Thursday, July 17, 2014

What Makes a Succesful Show?

by Staci Louise Smith

I am sure there are a million posts out there on this topic.  If you wonder why, its because there are a million answers to that question.  And all of us who do shows, learn something new each time we do one. 

Today I will touch on one or two things that I think go into a successful show.

I happened to be at a show over the weekend.  I have been doing this show for 9 years- its simply one of my favorites.  I am always working on my display- every year I change it up a bit...though I really have it quite how I like it now.  So the last few years it hasn't varied very much.  

Last years booth with last years banner

One of my more recent additions was a larger banner that went across the front of my table.  A lot of vendors had them at Bead Fest last year, and Karen Totten's of Starry Road Studio caught my eye.  It showed a very clear sample of her work and really stood out.  I liked how she had individual pictures of her beads on it.

Karen with her banner at set up- note the ones also hanging in the back
Her daughter Nellie also had one in a rainbow of wooly wire

So this year I made a new banner for my jewelry shows, and thought I'd do something similar.  Rather then just show one piece on it (like I had the other year), I could give a better idea of my scope of work with a few pictures.  

Now, if you have done art and craft shows you know that there are always a lot of jewelry vendors.  I mean, a lot.  You really have to stand out, to ensure that the jewelry fans come to check out your booth.  

Well, I had a customer tell me that my banner drew her in from across the way.  She loved that she could see exactly what my style was (which was right up her alley) and it made her come to see what I had.  Otherwise, she wouldn't have stopped in.  She went on to buy some great pieces too.  I really loved that she took time to share that with me.  So I thought I would share it with all of you.  

Another tip is to make sure your business cards have a picture of what you do.  Your customers may pick up 10 or more at a show.  You want them to remember yours at a glance, and why they picked it up.  They should be able to look at it and know exactly what you do.  Below is my jewelry show card.

After all, artists, people who love art, we are visual folks.  Pictures are important.  

I had planned to write about the next tip because it came up with a fellow artist at the show.  When  it came up on Facebook in a bead and jewelry group again, I thought I would definitely write about it. It pertains to allowing customers take pictures at a show.  The question was whether you allow it, and why or why not...and, if you'd consider signage to discourage pictures.  I think it wound up being a great discussion.  It is a very hard thing as an artist, to know that someone may be out to try to make what you made.  Whether it is for themselves (rather then buying it from you) or the to make it sell, and be your competition. 

This is Cori Krewson-Catlow's mom running her booth- she had such a great way with people!  Look at that crowd!

Here is my take on it, and I have been doing shows a long time.  

If someone plans to copy you, they will do it, whether you allow them to take a picture or not.  If you are selling online, you already gave them pictures of your work.  

Though it does happen that some people copy, and then go on to sell at the same venue as you (and I am not discounting how much this sucks- believe me, I am sure that it is a horrible thing to have happen!)....but this post is not about copying, its about selling.

Here is Barb Bechtel at a show, look how enthusiastic she is!  I love her energy.

At the end of the day, you cannot practice defensive sales techniques.  As a customer, if I walked into a booth that had a sign saying "no pictures please" I'd walk right out.  Let's face it, it comes across as closed off.  Instead, I encourage you to talk about your pieces.  Talk about how you make them.  Engage the person to talk about what they like about the piece.  You may find yourself in a delightful conversation about color, or texture, or gemstones.  You may find they want to show it to their mom.  I have even had women shop for friends this way, and come back and buy things after their friends texted back that they wanted them. 

Mary-Lynne Moffat with some customers in her booth.  Mary-Lynne is so wonderful at talking about her art.  Her passion comes shining through when she speaks of her creations!

 If you are afraid that every customer that comes into your booth is going to rip you off somehow, it will show through in your attitude.  No one wants to spend time and money on someone who is closed off.  What makes us different then chain stores and factory made goods, is that what we make is part of who we are, and our customers get the opportunity to meet us and hear about what makes us tick, and why we did what we did on the piece.....ect.....  

Chris Kaitlyn helping a customer find what they are looking for

So my advice- talk!!!!  Talk about why they like the piece they photographed.  Talk about your process, the materials, how you make it. It will draw people in.  They will appreciate your pieces more when they know what went into them, and even more, when they see YOU in them.  I have gotten crowds in my booth explaining how to use bronze clay, or do etching with electricity.  I have had men stay for 20 minutes talking about fossils, and made friends over sea glass discussions.  Will every conversation result in a sale?  NO.  But it may bring them back in.  Or, someone who IS interested in buying but may be shy, may hear about your pieces and buy one because they learned something new.

Customer can easily become friends- Laura Blanck (center) posing with some great customers at a show

Why do you think galleries have a "meet the artist" night?  People want to meet the person who creates the art.  They want to know what makes them tick.  It becomes part of the pieces themselves.

These are just some things I have learned.  I admit, I am a people person- I know not everyone is, but I was shy at first too.  It was hard to find that comfort zone to talk about my work.  When I started to relax, and just think of it as an opportunity to meet creative people, and thought of these people as potential friends with common interests, it came more naturally.  In the end, I have made lot of friends at shows.  I have found customers whom I LOVE seeing. I love to catch up on what is new with them, learn what they have been up to, see what other artists they are into, and on and on.   

I have found such joy sharing my craft, not just the actual pieces, but the passion I have for it as well.  

I hope that you can too.  Don't worry about what could happen, just enjoy what you are doing.  That will shine through, and your customers will get to see you.....really see the honest you....and it will only help you make connections. 

Everyone has their thoughts on allowing pictures, and these are just mine.  I was an art show customer for many years before I sold there, and I know how I'd like to be treated, and what drew me to certain artists, and what turned me off.  This is all just some food for thought.


Gale said...

I'm one of the shy ones...who walked away from your booth at Bead Fest last year with a bagful of loot because of your great talent for drawing people out. You just can't disguise the joy you take in your work!

As for the "no photo" rule, I just came back from Italy where every second shop had an annoying sign to that effect. Harrumph! I didn't go in to those shops, but I sure did take photos. Being in the public eye is in the nature of the beast, and I doubt a jewelry designer can ever prevent copyists, but depriving others of admiring (and yes, learning from) your work is just plain defensive. Thank you for being so open to those of us who are appreciative!

Laura Blanck said...

Wonderful article! Thank you for posting it!!! I admire artist that besides dedicating so much time to create, they give the best of themselves sharing their thoughts and feelings. Thank you for showing my photo at the Coconut Grove Fine Art Festival! All the best for you always, Laura Blanck from Openstudio.

TesoriTrovati said...

I really don't do shows as I don't have the time for that, but I like what you said about 'defensive sales tactics'. When you exude negativity it really does impact your work and image. When I do set up a booth space I like it to be as if I am inviting a friend into my home studio. It is where I light up and feel most alive and telling those stories of the inspiration, techniques, art bead friends that I have highlighted all impact the bottom line. My work sells so much better when I am there to talk about it! And intriguing displays are a must for inviting people in and you have a beautiful gallery booth! Thanks for this informative and enlightening article. Enjoy the day. Erin

Claire Maunsell said...

I used to do both retail and wholesale shows, and I appreciate this thoughtful and perceptive post! And, I think you're so right about 'open' versus 'closed' attitudes! What customer, retail or wholesale, wants to deal with that level of distrust and suspicion? And I have been been copied, so I know how that must move on because ultimately, it isn't good for your health or your work!

You are correct when you say that if people want to copy, they will. And as you say, they will do it simply and easily - from images you provided from the Internet!

And if people need to try making something in your style at home with a photo they took in your booth, I think that 99% of the time they will thank you for starting them on their creative voyage and they will go on to either develop their own style - or become a customer - OR BOTH!

Chris Kaitlyn said...

Great article. I enjoyed what you had to say and the terrific pictures & have posted a link in my blog to your article. Thanks again for posting my picture.

Kathy Lindemer said...

Thanks for sharing your thoughts on how to have a great show. Personally, if someone wants to take a photo at my booth, I am flattered. I also think having a banner is a definite plus.

Shel said...

Great post. I love how you approached the delicate subject of photography during shows and I have to say I agree w/you vs. those who put up the 'no photography' signs. Defensive marketing wears down you and your customers and creates even more barriers to overcome. I also love your new sign - that's fabulous!!

Carol Dekle said...

Staci, your booth does really pop with great textures and patterns. Your colors are neutral and well, which allows the colors in your jewelry to stand out and attract customers. The banner ties everything together and really gives a good sense of what you sell. Great job! You have inspired me to make a bigger banner for the the outside. Thanks! I would never in a million years not permit customers to take pics. Actually they have turned into sales for me! Great post!

Shaiha said...

What a great article! I am one of those that will probably never do a show simply because my body wouldn't allow it but I do love browsing. And I do tend to buy a lot more if the person that I am purchasing from is open and inviting.

Cindy said...

i have been painting / crafting / sewing for years. I can't stick with one thing. Normally I just sell some stuff to family/friends on facebook or I donate my items or they are given as christmast presents but I really want to try and branch out. Do you have advice on what order to do that in? etsy, a website, maybe some local shows? I'm not sure what to do next and what will sell. I don't want to make a lot of stuff then it just sits there. Help! :)

Miranda Moore said...

Thanks for the advice! I'm new to selling products (I've sold services for a few years...) I just ordered my first banner and I am so excited to try it out at my next fair! Thanks again!

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