You have spent all your time preparing for a major craft fair or design trade show. You have made the work. Spent ages on the display, finding the right plinths, the right lighting. You have focused entirely on the creation of your work and the presentation of your stand.

And now, a week before or on the day (!) of the show, you are panicking – you haven’t done any marketing for the event! You realise you need to get some last-minute marketing tips for craft fairs, and to take action to get visitors to attend, to get sales, to get commissions!

You might even be at a craft fair or trade show and realise that it is a bit quiet and want to fix it quickly.

This is a detailed and very practical actionable blog post! Full of last-minute marketing tips for craft fairs and trade shows that you can do – right now! With no costs or on a very low budget, and crucially very limited time involvement required from you!

Did you know that eventS ARE one of the best marketing tools FOR creatives?

  • A good-quality niche event is one of the best places to find your ideal consumers! These are the people that are most likely to buy from you, so make the most of the opportunity and get them to sign up to your email list to stay in touch.
  • An event is a great ‘excuse’ to get in touch with your potential and existing clients and to keep them up to date with what you are doing. It’s a very friendly way to continue promoting yourself to your existing contacts and clients.
  • It is a very soft but powerful way to stay in touch, drive traffic to your website and to build your profile and credibility with the people who already know you.  
  • If you don’t market yourself properly before, during, and after an event then you are missing out on one of the best marketing opportunities you have!
Crafty Fox craft fair
Crafty Fox market at the Dogstar in 2015 – image by (c) Yeshen Venema

Action 1: Send 20 personal invites in the post (60 minutes)

People love to get an invite! Most people don’t like to be ‘sold to’, but we do love an invitation. Who wouldn’t like to attend an Open Studio to see 80 creatives at work in their own space? Visiting craft shows in the run-up to Christmas, smelling of mulled wine, is part of my let’s-get-ready-for-Christmas-experience. Especially now after the pandemic when we finally can start to go out again and meet creatives like you!

An event invite in the post is one of the best and most impactful marketing tools that creatives can use!

Of course, this takes time and you might be in a rush and it’s easier to send emails (see last minute marketing tool number 2!) but sending something in the post is far more effective because it’s more personal and will stand out much more.

  1. Start with identifying 20 specific contacts. People who you really want to come to your event. And really focus on them. They might be existing or potential clients, agents, bloggers, journalists, gallery owners, retail buyers, ex-tutors, role models, suppliers or other people you really would like to show your work to. Don’t just invite your friends, invite potential clients!
  2. Write a hand-written personal message with the invite saying why you would love to see them at your show. Make sure that there are some images of your work as well as your website details, in case they aren’t able to come to the show.
  3. Send your invites in a hand-written envelope, addressed correctly to the right person (!). If possible use a coloured envelope (in line with your branding) to make your invite really stand out and memorable. If you are an illustrator you might even want to draw something on the envelope to make it even more special?

Why is this one of the most effective last-minute marketing tips for craft fairs and trade shows? Because doing your research, contacting the right people and being personal works. Yes, it takes a little longer, but it’s about the impact. It’s so much more likely that the receiver will remember you afterwards and that’s crucial because: ‘People only buy from people they know, like and trust’

Even if they are not able to attend the show they will start to get to know you and are more likely to remember you. People love getting post, because we all like to feel a little special. It’s pretty rare these days to get something nice in the post – it will get you noticed.

Haven’t got the time? Send 10 personal invites instead! (not joking …)

Action 2: Send a visual & short invite by email (30 minutes)

Beautifully designed email invites work brilliantly as a last minute marketing tool, as you can reach many people (depending on the size of your database obviously!) in a matter of seconds. You can either send an introduction email or a more visual invitation with images of your work, or both.

Do you realise that sending out targeted emails is about 10x as effective as doing social media?

If you have got limited time then I recommend that you focus on email marketing rather then on social media!

But … you need to try to avoid the spam folder and stop your recipients reaching for the delete button before they have opened your email.

Top tips to get your invite email opened and read.

  1. I suggest that you don’t just send one email but actually a series of emails for events! You don’t want to spam but if you rely on only one email then that’s often not enough. Think about it as creating a sequence that slowly reveals the story of your event or new collection launch. Send an email a month in advance to announce that you will be doing the show and invite people to apply for special VIP tickets. Two weeks in advance send the main invite launching new work with some sneak peek images. A week before the show send an email explaining why you created this collection. Two days before the show send a quick reminder or countdown. During the show, send an email with ‘best sellers’ or quotes from visitors. And after the show, you can do a follow up to tell people you just did the show, and announce any final offers or answer any questions.
  2. If you are planning to send out only one or two emails then I would suggest you send these roughly 2 weeks and 2-3 days before your show opens. If you have created specific lists in advance (e.g. existing clients, press, stockists) then you can tailor your intro email to them. Try to avoid sending generic emails to anonymous people e.g. ‘Dear Sirs’.
  3. The best time to send your email is around 9am or around lunchtime midweek – this will be the most likely times that people will open them.
  4. If possible use a professional e-mail management software such as MailChimp. This will allow you to personalise your emails, to create a branded design easily, and to send 100’s of them at specific times that suit you. Also with the GDPR rules, it’s a lot more likely that you comply when using a good email management software.
  5. Use a catchy non-spammy subject line. Make it personal. Write something like: ‘special invitation to my first solo exhibition Memories’ or ‘Ceramicist John Blogs invites you to Handmade, 3 – 6 June’.
  6. Keep your email short but enthusiastic. Tell people what to expect, who else is showing, what else they can do there. Be very clear about when it is (including opening times) and where it is. Give directions if necessary. Let people know if there is a charge too.
  7. Include 1 or 2 images of yourself (!) and or your work to remind people who you are and what your work is like. Include them in the text (as a clickable link), not as an attachment (as this will slow down sending your emails, and people don’t like opening attachments).
  8. Include your contact details and direct your reader to your website, especially if they are unable to attend the event. At the end of the email say: ‘If you are unable to attend my show, then have a look at my online shop xxx’. Finish your email in a friendly manner: ‘Looking forward to seeing you.’

Emails like this are not just a great way to get people to visit your craft fair or design event, but they can be a good reminder of you and your work, a non-threatening way to stay in touch with dormant contacts, and they can raise your profile and visibility.

So, even if you don’t expect your reader to be able to attend your craft event or design show … (because they live on the other side of the country) it’s still very worthwhile sending them an email or invite!

As a reminder that you exist. And as proof that you are building your creative career and profile.

Action 3: Send a postcard (30 minutes plus)

Postcards with a great image of your crafts or designs can be one of your best last-minute marketing actions! Either hand them out at your stand or send them to potential visitors before the show.

Postcards are very useful because of the imagery. It’s much more likely that your potential clients will remember an image easier than your business name, so a subtle reminder of your work on a beautiful postcard works very well. In fact, I prefer visual postcards above business cards for exactly that reason.

It is relatively cheap to design your own professional looking postcards through a wide variety of online websites, such as VistaPrint or Moo Cards. You can create and print address labels swiftly by using your existing database.

Obviously, there is a postage cost, but as people get so few nice items of post these days it might be well worth the investment!

Action 4: Entice visitors and creatE a special event offer (15 minutes)

Why should people come to your craft fair or your stand at that trade fair? You need to work a bit harder these days to get people into action!

People like to be treated specially, and most people like a treat. When you are sending out your invites, or even when you are at the show you can offer something special to your mailing list, your Instagram followers, or a specially selected group:

  • people on your database get a ‘2 for the price of 1 ticket’ offer in the run-up to the show
  • a 15% discount to previous clients who buy at the show with a special coupon that they find in the email
  • the first 20 visitors to your stand get a goody bag or special gift
  • a 15% discount during the show for your social media fans who can give you a code
  • free postage for people who come to the show but order online within two weeks after the show
  • free gift wrapping for customers at that Christmas craft show
  • run a fun competition from your stand e.g. guess the weight of your platinum ring or how long it took to fire your ceramic pot
  • 10% discount for future commissions placed at the show

I have to say that I am not a big fan of giving discounts … I think you are worth every penny and you are probably already not charging enough (!), so instead of doing a discount look at how you can give somebody something extra such as the free postage and packaging.

Make people feel special, and create a clear offer especially for them. Use a coupon, email or code that they need to give to you to claim their special offer.

One of the most creative examples I have heard about was a jeweller who sent one earring to 5 journalists before the show, with the suggestion that they could come to her stand to pick up the second one at the fair! She was very successful in getting noticed indeed!

Action 5: Launch something new (30 minutes)

Events, exhibitions, trade shows, and craft fairs are all ideal opportunities to present new products or collections.

When you send your invitation, emails, postcards make sure that you announce what you will be launching. What products or colours are new? What is special about it? What is the story you can tell about this new range?

People love to be the first to know, so tell them, and give an extra reason for them to come and see you and visit your stand (PS retailers and journalists love this!)

Want to find out how to create a collection that sells? Read this epic blog post on 8 steps to create a collection that sells. 

Action 6: Update your email signature (5 minutes)

At the bottom of each email you send, you can put an ‘email signature’. This is where you put your contact details, website address etc.

It is very easy to update these signatures through any email programmes. Usually, you can create a signature under ‘format’, and then apply it under ‘insert’. You can find more details about how to do it in your email programme in the ‘help’ box or Google ‘email signature’ + the email software you use to get instructions.

Why not update this regularly with information about your upcoming events? Simply add:

I will be showing at MADE LONDON Fri 26 – Sun 28 October at stand B3 Come and visit!

Use a highly visible colour that’s in line with your branding so that it stands out and will be seen by everybody you send emails to.

Action 7: Update your website, blog or online shop (30 minutes plus)

Before you exhibit at a craft fair or design show make sure that you update your website or online shop. If you are putting all this time, money and energy into doing a trade show or craft event, but your website is letting you down then you need to fix that asap. It’s very common that (trade) buyers attend a show, but aren’t ready (yet) to purchase from you. One of the first things they will do is check you out online. If your site is not up to scratch then your reputation will be damaged.

Doing live events such as craft fairs and design shows goes hand-in-hand with selling online.

One compliments the other.

Always include your upcoming (consumer) shows on your home or online shop page (if possible). Make it a special feature that is highly visible, not something hidden on your CV page. This is not just good to attract more potential visitors to your event but will be good for your credibility building with all your online visitors.

Create a special ‘events’ page on your website. Organise your events by date (latest one on top!) or location, and add the dates, venue, and link to the main event website too. Mentioning key events can help with getting found by people searching for that craft fair or trade show too. After the show, add blog posts about specific events in your ‘events’ or ‘news section’ on your website, with pictures of your stand and display. This will be a great record that can help build your story and credibility after the event has finished.

Always make sure that your online presence is up to date when you are doing shows. This is where (professional) buyers and the media might be checking you out prior to your event.

Your website is also the most likely place where people will go after the show to order. Very often during trade shows, buyers will see many potential clients, but will only place orders after the show. Or partners at a Christmas craft fair might prefer to keep their purchases confidential, so give them discreetly your business card with a web address for an online sale after the event.

Action 8: Share your story and pictures on social media (5 minutes each time)

Social media isn’t always great to get you sales, but it’s an excellent way to raise your profile and to drive traffic to your website!

In the run-up to your event share your progress with your followers. Show sneak peek images of your new collection or your creative process. I love seeing images of ceramics coming out of the kiln, or short videos of letterpress prints (including the noise!)

Share your excitement that you are keen to do a show, especially if you are a first time exhibitor, have been selected for an award or if it is a high profile show. Your passion for what you do should shine through as it’s very contagious and people love buying from real people at events!

Social media works far better if you have got good images. You are much more likely to be followed, ‘liked’ and shared. Don’t just include product images, but include close-up shots, work-in-progress images or what inspired you, photos and short videos of your studio or the place you work are popular too. Add some personality to your social media, but stay on brand. What do you want to be known for?  

Include text on top of your image to make the Call To Action clearer (use Canva or Photoshop to do this!). Make it super clear in your social media WHEN the show is and WHERE it is. Do a countdown’ (e.g. in two weeks’ time, this weekend) as many people don’t know what date it is today! Include driving instructions or the main event website too. Use the location also as a hashtag as locals will pick up on that. #thingstodoinLondonthisweekend

Update your social media bio with details of the events you are showing at. Include their social media handle. When people search for that event then the chances that your profile pops up in their search will increase massively!

If you include a picture of a specific product then always include a clickable link (depending on the social media channel) back to the product page on your website. People want convenience, they don’t want to be sent to your homepage where they then have to find that product they were interested in! Social media is key to driving traffic to your site – make it as easy as possible for your potential clients. 

Social media is a great tool to network in advance with fellow exhibitors. Get in touch with exhibitors near you on social media to build up a rapport before the setting up day – this is especially useful if you are part of a group stand, are a first-time exhibitor or at an international event where you might not know that many people yet. Promoting other exhibitors you admire on your social media too is also a really good way to promote the event indirectly.

Don’t forget to tag the event organiser and use the event hashtag in your social media posts so that they will see it in their own timelines too. If you have got great pictures then it’s much more likely that they will re-use your posts and spread them even wider through their own social media networks. This is a brilliant way to get more and better social media followers or to get noticed in advance of the show by (trade) buyers and the press. People often search events using the event hashtag to see the kind of work that will be at the show and to see whether its worth going or not.

Prior to and during the show share pictures of your stand, your display, the event, the queues, the people attending, the venue, the catalogue or the packaging, … Using short videos or do an Instagram Live from your stand can work really well too!

I often network on social media with specific exhibitors prior to attending a major craft fair or design trade show. I also find it useful to see images of stands so that when I am walking the busy aisles it’s much easier to recognise our social media followers in real life.

Action 9: Make time for event marketing (1 hour)

The key to making many of these last-minute marketing actions work is to make some time to actually DO them.

Most successful creative businesses spend around 40% of their time on marketing.

That might sound like a lot, but actually if you want your business to be known and you want to get more sales then it’s very likely that you are currently not spending enough time on marketing in a consistent manner, at the right time, to the right people.

If you have very limited time then I suggest you focus on the first two marketing activities and add some social media in too.

If you have got more time or want to get ready for your next show ‘properly’ then do work through this list above and see what works for you and your clients. Allocating at least one day per week to your marketing is a great starting point. Make regular marketing a habit! Many of these marketing activities are closely related to each other anyway and will support each other’s effectiveness.

You might be worried that you will turn into a spammer or overdo the marketing. But in my experience potential visitors need to be reminded when shows are on as they live busy lives. If you use these techniques in a personal and targeted way, with friendly and inviting language, you will be considered to be thoughtful – not a spammer.

One more thought about marketing …  there isn’t really a ‘quick fix’ although all these activities will help you. To make marketing really work in your design or craft business you need to start putting your potential clients at the heart of your business, really getting to know them, really understanding what makes them tick, why they love your work, and then starting to create and communicate with them from that place.

If you come ‘out of the blue’, haven’t been in regular contact and start spamming people one week before a show with lots of promotional info or say ‘buy me, buy me’ then they will get very annoyed with you.

Only by building up real relationships with your clients will you become successful in your business.

May Pinterest List 04 Last minute marketing tips for craft fairs
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Remember: people only buy from people they know, like and trust.

What would you add to this last minute marketing tips for craft fairs and design events? Did we inspire you to take action and did you get a great result that you would like to share with us? We would love to hear from you! Share with us in the comments box below.

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