Am I doing something wrong?
It could be any of these, all of these, or none of these.
Let’s work through and see what could be happening.
The times, they are a-changing
Wellington is suffering from market fatigue – we have lots more regular markets, and they take the shine off the excitement of the event.
Market organisers are also letting quality makers down by allowing imports and low-quality stalls to undercut their handmade prices, and customers are no longer educated about the cost of handmade. Add that to the proliferation of small events splitting the skilled maker-base across too many locations, and adding opportunity for the lower-quality products to find spaces, and the experience as a whole becomes very diluted and same-same.
Add that to the fact that we simply don’t have enough people in New Zealand, let alone Wellington, to support the number of events, and you can see why sales are slipping.
If only we could support events the size of the Oregon State Fair, for example!
Everyone is “making to sell”
This fashion for making low-quality goods and selling them cheaply because “it’s just a hobby” hurts those who make quality goods, because everyday customers can’t tell if you used $2 essential oils or made your own from the plants and flowers you grow – and they don’t care. They just look at the prices and go for the cheapest.
MLMs are also major culprits – when a maker is competing against a reseller, who not only has to make very little effort to create their products, but who also receives training in professional stall display and sales, the winner is generally the MLM seller. Customers also gravitate towards recognised brands, so if “Lucy’s handmade lotions” is competing against Nutrimetics, for example, most customers will choose Nutrimetics.
Wallflower sales techniques
Are you embarrassed to tell people about what you have made?
Do you take along something to make so that you have an excuse to avoid eye-contact with customers?
This simply does not work. If you believe in your work enough to try and sell it, then SELL it. Engage, with customers, give them an excuse to spend money with you! Sitting and hoping will only work with a very few customers – most of us need help massaging the money out of our hands and into your pocket. Help us buy the thing we like by asking for the sale! We will actually be grateful, most of the time, because we want it but, in this economic climate, we need to justify it. Make the justification for us, and we will do the rest.
If you said anything other than “me”, you are wrong. Why would I buy from you, when I can get it from Jenny next door, or online, or… BECAUSE I AM BUYING THE EXPERIENCE. Art is a package, and you have crafted something that will uplift me – because I am supporting a local maker, because I am buying something handmade, because what I buy is a part of a person who is telling me all about how it was created. When I look at that bowl, or I use that bath bomb, or I wrap that painting as a gift, I am thinking about you, the maker, and I am enjoying the extra buzz of connecting with the creator of this beautiful, practical, helpful, magical thing.
So don’t slouch grumpily behind your stall if it’s a low day, work harder! Project your joy that someone might want to buy something you have made! DO NOT COUNT YOUR TAKINGS, count the compliments and positive reactions. While you are at the market, you are NOT here to make money, you are here to spread joy. Change your mindset, push the energy to max, turn up that smile to 11. Really make people feel like they are the reason you are here – you want to share this thing with them, specifically, because they are important to you, and you are so happy that they are there.
This is called the “opening night” principle. For every theatrical show, the opening night is the most important – everyone puts all their energy into it. The second night is always flat, as a result. Every single customer should experience opening night with you – so by the time the market it over, you should be exhausted. That means you did it!
First impressions MATTER
Even more important than that – have an amazing stall display. Your display should have elements to bait your customer over to check out your products, and hooks to keep them there.
People shouldn’t have to interact with you in order to understand the basics of what you are selling, so make sure that they can easily identify:
- Who – what is your brand name? Who makes it?
- What – what are you selling?
- Why – why should they buy from you? Tell them your story!
“But I have to update social media!”
Just tell them that you have to keep up with your social media – BUT THAT CAN WAIT, because they are more important. Gauge your customer’s reaction – if they look like they want time to browse, simply say that you will go ahead and finish your post, so that you’re not hovering. let them know that they can ask questions any time, and make sure that, if they do, you put your phone down immediately and focus entirely on them!
Is it my prices?
- Have you followed the rule of price-setting, to make sure that materials, labour, skill, and profit are included in your price?
- Have you checked your pricing against other similar products on the market?
- Have you done your market research to ensure that there is a need for your products, and that it is not already adequately met?
If yes, and your pricing sits at a reasonable level in relation to other makers (ignore commercial pricing, and imports), then it’s probably not your prices.
“This market sucks”
If you have poor sales three markets in a row, ask yourself these questions:
- Did the organisers advertise appropriately for my fee level?
A quick way to estimate that is to count the number of stalls, multiply it by the stall fee, and see what around a quarter of the fees is worth. A cheap poster campaign costs around $2,000 in Wellington, and an entry-level radio campaign is around $5,000. The venue hire can vary wildly from under $100 to thousands. Is it a fancy venue? Expect that a lot of your fees have gone towards hire. Was there much left for advertising, and if not, what did they do to work around that? Social media is one of the best ways to advertise these days, and costs the least.
- Did I participate fully in promoting the event myself?
Did you share posters, flyers, social media posts? Did you add the event to your Facebook page and invite your friends? Did you engage with their posts and encourage others to do so?
- Was I present and engaged throughout the day?
Were you on your “A” game, full of energy (and, ideally, standing up)? Did your stall look amazing, were your greetings “opening night” quality for every single person? Did you ask for every sale? Did your customers look happy to meet you?
- Did I have the right kind of products and the right kind of prices for the event?
Did you do your research well and place yourself at the right kind of market? Look at the stallholder lists, visit events before booking, and check whether your products are too similar, or too different. If your prices and/or quality were too high, then this might not be the right type of market or demographic for your stall. If your prices were too low, why? Have you underpriced yourself, or were you outclassed? If your products are not commonly sold at markets, allow at least 6 events for customers to get used to you. If they are fairly common, you should start seeing progress after around 3 events.
- Did I display my products appropriately?
Was your stall display at the same level as the other stalls? Were you too polished, or too basic? How can you adapt to fit in better (you can always find ways to improve ). Did I have the right kind of signage and product labelling?
If you have attended at least 3 events, and all of the above were done well, then think about the location, the skill of the organisers, and whether the audience was appropriate for you.
- If lots of people come through, but they never stop for anyone, or no one comes through. then the location is unsuitable. This also applies if all the customers make excuses about not being able to afford things (and you hear this from other sellers).
- If the organisers have a good reputation and you can see that they make every effort to make your day go well, think about the time or year, other clashes, and whether you were really doing your best that day.
- If there were plenty of people through, and they were buying from others but not from you, think about all the things above, plus demographics. If you sell edgy products and the area is very conservative, for example, you might not be the best fit for that market.
If all of the above are good, then there is one other thing to consider – it’s because, as we said above, times, they are a-changing.
People simply aren’t spending the way they used to, and it’s the luck of the draw whether or not you are the lucky person who snags their cash today. In that case, just keep trying – use the markets as free research – ask people what they like, give out surveys, talk to your customer base, and keep improving. If you really want to succeed, you will, but it’s hard, hard work.
It comes down to:
- Sales Skills
- Display Skills
- Finding your audience
- Hard work
But… I don’t know how to do these things…
Finding the right product lines can be challenging – experiment, but be wary of having too many product lines. It looks messy, confuses the customer, and makes it hard to deliver a clear message to potential buyers. “I make a whole lot of jumbled chaos” is never a good message, and regardless of the quality of those items, they will end up looking like a junk stall if you don’t edit. Find and refine your products and deliver a clear and punchy brand message, and you will do well.
If you won’t price your products so that you are not undercutting other makers (“it’s only a hobby” is a terrible excuse, don’t do it), stop selling. Seriously, it’s not ok to price that low – and it makes everything at the market suspect, because why is your stuff so cheap?
Likewise, if you have to price yourself out of the market to pay yourself appropriately for the work, you need to find a different product, or change your approach to making it.
Once you have your product and pricing down, you need to work on your brand – which is YOU.
This is where Copper Catkin Consulting comes in.
Brand, display, and sales are firmly inter-connected, and you will not be successful as a seller unless you find a good combination of the three.
Start with our free mini market makeover email series: