Thanks for all the lovely feedback on my earlier post about things to think about before attending a market. I have had some great conversations with people as a result of this! Today I am going to focus on the things that you should be doing in preparation for attending a market. These are all things that take a bit of time and organisation and need to be done in the weeks leading up to the market – not the day before. The stuff you are doing the day before is a whole other list!!
- Organise some great product shots.
What? Why do I need good photos of my products for a market – the customers at the market will be able to see them in the flesh (so to speak!). Hypothetical narrators questions aside, the answer is that having great product shots means that the promoters of the market are going to be able to share your images on social media, and on their advertisements, so that people are enticed to attend the market. If you have some dodgy shots taken on your old iPhone3 in dim lighting and with a cluttered background the organisers are not going to want to use your images, so you miss out on attracting a whole bunch of potential customers. I have seen some shocking product photos provided by designers – one set was of some beautiful handmade knitwear displayed on a glass topped table that was covered in greasy hand prints and dust – which definitely did not induce me to look further at the products.
Tips for good product shots include natural lighting ( I personally love taking photos outside in spring in the middle of the day but that is not always possible or convenient!), a flattering background that doesn’t overpower the product, and if the product is an unusual one, having it presented so that it’s purpose is obvious. For example a scarf will have more impact draped over a form than folded flat on a table. Backgrounds don’t have to be elaborate – I have friends who have had great success with some patterned wallpaper that gave the look of wooden boards or bricks. Once again, making sure that your photos reflect your brand is important. You don’t have to have a professional photographer take shots for you (especially if all of your products are one of a kind) but it can be a good idea so that you have a nice set of professional images to use in your marketing.
A designer I know has a great eye for matching objects and creating stories. She has helped out a few other designers I know by taking flat lay photos of their products paired with accessories that enhance them. Those photos really pop on social media! (Hmmmm……maybe I need to give her a call myself!) Remember – you don’t have to do everything yourself – you might know someone who is happy to help with making sure you have great photos.
2. Make sure you have a way of letting people know who you are.
I get really frustrated when I attend a market and see a stall that I like, but I can’t see the name of the stall or business so I can’t make a note about ordering from them, etc. Letting people know who you are is really important. Getting a banner made up doesn’t cost a lot these days – a vinyl banner with your own design from Vistaprint starts at about $20. If you want to do something different to match your brand there are lots of options for handmade signage, from painted fabric banners, to bunting, painted wooden signs, light boxes and more. It just needs to be something that can be identified by someone who is a few metres away from your stall. Hanging it below your table may look cute but can’t be seen by someone the next row over. Hanging signage above your stall or on a stand that stretches above eye level is much more effective.
The second thing you need to have organised in this regard before you attend a market is business cards or flyers. Customers will often take a card so that they can remember you for a custom order, or to come back to at the next market, or for them to follow you online and purchase from you in the future. If you don’t have an easy piece of paper for them to pick up they aren’t going to remember you. What should be on your business card or flyer? Your business name, your tag line (you know – the bit that tells people what your business does), your email, social media addresses and website. I used to keep mine really anonymous until a marketing expert told me that if she is given a business card that doesn’t have a name on it she throws them out. As a result I now have my name and phone number on there too – in case someone wants to place an order that way.
3. Be ready to take people’s money.
After all, that is the name of the game. You aren’t there to take names, you are there to take money in exchange for your wonderful products. (Actually you might also want to take names but we will talk about that later. Right now we are focused on the moola, the cash, the big bucks. Alright – I will stop now.) What does that mean for preparation? You need to think about how to look after the cash that you receive in a safe manner, and you need to decide if you want to be able to offer credit card facilities.
Dealing with cash first, there are two main options that I think work for a market – a cash box or a cash apron. A cash box is useful because you can separate the notes and coins out and therefore give change easily. It can be locked and you can keep the key on yourself for added security during the market. An apron has several advantages – you can have a zipped pocket to hold the money so it is on your person at all times and less easily stolen by dodgy thieves, and you can use the apron pockets to hold your phone and credit card reader. I have previously used an apron that I made myself so it had pockets for everything, plus a copy of my old logo printed onto fabric so it marked me as the stall holder. I am undecided about which option to go with this time, but will need to make the decision soon so that I can buy or make what I need.
With regard to taking payments from bank cards it is worth thinking about because many markets don’t have ATMs and once people run out of cash they stop buying if they can’t use their cards. The options for taking money via card are broad these days. Paypal offers a facility that connects to your Paypal business account, many banks offer a facility that connects to your bank accounts, and there are card readers such as Square which allow you to take payments without belonging to a certain bank. Each of these methods will charge a fee for transactions, so you need to be aware of how this affects your prices, but with the ability to buy a unit like these starting at $60 it is a good investment to make if you are going to be attending a number of markets.
4. Know how you are going to display your products
In Part One I talked about designing your display to enhance your product, etc. In the lead up to a market you need to know what props, tables, screens, marquees, etc you are going to use so that you can buy parts you don’t have, repair any that have been damaged, or make what you need. A few things to consider here are the size of your furniture and props, and how you are going to transport them to the venue of the market. For example I have a great set of shelves that would be really attractive as part of my display in a stall, but they can only go in a trailer, not in my car. Taking a trailer will work well for some venues but not for others, so making sure you know what you are taking and HOW you are taking it is good to work out well in advance so that changes can be made if necessary.
If you are going to use a table cloth (cannot recommend this enough) you need to make sure that you have one that fits your table/s, and check whether it needs cleaning, ironing, etc. Again – not something you want to be doing the night before a market if you can help it.
Having a trial run of your set up a few days prior to the market is a good plan as it allows you to check that you will fit into your allocated space, that you have all the pieces you need, and that nothing needs repair or replacing. If you are relying on the venue to provide a table, display board, or chair, make sure that you know the dimensions so that you can measure and check your equipment at home and know that it will fit.
5. Know how much product you have and what you need to make before the market.
I know I sound like Captain Obvious but you might be surprised by the number of times designers ask a few days before a big market how much stock they should bring. If you are going to have a successful market then you need to have this worked out a few weeks in advance. It is a good idea to make a list of all the products that you already have, and how many of each item you have, then to make a list of what your target amount to take to market is. This then allows you to map out how much you need to make before the market. In determining how much product to take things to think about are what sort of traffic the market is expected to get, how long it goes for, what have been your best sellers previously, etc. One designer I know who attends a quarterly market keeps records of each market so she can predict how much stock to bring for different times of the year. When you are starting out it is definitely a bit of trial and error so it is important to have a plan and then you can assess after the market what worked and what didn’t.
I recently read a comment in a forum I belong to by a woman who explained that in deciding whether to attend a market she looks whether she can make 10 times the cost of the stall hire. If she can’t then she doesn’t apply. This is useful to think about when determining your stock levels. If you are paying $20 for a stall then on this formula you need to sell $200 worth. If you have paid $50 you need to sell $500 worth. How much do your products cost – do you have enough to sell to make that sort of money? Do you have a good level of stock at the price point that you think will sell best? For example a school fair will probably see a high turnover at the low price point with kids spending their pocket money and parents supporting the local school. At a design market touting itself as high quality, exclusive, etc, customers are going to be willing to spend larger amounts of money on big purchases so you would be short changing yourself if you only take a small number of high price point pieces.
6. Tell people that you are going to be at this market
Social media promotion of an event that you are attending is a free but effective way of drawing customers to your market. Most markets will have some graphics that you can use, or you can use your own images and set out the location, date and time of the market. Creating a Facebook event and inviting all your friends is another great way to make sure that people know that it is on. And don’t just tell them once – remind people in the lead up to the market that you will be attending and share some images of what you are bringing with you to the market. Build a campaign so that they can’t avoid knowing that there is a market on next Saturday and that you will be there, and that there are lots of other great things to do in the area.
7. Read the stallholder information
When I was working on the administrative side of a market it was incredibly frustrating to have repeated frantic phone calls from stallholders asking questions that had already been answered multiple times. It was equally frustrating to arrive at the market to hear stallholders say things like ‘If I had known there was this event on at the same time as the market I would have brought different products’ when the details had been provided and advice given on this very issue a number of times. So many of the designers would then say ‘Oh I don’t have time to read that material’. Really??? This is your business and you don’t have time to read the information that will help you to have a really successful market experience, not get fined for breaking local bylaws, be promoted as a designer to watch, etc?
If you are serious about getting the most out of your market experience, do yourself a favour and read the material provided. Know what time you can bump in and what time you have to bump out by. Know what the rules are about whether you can set up a marquee inside a building, whether you need to have your electrical cords tagged and tested, whether you will be allowed to drive into the venue or not. Know whether you need to provide your own tables and chairs, what size your allocated space is, whether there is free wi-fi, and what will get you banned from the market! Because when you don’t know these things and are confronted with them during your set up, or in the middle of selling your products it causes nothing but stress!!
If you are on top of these 7 things in the weeks leading up to the market you are attending then you are well on your way to a successful market experience! My next post will be the list of things that you need to take with you to a market – the checklist of what to pack the day before. If you have any suggestions to add to the list of pre-market preparation I would love to hear from you!