As I mentioned in my previous post, after being in a million vendor shows, I finally tried my hand at hosting my own. It was quite successful if you go by vendor satisfaction, product sold and shows booked. I also learned a bunch, so I thought I would share my newfound knowledge.
The Magic Formula of Time and Place
As much as possible, you want to harness the power of existing traffic. This means choosing a location people are already going to be at during a time they are already going to be there. Many vendor shows are in halls and hotel ballrooms where people only know to show up if they are invited (read: advertising). My feeling is that you are already saving money on advertising if you choose a more public location during a busy time. Options could be a mall, an empty storefront in a busy street or strip mall or a downtown church hall during an already established community event. In my case, I found a multi-purpose room attached to a downtown ice cream parlor during Small Business Saturday. It was a very visible location with pre-established traffic on day when people were already thinking about supporting local businesses. Win. Win. Win.
Pick your Mix
After you’ve found a time and place, you need vendors to fill it. You want good vibe and variety. Here are my thoughts on picking your vendor mix.
- Party plan/direct sales reps do much better at shows that are primarily for direct sales reps as opposed to crafters. There’s a world of difference from wanting to book parties and selling crafts. Craft shows attract different customers and with different purchasing goals. If you confine your show to just other DS people, it will be more successful for everyone.
- I recommend approaching people you know first. Having a room full of vendors who know each other and enjoying one another’s company makes for a great atmosphere that your visitors will feel.
- Make sure a variety of products types are represented. As the organizer, you are allowed to be picky. Obviously, you don’t want two reps from the same company (unless they are sharing a table by choice), but you also want to make sure that you are covering a variety of product types. You don’t want to have 2/3rds makeup companies and the last third jewelry companies because visitors will get bored and/or overwhelmed by their choices and leave. In addition, it will make the reps feel more competitive. It’s okay to have more than one jewelry or makeup rep, but remember that the smaller the space you are working in the less redundancy you want. My little location only had room for 12 reps. We had two makeup reps and two jewelry reps. I think anymore than that would have been too much.
Dot your “i”s and cross your “t”s
Confession: I am the queen of making people sign stuff. I don’t know that all of it would hold water in a court of law, but it makes people take it all seriously, so if you are putting on the show like this, make sure you’ve got something in writing. Mine was a two parter. First, was an online sign-up form. This made it easy for me to get everything into directly into a spreadsheet and also tell who signed up first (for when I was trying to be fair when picking my vendor mix.) Once I picked my vendors, I emailed all of them a vendor agreement/liability waiver that I shamelessly pilfered off the Internet. The owner of my event space was a pretty laid back guy who didn’t present me with any forms to sign for him (he really should have), but you can expect that most will. You just want to have all of your bases covered.
Get the word out
Yeah, you’re going to have to do some advertising. Some of it will be free. Some will cost you. Even if you are having your show in a high traffic area on a busy day, you are going to have more success if people know in advance that you are going to be there. You will have to do some work and probably spend some money here. I budgeted 2/3rds of the vendor fee to cover the cost of the event space and the last third for advertising.
- Facebook event – Social media is where it’s at. Make a PUBLIC Facebook event and share it. Have the other vendors share it. Post in it. Have the other vendors post in it. Share it again.
- Press releases – Send out a press release a month in advance to your local papers. Go here to learn how to write a press release.
- Word of mouth – Tell people about your event and invite them to come. Have your vendors do the same. Yes, this is obvious. Think about it and make a point of doing it anyway.
- Signs, posters & postcards – We got ours from Vistaprint.com. It wasn’t all that pricey considering. I put the lawn signs on the four major roads running into our town, hung the posters in popular hangouts and gave the postcards to the vendors to hand out.
- Paid ads – This could be in a newspaper or online. I’ll be honest. I don’t think this step is really necessary or profitable unless you are hosting a very large show. Ads can be costly and my opinion is that you can get just as much reach with Facebook sharing and some strategic signs and posters around the community.
Random Final Tips
In no particular order:
- Assign tables. If you have more than one of each vendor type, make sure they aren’t right next to each other.
- Set up the tables the night before and get in as early as you can the morning of. Chaos is not conducive to shopping.
- Encourage your vendors to have drawings, games, gift baskets and other fun at their tables.
- Thank people. You know I am big on thanking people. Like do it. Remember: This is a relationship business.
- Have fun.
Let me know if these tips are helpful and especially if you implemented them and had your own show!