Sunday, August 31, 2008

Bead Show Prep

I'm still processing what I've learned from the two bead shows I did this summer. One of my Lest Beads Team members, Inferno Glass posted a few great tips from her recent experiences - all wonderful points and I wanted to add a few more.

1) To pick up where Inferno left off, I cannot emphasize enough the Be Friendly part. I recently attended a local show to see if it might work for me in the future. A local beader I know had purchased a craft kit and sat there working on her new project. The booth right past hers had much simpler beads but the artist was so engaging! The line at her booth only proved the point!

I find myself a bit shy at these things. It's easy to sit there and think "No one likes my beads. Why am I here?" So I give myself a chore to get me out of my own head. I make a goal to add at least 40 new people to my mailing list every show. How do I get people to sign up when we're all on email overload??? I have a drawing in my booth every hour!

2) Which brings me to marketing secret #1 - Gift Certificates. I used to give away jewelry and beads and my rubber stamps for PMC but I ended up mailing them after the show which cost me more money. Then I remembered the great gift card secret. Depending on which survey you believe, anywhere from 10 - 80 % of all gift cards are NEVER cashed. On my own websites (Sweet Stampen and, it is closer to 80%...seriously!

My beadie buds have very mixed feelings on this. I give certs out to my winners in amounts ranging from $10 to $50. My friends all fear their online shops getting cleaned out with give aways... but it rarely happens like that for me or my best friend (who runs a golf business. She too estimates that over 90% of her gift cards are never redeemed.)

I look at it this way: It at least gets them to my store to look around- possibly several times. Do I care if they cash it in? Heck NO! I WANT them to! What better advertising is there than, "Hey, where'd ya get that cool bead?" "I won it on" ??? NONE! It's priceless! But that has to be a risk you are willing to take. I'm still new at this and have nothing to lose.

3) Table Height - Bead shows are tiring for everyone. Most shoppers are bent over tables for hours on end. It's one thing if you're looking at piles of stone type beads where they're all kinda the same. But lampwork requires more attention. You want the customers to linger. They have to if they're going to see everything. If you raise the table so they don't bend over, guess what? They stay longer! They stay longer, they buy!

4) Visual Interest - Make your booth interesting to the eye. Find something to add vertical height (and increase your sales "real estate") and interest to your booth. My friend Bindy Lambell uses palm trees. I found some interesting jewelry trees shaped like women (more like Barbie than any actual women!). I mix those in with the boards I mentioned in an earlier post. I even have a card display made from a china teapot from my rubber stamp show stash. The wires that hold cards, hold beads pretty well too. It's dead center in the front of my chair.

While I did not raise my table at this show, I did have some interesting vertical displays to make the most of my real estate at the table.

5) Show length... ask around to other friends in the field... is the show too long? Too short? My last show was a two day show but day two was dead. I made exactly the amount I needed to pay the second night of my hotel and no more! I would have been in the same financial spot to go home the night before. Others were in a similar spot. Sellers were wandering around, not even concerned that a customer may pop by... it was that dead! This show could clearly be one day only.

6) Food and water - You will never get to take a break when your tummy tells you it's time for lunch. Pack some almonds, a protein bar cut into bite size chunks and some water bottles. Throw in some wet wipes too. Handling money is a filthy job!

7)Booth sitters - some shows provide volunteers to give you a minute to get some food or run to the bathroom. But not all allow their volunteers to handle money. Ask before the show. At my last show, I was told they come around regularly. They didn't. The first day was busy and one made an appearance around 2:30 - 4 1/2 hours after the show opened. I had seven shoppers in my booth with beads in their hands and trays when she asked if I needed a break. I motioned toward the customers as I said, "I desperately do, but not NOW." She didn't return for hours.

If possible, arrange to have a friend or customer you trust come by and relieve you. Or make good friends with your booth neighbors.

8) If you are a beadmaker, you MUST have some jewelry made from your beads. Finished jewelry at a bead show??? Yes! It inspires them to create something similar with your beads. It makes them buy! And, there are jewelry buyers at bead shows too. One of my biggest sales came from someone who just had to have my sample bracelet!

One lampworker friend confessed, she really doesn't care if her jewelry sells or not. It's there to sell her beads and if the jewelry does sell, she looks at it as a bonus but knows she'll need to make another display piece.


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vonna said...


~What if you are a bead-maker and feel jewelry challenged so to speak?

~Would you consult a jewelry designer (artist) to create for you?

~If so, would you offer this artist in trade or dollars?

Very nice set up, perfect height for me - :)

Oh and yes - booth sitters - you would think that they would come back to check on you within the half hour - or better yet ask ~ would you like me to help you package up your sales!

CreekHiker said...

Vonna, Yes, I would consult a designer. As far as payment, just ask. I know of one beadmaker who just makes a double set. The jewelry maker keeps one set and makes a sample with the other.