Creativebias Helpsheet: Showcasing for Crafts
March 2007 (Creativebias)
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Showcases, trade fairs and exhibitions
A Guide for Designer-makers and Crafts-based Businesses
What is a showcasing opportunity?
A showcasing opportunity is any event that gives you an opportunity to display your work to potential customers and/or industry contacts. It could be anything from a trade fair, to an exhibition, to a sponsored promotion. Before attempting to go to major craft events it may be useful to organise your own exhibitions or other showcasing opportunities locally. It's a good idea to begin by running free events with other local artists. This will give you invaluable experience and will help you to start to build a network of contacts.
How can it help me?
These events are useful as they provide exposure to an audience who might not otherwise see your work and give you the opportunity to meet lots of other people involved in the industry. A showcase is the sort of place where you could attract interest from art dealers, retailers, galleries, distributors, journalists, radio and TV and all aspects of the art and crafts industries. Promotion and distribution are particularly vital to secure because however good your product is, if not enough people see it or hear about it, you will not make a success of the business.
What might it be useful to know before I go?
You should research the event before you go, by going to the website or speaking to the organisers, so you are aware of the various companies and businesses that will be there. Be aware that in all creative industries word of mouth is often powerful in building a company's reputation. Treat each person you talk to as a prospective client or contact and remember that if somebody is treated badly or gets poor service they are likely to tell others about your shortcomings.
How Can I Prepare?
If you are going to be based on a stall or stand, make sure you have eye-catching displays, with lots of colour and the name of your product displayed clearly and regularly around the stall. Have enough samples to give away, although it might make you seem popular if you run out, you could miss out on the vital contact!
Prepare exactly how you are going to sell your business or product to potential clients. Write down the key strengths of the business and product and make sure you mention them in every conversation. Be prepared to change your pitch slightly depending on the nature of client you are talking to. The most successful sales people will adapt to each individual customer to emphasise the qualities of the product that most appeal to their area of business.
What questions shall I ask?
Once you have researched the event, highlight any potential investors or companies that seem relevant to your project and get in contact with them in advance to arrange a meeting at the event. Find out the name of the company's representative at the event and ask around your contacts to find out any information you can about the person.
There is no use going to any showcasing event or fair without first building a small list of appointments and planning how to create a 'buzz' around your product. If lots of people are talking about your product before the show, meetings can 'snowball' at the event, as companies will not want to miss out on what could be 'the next big thing.'
While you're at the show, remember to regularly pool research information with any team members you have. Individual observation should be balanced with group intelligence to help gain a wider perspective on the event.
A group can gather far more intelligence than any one person can collect alone. Compare notes before, during and after the show. This will help you spot strengths and weaknesses in your product and business.
It's always useful to talk to anyone you can at events. Every prospective customer has information you need, even if they don't want your product.
- What are they interested in?
- Who do they buy from?
- How much do they buy?
- At what price?
People who appear to be representing one company may also work for or have links with other areas of the industry. Explain what your company does and ask people about theirs. There are no set ways of networking but it may be useful to:
- Print out business cards with the name of your company, a contact phone number, email address and website. Try and make them look interesting but uncomplicated
- Be clear and confident when talking about your work and your aims for the future
The Three Point Process
It may be useful to see networking at trade fairs and showcasing events as a three-point process.
1. Contact the potential client before the event, arrange a meeting, and briefly discuss ideas
2. Meet at the event, follow up on previous conversation and if both parties are enthusiastic, arrange a deal
3. Follow up after the event via phone or email and seal the deal
Take your time over any decisions and don't be pressured into confirming any deals at the event, you may end up with a deal that is not quite as good as it first seemed.