Monday, November 8, 2010

Life Lessons Learned at Craft Shows

If you pay attention when you're out in public, especially when vending at craft shows, you can learn valuable lessons.  Some apply to your craft business, some to just life in general.  Lessons I've been learning that I'm trying to better implement are as follows:
1)  Listen.
Hear your customers.  Learn from them.  If they like what you're making except for... listen and make adjustments for the next time or offer to do custom work.  Look at each show as an opportunity to perform consumer research.

2)  Smile.
This is especially important when your day isn't going well.  People don't want to be around unhappy negative people.  Don't keep potential customers away by complaining about your day or looking miserable.  Sometimes others are having a bad day too and something as simple as a smile might make things just a little easier for them.  Even if they don't buy something from you one day, you never know when you might see them again.

3)  Pay attention.
Some items get attention from customers regardless of how you display them.  Others may not get noticed at all.  Pay attention to which items your customers are looking at and what they're saying as they do.  Make notes of what works and what doesn't and continue fine tuning your display at each show.

4)  Follow through. 
We all get busy and only have a set number of hours in each day.  Try to prioritize tasks in terms of follow through.  If I owe someone an answer, I don't want to keep them waiting and yet sometimes I get busy and let things slide.  When it happens to me I get truly frustrated, especially if having to wait for information from someone else holds me up so I'm trying to do a better job of following through myself.  With customers especially, they're more likely to return for future purchases if you do well with this.

5)  Be consistent.   
This goes along with follow through as well.  If you tell people something they will likely remember it even if you don't.  People know other people.  You never know who they'll talk to.  Due to this, if you tell one person x but do y, you can be fairly certain it will come back to haunt you.  You never want to find yourself in a situation where you told customer #1 something, then tell customer #2 the opposite and have them call you on it.  While I haven't been guilty of this, I have been on the receiving end and can tell you it's not a good position to find yourself in.

6)  Treat others the way you want them to treat you.
This lesson is simple and basic and one most of us should have learned as children.  Some of us try to live our lives according to that lesson and some people appear to have forgotten it or never learned it.  Try not to let them impact your actions.  I feel it's still important to keep in mind as I navigate my way through life.  Setting a good example just might rub off on others.  If you're nice and friendly and offer to watch a neighbor's booth while they go to the restroom, chances are good they'll do the same for you.

7)  You can't make everyone happy all the time. 
The best you can do is make the majority of people happy.  There will always be at least one person that you can't please no matter what you do.  There are always things going on in other people's lives that impact their perspective that you have no control over.  Try not to let them affect you negatively.

8)  Have fun! 
Life is too short not to find a way to enjoy yourself.  If you're vending at a craft show, I'm guessing you're trying to find a way to make money doing something you enjoy.  Even if it's an off day and you're not making money that day, find a way to have fun at the event.  Enjoy interacting with your customers.  Get to know your neighbors.  If there's music at the event, enjoy the opportunity to hear a new performer.   By looking at the positive side of things, you'll most likely have the best day possible given any situation you may find yourself in.

I realize there are many lessons I've missed but the above are themes that seem to come up frequently.  These are items I'm trying to improve my implementation of.  I am by no means trying to claim I'm an expert at them.  I am human after all and therefore imperfect.  Despite this, I'm trying to do what I can to improve.  What lessons have you learned that are particularly useful?  I'd love to hear about them.  Let's learn from each other.


BarkerBell Herbs and Heirlooms said...

Since some of my friends commented on the link on Facebook, I thought I'd also share the comments here:

Lynn wrote:"Hey Tamara! Great article! I especially like how most of what you spoke of is our behavior. It really rings true when you are out there in front of people, be kind, sincere, helpful and I especially like the advice to LISTEN! Thanks for taking the time to write this!"

BarkerBell Herbs and Heirlooms said...

Kelly said, "Good blog post Tam! I have felt that way many times after a not so good show. The best you can do is move on and think about ways to improve in the future!"

Ashley Pixelle Andrews said...

Sweet lessons. You're totally spot on. My favorite: TREAT OTHERS AS YOU'D LIKE TO BE TREATED.
Oh man, it is so good to be reminded of this every now and then. Thank you.

BarkerBell Herbs and Heirlooms said...

Ashley - thanks! It's surprising how often people forget that simple rule.


19 Moons Jewelry & Accessories said...

Ah yes that would be one of the 10 commandments so it must be pretty important :) Great checklist of guideposts, well said!

BarkerBell Herbs and Heirlooms said...

Angela wrote, "One lesson that I have learned is to make sure to smile and say "Hi" to everybody that comes to the table. Even if they come close and browse, I still say "Hi". People like to be acknowledged. I also TRY very hard not to talk on my phone or use the internet while doing a show. I find it very rude if I go up to a table and see the vendor on the phone or using the internet instead of engaging with the customers."

BarkerBell Herbs and Heirlooms said...

Angela also added, "PS: I spend years being a customer before I became a vendor and I know from experience that a vendor can have awesome stuff but if they are rude, I will NOT buy from them. From experience with Antique shows there have been a lot of vendors that will look at me first and judge me before they decide to even say "HI". Some don't say "HI" at all and are reading the paper or act too good to speak to people. I find that to be a huge turnoff and won't even look at their booth."

BarkerBell Herbs and Heirlooms said...

Angela's points are all good ones. I always make a point of greeting each customer. I always just smile and simply say, "hi" as Angela suggested. Most customers respond favorably though I have had one or two who seem concerned, get a little defensive, and reply, "I'm just looking." Apparently their afraid that I'm going to try to hard sell just because I greeted them. So, I just smile and say, "That's fine."

BarkerBell Herbs and Heirlooms said...

One of my Etsy friends commented in a forum post, "read your blog post and thought that those items would be apropriate to our shops here and our every day life!!!"

She's definitely correct. The life lessons definitely do apply to so many situations.


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