Heartwork Essentials: Markets

Top 5 tips for being successful at markets … that have nothing to do with your setup.

1. Create relationships

With event organizers

Having a good relationship with the event organizer(s) means you have a better chance of coming back for the next one, especially if it is a juried event. It can also result in extra promotion, a good booth location, and other opportunities. If it is an option, becoming a sponsor can double down on those perks. It doesn’t always make financial sense, but can pay off if you find you love the event and you can afford to. Also, finding ways to be cheerful and helpful, even when it isn’t popular, can go a long way in a relationship. Put yourself in their shoes and make a friendship. The event organizers almost always have a lot of experience and can teach you a thing or two, if you are willing to listen.

With fellow vendors

It is 100% worth it to make friends with your fellow vendors. Maybe you have a ladder and they need to tie something up high… or maybe you need to go to the bathroom while it’s really slow and need someone to watch your booth… whatever the reason, making friendships will ensure you have more fun, and help you be successful, both in the long term and short term. Promote each other. Praise each other. Learn from each other.

With attendees

When people attend and walk through your booth, be friendly, helpful, answer questions, and tell them a bit about yourself. If they have a good experience, they will be more likely to purchase from you on the spot or in the future. Even if they don’t, you might make a new friend, become a mentor, become a student… who knows! 

Imagine finding out toward the end of the conversation that a customer follows you on social media or already owns some of your work. You might even have clients who were friends with someone you know or who has bought your work before. Now imagine that they didn’t see your best side or came specifically to meet you and found someone else working your booth.

You don’t have to approach every person, and in fact, I don’t think you should. Give people space to think and peruse, or talk to their friend. Sometimes their friend will do a better job of convincing them they need the item, then anything you could say.

Customer relations are the cornerstone of your business and should be a priority. Keep an eye out for the related post next week on talking about your art.

2. Choose the right event

This is maybe the most important thing you do if you want to be successful at whatever event you choose. Research different events, their booth fees, the vibe they promote, the advertising and promoting they do, the venue location (start with local shows to keep travel expenses down), the parking availability, the attractions or ‘extras’ for the event… all of these play a big role. If the event organizer can’t get a lot of people there, including the RIGHT people (meaning, people who will spend money), it doesn’t matter how awesome your product is, you’ll have a disappointing experience.

Once you chosen the right events for your calendar, be careful about how many you do. More markets = more money = better, right? Not necessarily. Think about your product and your audience. If you sell something that is consumable, you’ll probably be okay. Customers will want to find you to replenish. If you sell original art or luxury items, you might consider giving people a little time to build up excitement about your new work and cultivate a following of collectors. If someone thinks that they can always buy your work, then they may not value it as much.

3. Promote yourself

Promoting yourself is all about creating buzz before the event. This is the magic of social media! You can often pre-sell pieces by promoting new work before the event. You can also put work out there that ’will only be available for purchase at the market’, which makes people want to come to your booth first before things sell out. If you have a blog, it would be a good idea to write posts about certain buzz-worthy pieces or new processes that you are trying out in your studio. Take snapshots of different things you will be selling and get people talking (and sharing). And keep it up during the event!

4. Be professional

Be professional in manner and dress. You don’t have to dress fancy for every event, but be well-groomed and look like you take your job seriously. This is your business, your brand, you must represent it well. Even if you don’t feel like being the type that greets others first, or smiles and engages in conversation easily, FAKE IT UNTIL YOU MAKE IT! Don’t talk about others negatively, especially in front of your customers. Remember that how you look and act definitely matters in your success.

5. Keep evolving

Make sure that you keep growing as an artist. Try new things, explore new mediums, keep being creative. It’s important to stay relevant in the art community and your customers will love taking that journey with you. Also, it gives them a reason to keep coming back to your for more art!

Lastly, have fun! Hand out business cards like crazy, take future orders if possible, and make connections. A successful market isn’t just about the sales made during the event, but also about the relationships and sales made in the following months that resulted from something that happened at that event.