DIY Business & Blogging

Exhibiting at Tradeshows for the Handmade Business

by Christina Dennis

Exhibiting at Shows

If you have a home business and hand-make items for sale, exhibiting at a trade show or craft show is an excellent way to promote your brand and sell your product. It’s also a great way to meet your customers face-to-face and thank them for supporting you and your craft!

After a few years of being a vendor at shows myself and also from co-producing my own show, WeeStock, I’ve found several things that have helped me find success at these events. I’d love to share these tips with you!

  1. Research the shows in your area & choose only the one(s) that suit you the best
    It’s important to find shows that are the right fit for your business. Do they have the same target customer as you (moms, people who appreciate handmade products, expecting parents)? Does the show have an established following? How long has the show been around? How do they market themselves? If you cannot easily find this information online, contact the show producer. They should be happy & willing to answer any questions you may have. You may have to try different shows to see which work best for you, and then edit your selections the following year. Sometimes shows can be a hit-and-miss dependent on the other shows happening at the same time, the weather, the economy etc. so keep this in mind as well!
  2. Treat shows not only as a sales opportunity, but also as a marketing opportunity
    It’s a wonderful thing to make lots of sales at a show, but keep in mind that shows are also an excellent way to promote your brand to potential customers. Every person you talk to, every business card you hand out, and every email address that is signed up for your email newsletter is a potential customer in the future. Every person that glances at your logo is a new person aware of your brand! With this in mind, make sure that you have a large stack of business cards on hand, a method of capturing new potential customers (an email sign-up sheet, a draw etc.) and lots of signage with your logo and contact information largely displayed on it.

    Golly Gee Baby Display

    I love BIG, BRIGHT signs at my show booth to match my branding! Photo credit: Steve Nagy Photography

  3. Give people a reason to see you at the show
    I find that it’s useful to offer some sort of “special” or sale when I’m at a show to encourage my customers to visit me there rather than order from me online. This is helpful for us both – my customer can see the product in person and get a discount, and I can make a lot of sales all at once with no packaging & shipping hassles… and I can say hello! Offer a small discount on your product, a volume discount, a free gift, or something that will encourage visitors to your booth at the show. Advertise this promotion several weeks prior to the show through your email newsletter, your page on Facebook, your twitter following and with flyers added to your outgoing orders.
  4. Make your booth display eye-catching and unique
    A booth, whatever the size, can be organized in creative ways to make it visually appealing. Consider the colours and the feel of your brand, and decorate your booth to match. Is your logo green and brown? Use a green tablecloth and brown shelving to display your goods. If your booth is small, display your products vertically – a grid wall is a fantastic tool for this! Use lots of large, colourful signage and make sure that a price tag is on all of your items(people despise looking & asking for prices)! Look for creative ways to display your products – old crates, vintage wire shelves, old hat stands, drying racks, clotheslines and antique furniture are all unique pieces to use in your display. Use your own creativity to come up with something truly unique!

    Whimsical Elements Booth Display

    I love this booth display by Whimsical Elements. What a clever use of old crates, antique platters and vintage boxes! Photo credit: Steve Nagy Photography

  5. Follow-up to maximize your experience
    After the show, give feedback to its producer on what you liked about the show and what you thought could have been better. You can also contact the people that visited your booth and made purchases (here’s where an email list or draw comes in handy) and thank them for coming to see you. It’s also helpful to review your sales, how many cards you gave out, how many people you talked to and then consider whether or not this show was beneficial for your business and if it is worth your time and money to return again.

I always have such a great time at trade and craft shows – and these tips have helped me make the most of them! I hope that you will find them useful as you market your business through shows. Are there any additional tips on exhibiting at shows that you’d like to share? Please add your thoughts by commenting below. Happy trade show season!

Christina Dennis is the creator and designer behind Golly Gee Baby, a collection of unique and colourful baby clothing and accessories that are ethically manufactured. Christina also co-produces WeeStock Indie & Boutique Baby Show with Leah Seidl of Whimsical Elements.

The photos on this post are courtesy of Steve Nagy Photography.