Many people ask when they meet me at our busy vendor markets, “how do you have the energy to do all this?” The answer is simple. I get energized by people who create and love what they do. And I drink espresso.
After doing so many markets and coming into contact with so many talented creators, I feel I have some good advice to share with vendors to make their market day a success. Along with Natasha from Heartbeat we can up with a helpful and detailed list.
Over a lovely lunch with Natasha Borisova at Troost, she excitedly told me all about her role as a “Human Being at Heart Beat” – that is her email signature. Heart Beat is a website (currently in beta) for creators to make an online store in minutes with their iPhones. Driven by her passion to educate and learn the ins and out of being a craftsperson, she runs the start-up with Lorenz Sell, another Human Being, who happens to be the man she loves.
Talking to Natasha was like talking to a new-old friend, who has as much interest in markets and the organization side of the craft world as I have. Together we came up with what we believe are helpful tips for vendors when participating in a market, so listen up Valentine’s Market vendors!
Tonight (1/22) Heartbeat is hosting a workshop just on this subject and there are a few spots left.
10 Ways to Make Market Day Successful For Vendors
You are working day and night creating your lovely wares so it’s easy to forget all the other things you need to do before market day. These steps (which don’t have to be painful) will make a BIG difference on market day in creating and keeping relationships with customers.
1. Digital Preparedness
CREATE A WEBSITE (online store or blog) and/or some form of SOCIAL MEDIA page (Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr) where you can refer shoppers after the market. On all of your social media pages, link to your website and contact information. In the days before the market, use your social media outlets to share your creative process with folks and details about the upcoming market. If you have a MAILING LIST don’t forget to email your customers and friends in advance about your participation.
2. Market Checklist
✓ BUSINESS CARDS. Short on cash? Make them yourself. There is nothing more sweet than handwritten business cards or more nostalgic and crafty than hand stamped or screen printed cards.
✓ EMAIL SIGN-UP.Bring a journal or pre-designed sheet of paper for shoppers to write in their emails so you can start your email subscriber list. Don’t forget the pen!
✓ MERCHANDISE DISPLAY. Plan your display and set it up in your own space. Take a photo to refer to on market day. Bring a table cover (if required) that accentuates and doesn’t compete with your product. Use props and risers to create depth and height on the table. Handmade signage is a nice touch.
PLEASE: Don’t bring giant vinyl banners. They ARE tacky, they distract from your product and they take away from the lovely interior design the market organizers worked hard to create.
✓ WATER AND SNACKS. You will be talking a lot of may not be able to leave your space so make sure to bring whatever sustenance will get you through the long day so you can stay bright and peppy.
3. WHAT TO WEAR? Keep it simple and don’t wear clothing that competes with what you’re selling. Grandma’s vintage costume brooch might be a showstopper – but is it more attractive than your own handmade items? You also don’t need to wear your own product, but if it looks great on you then go ahead and show it off. But remember less is more.
BEFORE YOU LEAVE
4. Read the info provided by your market organizer! Your market organizer will be very busy on the day of the market, so the more knowledgeable you are, the less questions you will need to ask because you may already know the answers.
5. Check transportation before heading out. Specifically in places like Greenpoint with the temperamental G train, you may need to give yourself more time if you are using public transportation, driving or taking a car service if there is traffic or poor weather.
DURING THE MARKET
6. Presentation is everything. You sell your product as much as it sells itself.
Body language makes an impression on shoppers. Be excited! SMILE! Natasha personally likes when vendors stand, and if possible to the side of the display. Put away your phone. Make eye contact, but don’t be too pushy. Markets are for browsing and shoppers will make their rounds and often come back.
When you do eat, make sure to do it discreetly. Don’t pack a messy meatball hero for lunch. Bring something that doesn’t require tons of napkins and won’t stain or make crumbs all over your table.
Make your wares accessible to your shoppers’ senses. Shoppers enjoy interacting with products. Samples are great for food and beauty products. Have a mirror if you offer jewelry or accessories.
Less is more. Nastasha specifically recommends to avoid putting out every single product you have in stock because this will distract shoppers and can become messy. Store extra product under your table. Don’t block the aisles with merchandise that shoppers can trip over.
Food vendors – sanitary food handling is key. Keep hand sanitizer nearby and wear gloves. Make sure samples are arranged neatly and the trash toothpick jar is clearly labeled. (I’ve made that mistake before!)
Offer deals! Shoppers love a discount so think about offering a one day only market deal.
Put your best work forward. Clearance bins are tricky because they can distract from new product and shoppers usually b-line for sales rather than paying full price. If you do put out a sales bin, make sure it is neat and not in an ugly cardboard box.
7. Be kind and respectful – to everyone!
To the market organizers:
Show up on time and be set up before the market starts. It looks bad to shoppers and reflects poorly on the market organizers if you are still setting up once the market begins. Plus you will have time to relax and won’t start off the market in a frazzled state of mind.
Patience and empathy are virtues. You are one of many vendors with a more than a few questions for the organizers and they are there to serve you, but can only do one thing at a time. Not getting your answer or help fast enough? Ask another vendor.
Don’t leave garbage behind. Leave the market better than you found it. Throw away garbage and food in trash receptacles. If you do have a lot of packing materials, cardboard or wrapping, take it home and dispose of it yourself.
DO NOT break down and leave before the market ends, even if you have sold out of product. It’s plain rude to the other vendors and the organizers. And even though you don’t have product doesn’t mean you can’t interact with shoppers, hand out business cards, take email addresses or go shopping yourself!
To fellow vendors.
They are your comrades. They aren’t JUST competition. Think of them as a community of fellow makers who can become great friends and valuable future resources. Learn from one another. Ask questions and be open to communicating. Trade ideas and products. Cross promote one another via social media to increase your customers.
A good customer isn’t one who just buys, but who understands your product and refers friends. Browsers are future customers, often times the very same day because as we mentioned shoppers like to see everything before spending. If you leave a good impression and they like your product they may be back – maybe that day or maybe in the future.
8. Use social media to remind friends about the market! While we hate seeing vendors sitting on their cell phones – take a short minute to snap a photo for instagram or tweet to shoppers to remind them they should be on their way! Then put your phone away and focus on all the real people in front of you.
9. Tell your story and know your product. Shoppers don’t want you to chew their ear off but they are there because they want to meet you and understand what you do and how you do it. Be ready to answer questions about your production process, the materials you use, and why you create what you do. Great products always have great stories of inspiration behind them that customers can relate to.
You created a cosmetics line because you have troubled skin? Your customers want to know!
Be prepared to haggle or explain your prices – the time it takes to make your product or the fine materials used. Educate customers so they appreciate your effort.
10. Be thankful. After the event take a minute to thank the organizers and reach out to any of the new friends you have made. Follow other vendors you’ve met on social media and send a note to new shoppers on your mailing list – maybe offering them a discount.
We hope this helps you be a successful vendor at future markets!