event. It wastes time and seems unprofessional if you don't know the facts or figures. Know the pricing, know the sizes you offer, know if something is machine washable, where it's made, what material is used and other relevant info.
4. HAND SOMETHING OUT: FREEBIES!
I had this epiphany halfway through the day and it made a huge difference. Make people pause and pique their intrigue by offering something small, whether it be stickers, coupons or a sample. People love free stuff. Hand out something with your logo or website on it, so even if people don't stop at your booth they have a way of finding you later. This small act of generosity can lead to great returns.
5. DON'T LET WEATHER WIN (for outdoor vendors)
I was mostly prepared for the blistering Florida heat, but don't underestimate Mother Earth - ever. Keep in mind not only the sun or the rain, but wind. Bring paperweights for light products or business cards. Bring sunglasses AND a hat. Don't forget sunscreen and to reapply - these events are often all day affairs. Never hurts to pack an umbrella or raincoat and to have a contingency plan for water-sensitive products. If it's within your means, definitely splurge for a canopy!
Thanks to the amazing organizers of the North Florida VegFest - it was an event for the books! We are already gearing up for round two, three and four!