Another aspect of the business is where we physically set up our display and sell our products. In our full year of operations we have been quite busy, with summer and fall peaking our time spent out there at shows, festivals and events.
I love visuals -and found it helpful to see where we have been over the past year with our products. Below is the map of Ohio by county… and highlighted are the counties we have been a part of events.
We have traveled to 10 counties within Ohio, with the furthest away being Deleware County, just north of Colombus for the Buttermilk Hill show. The closest event we did was in Cuyahoga County at Brookside Park, one of the Metroparks adjacent to the Zoo.
Since the first of January we have spent 27 days at events:
|# events||% of events|
and for those of us who are oriented to graphs – this data looks pretty in a pie chart:
And the numbers do not include 5 more shows and a gallery trunk show coming up in the next 2 months.
Its funny, when you look at the numbers and the amount of time and travel, we have done a lot of events, kept busy with production, and have seen great exposure to the business.
So why analyze what we have done and where we have been? There are a few practical reasons:
- Determine what worked, and where we found our market of customers. Not every event will be successful, and the key to profitability is finding the markets where there is a good vibe, a steady foot traffic, and strong interest in the products. In our early stages i was not as good about documenting this. Steve and I have developed a process to look at the event overall with consideration of whether or not we should plan it for the next year. Here are some of the criteria we examine:
- Location / Venue – Is the location easily accessed? Is the space for vendors adequate? Is the lighting good? Room temperature or weather conditions (outdoor events especially)? Is the space close to the loading and unloading area or are there stairs or obstacles to overcome in route?
- What is the reputation of the event? Is it a well established show that has faithful followers over a number of years, or a recent phenomenon that is building momentum?
- Advertisement / Promotion – How well was the event promoted? Was the event the talk of the town, or a sleepy buzz? More said in the next point.
- What else is going on around town on that day? We accepted into Tremont Art and Culture Festival and realized there were 4 other major events in and around Cleveland that would draw our market of customers away- But the combination of strong advertising and promition, and reputation of the event brought out the people.
- Communication – How well were we as vendors informed of the rules, the processes, and the overall expectations of the event? Some promoters do an amazing job, and others are not so good. We have found that honest and straightforward communication is often the best policy.
- Friendliness – How friendly and engaging was the promoter and their staff? Did they assist with locating your spot, providing any needed last minute details, or did they actually stop back during the event to check in? Again, this varies widely.
- Was there foot traffic? – It is the big one… was the promoter able to draw in a good crowd of people, or were we wondering why we went to the effort to set up for the day?
- Were the customers buyers or lookie-lous? In this economy it is more common to walk around and do a lot of looking, sometimes idea shopping for things to make themselves. I understand that. In other cases the vibe of the crowd is like those of discount store shoppers… they bulk at the prices, bulk at the products, but they want you to sell your handcrafted wonderfulness for pennies on the dollar. I don;t understand that. Events that attract buyers are usually established, juried and don’t have gimmicks attached… and the customers intend to visit and buy handcrafted items.
- Did we make money? It always comes back to that, right? Well, after paying the fee for the event, and gas to and from the event, and cost of the products did our sales return a profit?
The truth is some events looked great on paper or in the media, but were not so much in person, or our products were not the right ones for that market. Some events have dynamic advertising and promotion but are not established and known – and garner few people’s attention. In some instances there is negative word of mouth about events, yet our experience is glowing and the opposite of those we heard.
We are learning our market, and learning in this shifting economy how to find our place, and succeed. Success is a process. Experimentation with locations and venues is part of the process, but at the heart of our business there needs to be a core understanding of who buys our products, and what motivates them to attend events, and what attracts them to buy.
Perhaps analysis can be cumbersome – but until we are more established it is a critical component in developing our market.