The lesson of any wholesale or retail jewelry trade show? It isn't over until it's over. The show doesn’t end when you start tearing down your booth. The ripple effect of sharing your work with so many people can linger, sometimes for years.
When I ran our jewelry design firm, I began keeping a spreadsheet of show-related sales, with date, customer, and what they purchased after the show was over. One time a customer called three years after a specific show and ordered a ring. She had kept the postcard I gave her at the show on her refrigerator all that time and saved up enough money to finally purchase it. This was a valuable lesson--the memory of a show can live for years .
As you're packing up your booth and getting ready to leave the venue, don’t worry if you haven’t sold all the pieces of jewelry you'd hoped to. It's easy to feel disappointed when you don’t reach a goal. You'll probably begin to think about the booth fees, expenses of doing the show, the time and the work put into the show, the standing and smiling and answering the same questions over and over again, the frustration of not making as many sales as your neighbors seemed to be, and the exhaustion of the whole affair. Not to mention the slight to your ego. I have experienced all of this firsthand more times than I would like to admit. I have worked myself into a state of self pity, cried, and sworn I would never do another show. But along came the next show, and there I was ready to write orders and sell jewelry. All smiles.
Here are ten things that can help you get successful outcomes from a show even after the event is over:
- Follow up with people who showed interest in your work. Take time to contact them, answer their questions, and let them know they can still purchase the piece (and, until there are laws preventing it and if you they're out of state, they'll get it tax-free and save a few bucks!).
- Did you meet anyone from the press? If so, be sure to send them images of your work, your bio, your artist statement, and contact information. This is one of the most valuable things you can accomplish at and after a show. Find out if they're writing an article about a specific subject such as pearls or green tourmalines or local jewelry designers so you can send appropriate images.
- Look closely at your final numbers. Write out a list or make a spreadsheet. What were your exact expenses? What were your exact orders or sales? Does the bottom line tell you that the show is worth doing again? Does it have potential? Were there mitigating circumstances that affected the show attendance, such as a snow storm or a huge political event? One time we did a show in the Berkshire Mountains and on the Sunday of the show, world famous cellist Yo-Yo Ma was giving a free concert in the same town. The show was was painfully quiet that day.
- Reflect honestly on what the show taught you about your work. What pieces were picked up the most? Which ones sold the best? What "look" was most popular? Were people complaining about the prices? What should you make more of and expand upon for your next show? What pieces, even if you love them, generated no interest? Don’t make any rash decisions about pulling work or revamping your line after only one show, watch for an emerging pattern—this can take a couple of shows. What is popular at one show might not get a second glance at the next one and vice versa.
- What contacts did you make among the other exhibitors? Did you learn about other shows which might be a perfect fit for your work? Did you learn about online venues or meet new suppliers? Did any exhibitors share words of wisdom? And the fun part—did you get a chance to barter with other exhibitors?
- How did your booth look? Were you able to work comfortably in the space, or are there things you would change? Do you need more or better lighting? More polished signage? Did your booth look professional, enhance your brand, draw attention? What booths were you impressed by at the show and why?
- What did you learn about displaying your work? What would you do differently next time?
- Did you make any contacts with local stores or galleries that might be willing to carry your work? If so, can you take a day and visit them after the show? On more than one occasion, I've had luck selling to local stores at retail, open-to-the-public shows.
- What ideas and suggestions did customers give you that you could incorporate into your jewelry? Listen to your customers, they often have great ideas and suggestions you might never have considered.
- And finally, start your long-term show sales spreadsheet today!
Give serious thought to all the wonderful opportunities this show has given you to improve your jewelry, your booth, your brand, your selling skills, your prominence in the field. And take stock of the contacts and the friendships you made. Remember that even if your booth isn't crowded with customers, the time you spend there surrounded by your work and other creative people, may reward you in surprising ways. As an illustration of this, I spent one dreadfully slow show writing out the beginning of a business plan for a retail gallery that I ultimately opened in Portland, Maine. Not exactly what I had in mind as a take away...but very worthwhile!Comment on this article
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