Know Before You Go | How to Steal The Show at a Craft Festival or Trade Show

by Jane Button on June 29, 2011


Have you ever attended a trade show, craft fair, festival or juried show and wondered why some booths are jam-packed with wall to wall people and other booths are completely empty? Some companies seem to be magnetic – pulling in people and customers.

I'm here to tell you – it doesn't happen magically. There's planning and a lot going on in the background. There are no accidents.

I've both attended and participated in shows and I see it all the time – some people doing it right and others sitting on the sidelines wondering why they even bothered to go to the show. And then they play the blame game, blaming everyone else for their lack of sales, when actually they could have done more if only they'd done their homework.


Exhibiting at a show is a huge investment in time and money.You've got the cost of the booth; travel expenses; samples or inventory; marketing materials; props for merchandising and your time and energy and that of any employees. Getting it done right takes planning and makes a world of difference between making a profit or not. Just showing up with some products with fingers crossed simply does not work.

Let's face it marketing has changed – the economy has changed; and it's not going to go back the way it was – ever!  

Marketing for a show in the new economy requires new strategies and updated techniques. We're in a new era and the winners have to have more than a great product. You simply can't count on the "build it and they will come" kind of strategy. And, by the way, hope is not a strategy.  It's time to be bold and on purpose – get your products and your company noticed.

You can learn to steal the show – even if you're the new kid on the block. Technology and social media have changed your ability to connect.  Consumers now want things now – and technology and customer service are more important now than ever before. 

Here are my five favorite "steal the show" tips:

1.    Know your products – be able to tell a story about them:This may sound rudimentary and you say to yourself – of course I know about my products! The question is do you know how to tell a story about your products? And do your really products tell a story? Creating excitement when showing your products in person can make a difference between getting a sale or not. If you don't know how to connect with your customer it can be a huge loss. This is not something that always comes naturally – you've got to be conscious of what you are saying. It's about selling and engaging in a non-salesy way.

The creative businesses at the shows who understand how to pitch their products – understand the features and benefits are far more productive. On top of that they also anticipate the questions and know how to engage a potential buyer.

2.    Build A List and Communicate with them:I'm not talking about a DO TO list – I'm talking about a customer list (people who have already purchased your products) – a list of fans, people who love your products, your company and your ideas.  Growing a list both online and offline is essential when you are selling retail (direct to the consumer) or wholesale (selling to stores). You can do this in a variety of ways – even when you're just starting out! 

Creating a list means you are targeting a market segment and you know where they hang out. Fast ways of creating a list include giving something away from your website (you have one don't you?); using facebook and other social media effectively for adding people to your list by connecting; and advertising – small well placed ads can be incredibly effective.

3.    Communicate with your list before the show – give them a reason to stop by: You'll want to be sure your list knows where you're going to be in person. They love you and they want to find you.  When I recently attended the Farm Chicks show I knew Spool No 72 was going to be there – not because I made a purchase from them, because I had not, but because they very effectively used Facebook ads to tell people they were going to be at the show months in advance. And because I knew they were going to be there I actively sought them out.  

You can also use other ways of communicating, such as advertising, phone calls and postcards – a very good way to show off products and let them know where you'll be. Contact is essential before the event!

4.    Be consistent with your brand – on your website and in your show space:  Creating the look and feel of your space at the show needs to be an extension of your brand. Your website (hopefully created well before you participate in a show) reflects your style, your brand and who you are as a company. This must be extended to your space at the show. Not just with signage, but in your layout, displays and merchandising. It is a complete reflection of what you stand for, who you are as a company.

Spool No. 72 is a perfect example. When I walked into their show space at the Farm Chicks show, it looked exactly like their website. Their banner was consistent with their site and how items were merchandised were consistent with their website photography. It made me feel comfortable and like I was just where I should be.

I don't care what anyone says – people do judge a book by its cover and it's critical that your space shows your products while reflecting your known image. 

The environment you create at a show must do the following to steal the show: Engage – Invite – Intrigue  – and be Consistent with your brand.

5.    Give something away – create a memory: At the show, don't miss an opportunity to be remembered. You want them to remember who you are whether they bought from you or not. And you also want to be able to contact them at a later date – whether through direct mail or the internet.

A few ways to do this: Postcards printed up for a discount on your website. Give away pens or other small items with your company name and website (make sure it tells what your product is – especially if the name of your company is not related to what you sell). Create a contest to give away a product making sure it is of high value so people will want to give you their contact information. You can also have a fishbowl to gather business cards – great for getting multiple contact choices.

Getting your act together takes proper planning for success.  There's no point in attending if you don't know how to steal the show!

  "Good fortune is what happens when opportunity meets with planning." Thomas Edison

If you're serious about your business and your product is ready for prime time – you'll want to attend PERFECT PITCH, two full days hands on working with Jane on how to sell your products to stores, at a trade show, craft fair or festival. Now that you've got the product learn how to show it to sell it.  

© 2011 Jane Button International Design2Market Success


WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR E-ZINE OR WEB SITE? You can, as long as you include this complete blurb with it: Online creative product mentor Jane Button publishes "Design 2 Market News" weekly ezine packed full of with tips to help make you money from your Sewn or Knit Product, Design, Gift, or Craft Business. If you're ready to take off the training wheels and turn your creative passion into a profitable business, get your FREE tips now at

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