by Luann Udell.
(Keene, New Hampshire)
1. ‘Different’ can be good, in the right venue.
When I first started selling my highly eclectic jewelry, I tried a lot small local shows, including some that sounded quite prestigious and were sponsored by good organizations – a university alumni group, local private school fairs (Waldorf et al.), popular craft shows.
But I quickly realized that, although my work drew a lot of attention and positive feedback, mostly people weren’t expecting to see my kind of work, nor were they in the mindset to buy more unusual, more expensive work.
(Interestingly, I always sold one expensive item, enough for me to take my next step. But not enough to tempt me to keep doing those small fairs.)
I realized I had to find ‘my tribe’ – shows where the price points were more in line, and people came to see and buy high-quality, collectible work.
My second year out, I juried into our prestigious state craft guild and started doing their annual fair. My audience (and sales) at that show started out strong and continue to grow over the years.
2. Collect your customers’ contact info NOW!
Within a few years, I had a respectable list, and it continues to grow.
I’m always astounded at people who have no way of alerting their customers – and potential customers – to shows, special events, sales and open studios.
3. Learn how to talk about – and sell – your work.
The best money I ever spent was on Bruce Baker’s CDs about displaying and selling craft. You can order them at his website here: http://bbakerinc.com/
Bruce is a vibrant, entertaining speaker who takes all the mystery out of talking to your customers and how to close a sale. He tells you what to say, how to say it, and when to say it. And when to shut up!
He often travels to craft guilds across the country, giving seminars on these topics. I always learn something new and effective, every time I hear him.
I heard him my second year starting out, and bought his CD on Dynamic Selling. I listened to it repeatedly, every chance I got – doing dishes, in the car running errands, and driving back and forth to my first big show (9 days long.) I was the top seller at my first show venue that year!
I STILL listen to his advice when I drive to my shows. It gets me in the right frame of mind and gives me the right kind of energy.
4. Let your work – not your display – take center stage.
I’ve experimented with all kinds of displays and decorations for my booth, and I love the creative ideas folks come up with to showcase their jewelry.
But if people are mistaking your display for your wares, it may be time to tone down the creativity.
I eventually settled on displays from Vilmain ( http://www.vilmain.com/category/jewelry-displays ). I like the simple black lines on their earring and necklace display.
Most of my add-on display echoes or compliments their aesthetic. My jewelry really pops on their stands!
If you order from Vilmain, tell them you’re a jewelry artist, and they’ll let you purchase wholesale without a minimum. (Or they did the last time I ordered from them.)
5. Offering too many choices may mean fewer sales.
We’re creative people, and we like to please our customers. But try to avoid showing everything you do.
Offering 15 color choices on every design, 20 colors for each bracelet, rows and rows and rows of earrings in every size, shape and color – it’s overwhelming for customers, especially with all the other distractions at a big and busy show.
If you have multiples, show ONE. And replace it as soon as it sells.
If you have 15 color choices in every style, show small groupings of SOME of each style. People will ask, “Do you have this earring style in purple?” and be ready to pull them out.
The reason less is more, is . . . when we look at a display, the item that really appeals to us will ‘jump out’. If there are too many things, the item a customer would love will be lost in the chaos.
This is so true that, when customers get stalled, I often ask them, “What is the first thing you saw (or touched) when you came into my booth?” (Because they saw SOMETHING that made them come in the booth.)
When they tell me, I sell them that piece – because out of all the stuff in my booth, they unconsciously were attracted to THAT PIECE.
And 9 times out of 10, that is what they end up buying. Neat, huh?
6. Never let slow sales bring you down.
This is a toughie. But it’s critical to your eventual success. You can’t let slow sales, or a slow show, depress you.
Your attitude will be evident to everyone who walks by, and it will drive people away.
My strategy is to look for something I’ve gained by being there. Even if a show is awful, I’VE LEARNED SOMETHING. (Even if it’s just, “Never do this show again!”)
Maybe I need better signage.
Maybe I need to change the mix of prices. (Interestingly, sometimes this means MORE EXPENSIVE work.)
Maybe I skipped my pre-show postcard mailing.
Or maybe I need to have more new work.
Maybe a customer said something wonderful or thoughtful about my work.
Maybe someone suggested a better show, or a store that would be a great fit for my work.
What helps me is to keep a notebook or journal and record the events of each day. That way, I can look it over after a good night’s rest, and see what needs to change.