I’ve been popping-up at markets for years and have had experiences ranging from terrible (zero sales, rain outs, weird customers, the works) to incandescent (high sales, incredible market vibes, free drinks, customers who fell in love with what I was selling). Just recently I had the privilege to plan and organize the Spring Gift Market for the Women’s Entrepreneur Society of Corpus Christi and had the chance to draw on those experiences. The market was a total success, in part because each vendor really stepped up to the plate and made it that way! Shoppers were so impressed: with the quality of goods, with the venue, with the market itself and the feedback from vendors was equally as positive. One of the things I did before the market was share some information with our vendors that I thought would be helpful to them as they planned their market experience, but I never found just quite what I was looking for when it came to a general list of tips they could keep in their back pocket as they planned. So I’m writing it. Maybe it can help you?
Pick an event that fits your brand.
Whatever the market is that your are considering, you need to make sure that it makes sense for your brand. You are a business and as a business you should have a brand. This doesn’t just mean you should have a logo -- this means that your style, your aesthetic should be cohesive across ALL aspects of your business. From graphics to products, everything should be making sense within the context of the story you are trying to sell. Are you stocking your booth with mid-century products and styling them in a minimalist, slightly Scandinavian, way? Then that vibe should extend to your promotional materials. And that vibe should work within the context of the market you are considering. I’m not saying you should hold out for a mid-century market, but you should consider the type of shoppers that event will be drawing. Create a list of attributes your ideal customer has. Is that customer likely to attend an event you are considering?
It’s ok to be the odd-man out at an event...to a point. I have had huge success at events where my style was wildly different than any other vendor there. But that’s because I vibed with the event itself -- in my case, I am drawn to markets that have quality, on-trend promotional materials, that are held in trendy locations and that attract young professionals looking to purchase items to decorate their homes in styles they find by following designers and artisans on social media. When I first started out as a market vendor, I tried to fit my business into a local, monthly market in our small town. The shoppers were tourists straight off the beach or locals who didn’t understand my aesthetic. After struggling at it for a few months I had to come to the realization that my brand just didn’t fit.
Keep your booth on brand.
I’m planning on doing another post very soon about booth layout and styling, but I will just say really quickly that you need to make sure your booth is bringing it’s A-game. Don’t just throw a folding table down, drape a cheap polyester table cloth over it and call it a day! Show pride in your products by displaying them thoughtfully. This looks different for everyone -- if you have large pieces like furniture, arrange them within your booth space and use them to display smaller goods. If you do use tables, create height in some way! My future post will include tools you can use to plan out a walkable, shoppable booth space that draws customers in. A good tip is that your customer shouldn’t be able to stand in one spot and see everything! Make them enter your space so you can tell them a story (not literally, let’s not talk their ears off).
Curate your collection.
Whether you sell vintage or handmade goods, you should display just enough to fill your space but not too much that it looks junky or crowded. Leave some negative space in your layout and your displays, let your products breath. Bring a variety of goods that makes sense to your brand -- or, if you only sell one type of item, create interest and variety in your display itself.
Offer small and large ticket items (if applicable).
Obviously this tip isn’t for you if you sell only one type of thing, but it is for those of us who sell a variety of goods, whether vintage or handmade. Do not underestimate the buying power of your customers and bring only your lower priced items. On the other hand, don’t discount the customers who won’t pull the trigger on big ticket items. Bring smaller goods under $20 that you can group in the displays and that will introduce your brand to customers without breaking the bank.
Foster relationships within the market.
Introduce yourself to the team running the market, as well as the other vendors! Step away from your booth when you can and meet those around you, give them your business card, follow them on social media. Create relationships that could lead to collaborations. Make your face and brand known within the context of the event.
Promotion is key!
What’s the point of taking part in an event if no one knows about it?! I’m planning a future post on this subject about creating a promotional schedule for your event, but I will just say here that this is so important! Share your presence at the event on all of your social media channels, pass out flyers and business cards locally, tell your friends and ask them to share within their social circles. If you don’t already have business social media pages on Instagram and Facebook, GET ON THAT. And then learn how to utilize ads and sponsored posts to target shoppers within the area of the event. This can literally all be done on your phone -- which you can also use to create beautiful graphics. I have another post planned on my favorite apps that I use for my business, which will include all of my favorite graphics apps. There are a ton out there and I have tried them all.
Accept cash & cards.
Cash is no longer King -- if you are selling in a pop-up or market context, then you NEED a card reader. Invest in one. Do it. There are a couple out there, the ones I see most are Square and Paypal. Etsy has one too that will link directly to your etsy shop, if that’s something you are interested in. I use Square, both the card swiper and the chip reader. The swiper is like $5 and the chip reader is substantially more expensive at $50. But it is so useful and is wireless, so it can be placed anywhere within your display. The swiper will eventually be phased out, so I recommend investing in the chip reader right at the start. With any of these services you will be paying a fee per transaction, so keep that in mind. But it really is a lifesaver when it comes to convenience and I feel like they pay for themselves. I’ve found that more and more people are expecting to be able to pay with cards and you could quite literally miss out on sales if you don’t have a reader on hand.
I hope that all of these tips so far mean you are having a successful market, so successful that you are starting to notice empty spots in your displays pretty early in the day. Not to worry! Hopefully this tip will be equally as helpful: bring back-stock. Bring extra items that you don’t plan on displaying right away that you can use to fill in empty space as the day goes on. Keep them in your car, under a table, inside a box behind your tent. Wherever! Just have them on hand to restock as you start selling your products.
And hopefully you will have such a successful event that even your back-stock will sell out. And then just sit back and enjoy the ride.
A market stall isn’t just about sales. It’s also about connections.
Hand out business cards (they should be incorporated into your display so people can grab them for themselves too). Introduce yourself to shoppers, make small talk. Chat about custom orders or future purchases. Recommend things to them, point them towards other vendors, share the love! People will remember you if you are kind & helpful. And you want them to remember you and your products. Be a promoter for your brand, but don’t be overbearing. Find that sweet balance of informative and chatty without following your customers around your booth. Give them the space to fall in love with your brand and your goods.
I hope this post sparks inspiration for your future market events! If you have any tips, experiences, questions or suggestions for future posts in this series please leave a comment below!