Monday, 11 March 2013


Lessons Learned - Audience Participation



Finally, I've got round to jotting down the next part of my craft fair education.  For part 1 look here:  Lessons Learned number 1 - being ruthless
By way of a quick summary, I am trying to pass on the lessons I've learned during my first wobbly steps trying to sell my crochet.    I have been selling for just over a year and there was a time when I would sell only one or two things at a fair  (sometimes even nothing at all).  I would end up losing money rather than making it.  

It is so demoralising.  Especially when you've paid for the privilege, travelled a long way, hefted boxes and tables and gazebos, sat in the cold and/or the wet and watched other people making piles of money. 

So I'm passing on some of the lessons I've learned, tricks that have worked and observations I've made during this first year.    

Number 2 - Audience Participation

I work with my mum when I sell.  We both crochet and both sell our work - me to make money and mum to make room for more crochet!  We have a huge advantage as sellers and that is our confidence.  We have both spent our working lives as teachers which means we are not nervous in front of crowds or with people.  It also means we are very good at engaging children.

To start with we didn't use this advantage.  Naturally, we were smiling and polite.  We answered any questions asked but we stood back and let people look.  We were too polite to push our wares!  No longer!  We have realised the importance of engaging our customers.  If you and your work are interesting people are more likely to buy.

Here are our top 5 strategies to engage:


  • HAVE AN OPENER.  The first question to ask is always ... "Do you crochet?"  It means we can chat crochet with people who do. 

 There is nothing like a shared passion. 


 Long time crocheters will tell you about their experience and current projects.  They will talk about how they learnt, their favourite yarns and finished pieces and they will share tips and interesting crochet tit-bits.  Even if they don't buy anything - and often they don't - we've all had a really good time.

Those new to crochet love to look at the projects, ask questions about how they were made, which stitches and how difficult.  In return we can ask them how far they've got and give tips and tricks and, very frequently, ohh and ahh over pictures on their phones of their wonderful ... and not so wonderful ... projects.
  • HAVE A GO!  For those who don't crochet, we always offer tasters.  Sometimes formally; sometimes ad hoc. We keep equipment under our table so our customers can have a go themselves.   If there is room we might have a tempting basket of small balls of coloured yarn and some hooks on one side.  We are lucky to work together so one of us can always slip aside and get people chaining.   We are thinking of taking this further at our bigger summer shows this year and offer mini-lessons for a fee - people can just sign up on the day.  
  • HAVE A BREAK. Many people come with their children and there is nothing more likely to move people on quickly.  We are often competing with toy stalls and sweet or cup-cake sellers.  Bigger fairs might have make-and-dos, bouncy castles ... etc  All of which are more of a draw than crochet (can't understand why!!!!)  Our solution has been to have something child-friendly on the stall.  Favourites are: a make and do if there is space - one of us teaches the children to finger crochet, plait braids, make pom-poms or something while the other talks to the parent; an improvised treasure hunt for smaller children ... can you find the smallest bear?  can you see a toy from outer space? ;  try outs - we currently have an old suitcase full of hats and hoods that are not for sale and a mirror.  It is such fun to get a gang of kids trying on and they often stay much longer than they would usually giving mum, dad or grandparents a break from their children and time to have a proper browse through our crochet.
  • HAVE A SHOW-STOPPER.  More about this is a later blog but we have found it is a really good strategy to make something spectacular.  Something that will never sell at a craft fair because it is too big or too expensive or just not a craft fair object.  It should be as big, bright and unusual as you can make it.  It should draw people to your stall and create a talking  point.
  • HAVE A FREEBIE.  There is nothing like a little generosity and something to take away to make you memorable.  We used to give everyone who stopped and or shopped a business card.  Now we give them a crocheted business card.  We make our own.  We use little tiny display bags - like those used for greetings cards but much smaller - and in them we put a tiny home-printed business card and a small crocheted flower or motif or creature.  They do take a long time to make so we don't do them all in one sitting - just a few each day - but they are actually cheaper than professionally printed business cards and they work.  Business cards get lost in the bottom of bags, thrown away or forgotten.  Hopefully, a pretty free gift will be better looked after and maybe even shown off to other potential customers ... 
My mum at the Wokingham Christmas Carnival 2012