The Ultimate Guide to Selling Handmade at Farmers' Markets - Wholesale Supplies Plus
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The Ultimate Guide to Selling Handmade at Farmers' Markets

Selling soap at farmers' markets and similar events can be an effective and inexpensive way to build brand recognition in your community, engage with new audiences and give customers an opportunity to see, smell and experience your products in a way that online venues simply can’t accommodate. Selling handmade soap at a farmers' market or another popular event can mean plenty of foot traffic, but it also demands that you take extra steps to capture visitors’ attention and drive sales. Try these tips to help drive traffic to your booth and master how to sell at farmers' markets and other special events.

Choose a market wisely

Before you commit to selling soap at a farmers' market, do your research. 

Understand the market’s rules. Farmers’ markets vary in demographic, culture, and rules and regulations. Contact the market manager (ideally one year in advance) and ask for demographics and their rules and regulations information to make sure the event is a good fit for your business and to learn more about the market’s typical customers. 

Start small. Before you invest in expensive tents and fancy displays, look around for markets that will allow you to sell as a daily vendor. Space may or may not be available, but it’s worth the try — better to step in slowly rather than take the plunge into unknown waters.

Get the word out

The marketing plan you put into motion before the farmers' market or event has a significant bearing on the amount of success your business will have at the event itself.

Invite your most loyal customers. Invite customers to the event via email, social media or any other means available — and encourage them to help you spread the word!

Build a bank of testimonials. Ask customers who use your products to provide a brief testimonial (no more than three sentences) sharing the benefits they’ve experienced from the products you’ll sell and will showcase at your booth. In the days leading up to the event, including the testimonials in a social media marketing campaign designed to create buzz for your booth. Tag the person who provided the testimonial on social media when you post to encourage likes and retweets, which could help broaden the reach of your campaign (for free).
Create targeted social media campaigns. Social media networks like Facebook allow you to create paid campaigns based on your budget and make it easy to target audiences based on location and interests, so you can expose prospects who may be likely to attend the event to your brand beforehand. The ad won’t result in immediate sales but could cultivate and build a sense of familiarity that compels event visitors to be more willing to stop by your booth.

Tailor your message to the customer. Selling handmade soap at farmers' markets and events can help you reach new audiences, but the demographic may differ slightly from customers who visit your website or store. Ask the event organizers to provide you with any details about the average attendee based on past years, and whether they have any information to share about what types of products, services or price points perform best. If you learn that customers at the market tend to respond well to coupons, for example, incorporate them into your messaging strategy.

Booth basics

Your booth should make every person who walks by want to stop and browse your handmade soap selection. 

Make the most of your location. You may not be able to command (or afford) prime real estate for your booth location if you’re a first-time exhibitor, but you can make the most of whatever you’re given with a little advance planning.

Whenever possible, select a booth location that allows ample space between you and vendors who sell soap or other products that directly compete with yours. Once you receive your booth assignment, visit the websites of other exhibitors, so you have a sense of the price points and items market attendees will see.

Set the mood. Incorporate elements that create a welcoming environment, which may include pleasing music or demonstrations that entertain and draw a crowd. Every attendee at the market knows someone who will be interested in your product. The welcoming environment you create could form a lasting impression that eventually creates word-of-mouth referrals.

Use color. Color is a powerful marketing tool. Have you ever wondered why leading fast food chains and eateries use the yellow in branding? The color yellow makes you travel fast and take action. Yellow is the “happiest, most optimistic” color in the spectrum. Green is associated with purity and naturalness. Do a little research to discover what colors elicit the response you are looking for from consumers. 

Up your display game. Consider placing your products on different levels and display units that match the visual presentation of your brand. Avoid scripted fonts and busy backgrounds in signage: Make your signs easy to read and eye-catching. Design a consistent look throughout.

Consider promotional giveaways. Farmers' markets and events are intended to be an experience for the attendee. Consider how you can use product samples, engaging demonstrations and promotional items at your booth to build brand awareness for your business and interact with event attendees. Create functional promotional items, like reusable shopping bags with your logo and website or balloons with your logo to hand out to young families. These items may not close the sale with every attendee, but they’re free advertising for your business as attendees browse the market. Plus, they give you a tangible reason to connect with every person who passes your booth.

Build relationships. Farmers' markets have high customer return rates, so a savvy vendor engages attendees. Get your charisma on! Ask questions about them and avoid talking too much about yourself. Share information about your product and how it’s made — you might even give away a recipe or “DIY” instructions for one product. If possible, avoid sunglasses since eye contact is critical in communication and trust building. Have you ever been to a table and sensed that the vendor is desperate for a sale? Don’t be that person! It’s about the people first and the sale second. Great relationships lead to great sales.

Get organized before the event

Your organizational skills will be tested at the market. There is a designated window of time to set up and break down and you don’t want to go into the day exhausted because you are unprepared or tardy. 

Pack smart. Pack your products, gear, and supplies in marked and numbered containers and put them in your vehicle in an order that will make it easy to set up. Make sure your table and display stands are at the rear of the vehicle and your wares are packed in the order you’ll want to display them. 

Practice makes perfect. Drive to the market’s location a couple of times before it opens for the season to make sure there aren’t unexpected delays, like construction. Keep checklists! Even the most experienced vendors forget things like weights for the tents, extra clothing for climate changes and bags to place purchased items in.

Be personally prepared. You may have a difficult time adjusting your sleep pattern for an early rise on the weekends, but do your best. Going into a day at the market feeling exhausted could impact sales. Eat a protein-packed breakfast and take healthy snacks and lots of water with you. If you’re not accustomed to being on your feet, a change of shoes may be in order, just in case you get blisters or lack arch support. Good shoes are a must! Take rain gear, breath mints or gum, and sunscreen

Make a financial plan

Selling soap at a farmers' market is fun, but let’s be honest: You’re also doing it to make money. Consider these financial points before in advance.

Make it easy to pay. Gone are the days of cash-only transactions. Avoid a negative attitude toward paying charge card fees; fewer people are carrying cash nowadays. Those fees are a part of doing business and should be reflected in your pricing — they are also tax deductible. If you don’t have a credit card reader like Square or PayPal, get one. They are free devices that easily connect to your smartphone and make accepting credit and debit cards easy. 

When it comes to cash, always bring more singles than you think you’ll need. Circulating singles also supports your fellow vendors because they are easy to spend. 

Avoid discounting products. Vendors often tend to offer end-of-the-day discounts because they don’t want to carry their products back home, or they believe it will make their farmers' market business more profitable. If everyone operated this way, people would wait until the final minutes of the market to shop, thus driving profits for everyone down. And don’t forget your loyal customers. How will they feel when they’ve paid full price only to learn that their neighbor got a bargain?

Think ahead for next time

Remember, each farmers' market is a learning experience. Apply your experiences and new information you’ve gathered to your next event.

Take pictures throughout the day. You’ll want to build an online audience to promote these weekend outings. The power of Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter is astounding. Your beautiful display is an asset on social media. If you don’t have time to post throughout the day, it’s fine to do it at the end of the day. Use your images a day or two before your next farmers' market to invite people online to visit you there. 

Document customer questions, requests and responses. We all think we are going to remember everything we see, hear and do throughout the day, but we don’t. You’ll meet a ton of people at the market, and each of them will have an opinion. If two people ask if you have a lemongrass-scented product, document that. If people are drawn to a particular item and other items get no attention at all, note that as well. These metrics are important to your marketing research and will drive product development and marketing strategy in upcoming seasons. Don't get caught up in what you like and think, instead learn exactly what your customer wants.

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