Nobody likes to be harassed or hounded when they’re browsing at a craft show, and on the flip-side, no one likes to be ignored. What’s the perfect balance of interaction with a customer at a craft show that won’t leave you looking like a stereotypical used car salesman? I talked to two creative women who have mastered the art of Craft Show Engagement for their advice.
1. Talk TO customers, not AT them.
Shelley, Paula and Jeanine are three sisters who run the whimsical store Sweet William. They regularly participate in local craft shows and art markets selling their art, paper goods and dolls. Shelley brings up the point that it’s better to wait for the customer to initiate any conversation past a friendly hello, otherwise it will seem like you are talking AT the customer, rather than TO the customer. This way the customer has all the control and doesn’t feel smothered or intimidated.
2. Watch for Body Language.
Whitney West sells lovely bags and pillow covers, and explains that eye contact is a good indicator that the customer is open to conversation. She also says to take notice of the way their body is facing when you talk to them – if their body is turning away from you and your booth, it’s a clue that they’re ready to leave. Shelley agrees with this advice, and also adds that you should take notice of where they are looking. They could be nodding while you explain something to them, but their eyes could be darting all around for a nearby friend to get them out of there!
3. Tell Your Story.
Customers often like to hear the story behind the items they’re looking at. Shelley likes to tell customers about the character Camille featured in a lot of Sweet William’s art. She also shares with them a little about her family, especially since it’s a family-run business. Customers like getting that little bit of insight into the people behind the store.
4. Be Available.
While making sure not to bombard your customers, be careful not to ignore them either. Shelley says that she likes to “stand slightly off center and give people space to browse and chat amongst themselves - but they know we are ready when they are. If you have a partner that you’re selling with, its ok to chat quietly together - but don't overlook the customer while you have your heart to heart!”
Whitney notices that when she goes to craft shows, if a vendor just sits behind their booth looking bored or unhappy to be there, she doesn’t want to approach them because she feels like she would be bothering them to come and look at their craft. She reminds us that “just because a customer doesn't buy something at that moment doesn't mean they may not be a future customer.” So make sure to not only be available to talk, but also have business cards available to do the talking for you long after the craft show is over.
Thanks ladies for your great advice. If any of you readers have any advice or tips on ways to interact with craft show customers, please share!
Dionne Christiansen is a graphic designer based in Houston, TX. She blogs at City of Dionne.
The main image is courtesy of Sweet William and is available for sale on Etsy.
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