Selling at markets can help you establish a reputation in your local community and reach customers who wouldn’t otherwise know you exist. But, a different venue may require different strategies than you use to sell online or in store, to get the most of your experience. Here are a few ways to make every market exhibition is a success.
Conduct many dry runs. Loading the marketing materials and goods you’ll sell at the market, traveling there, parking, unloading, setting up your booth (and then breaking it all down and repeating the process), takes time and energy. In all likelihood, it’s going to require a few extra sets of helping hands.
In the days leading up to your market exhibition, practice how long it will realistically take your team to load trucks or vehicles, travel and have your booth sale-ready before customers arrive.
Take several pictures of your “ideal booth” appearance and distribute the images to the team who’ll participate in the market effort. If you get stuck in traffic, those who do reach the market can use the images as a merchandising guide. The image can also empower your team to be proactive about replenishing merchandise during the market. Armed with the tools they need to do their jobs, you can focus on giving customers the service that leaves a lasting impression.
Tailor your operations to the audience. The devil really is in the details to maximize your potential at a market. Ask the market organizer about the audience, and how you can best serve them in the sense of logistics, operations, and product price points. If you have relationships with other vendors experienced in selling at the market, ask for their personal opinions on what the audience expects. Conduct your own ad hoc research and walk around the market several times before you exhibit.
Use this feedback to devise a customer experience strategy that addresses at least these questions: What form of payment do customers tend to use most at the market? Do many of the vendors accept credit cards? Is there a secure Wi-Fi connection for vendors who process credit card transactions? Do customers bring their own bags, or do they expect vendors from whom they purchase to provide them? How far away is your booth from the market’s exit? How do customers carry purchases to their mode of transportation? What are the busy hours and when are there lulls? Is there protection for your booth from the elements, or is it up to you to prepare for windy days, sun and rain?
All of these details have significant bearing on your experience (and that of your customers) at the market. If many of the vendors don’t accept credit cards, for example, it may signal a simple opportunity to sell more, simply because customers don’t have to stick to their cash budget at your booth.
If you sell items people need help carrying, bring a dolly or cart you can lend to customers. Protect your booth with some sort of covering so your sales day isn’t abruptly ended when the elements don’t cooperate. Offer free cups of lemonade or tea on a hot day. At the least, these little “booth comforts” are an opportunity to draw interest, learn more about the market’s visitors (and how can you carve out a niche that appeals to them)—even if they’re just waiting for a storm to pass.
What’s the mood of the market? Your ability to gauge the “mood” of the market can guide you in selecting which of your products best align with the market’s vibe. A Saturday morning market that features many organic vendors, for example, probably draws food shoppers. Feature products that complement entertaining needs, like outdoor candles, dining décor and hostess gifts.
Crowds that draw families, on the other hand, may signal an opportunity to feature kid-friendly sunscreen, hand sanitizers, insect repellent, bubble bath and novelty soaps. You might even consider a simple hands-on craft station for kids to drive traffic to your booth.
Let your customers do your marketing. Printing your company’s logo, name and social media information on a reusable shopping bag is an affordable way to boost the brand awareness you ultimately realize out of the markets at which you exhibit—and even the places where you don’t have a presence. Higher quality items cost more to produce—but consider the long-term benefit. If the customer uses the item repeatedly, your company’s brand exposure also increases, every time they, or someone else catches a glimpse of the bag.