For small businesses, it’s always nice to have access to local farmer’s markets and fairs. While they may be seasonal – and only happen on the weekends – they present an excellent opportunity for increasing income and meeting new customers. But in order to be successful, there are some things you need to learn.
5 Tips for Success
Whether you sell fresh produce or some sort of handmade gift or good, farmer’s markets and fairs represent a wonderful opportunity to move beyond your standard sales channels and reach highly engaged customers in a unique setting that’s conducive to your niche. But in order to be successful, there are some things to keep in mind.
- Visit as a Customer
It’s always a good idea to visit farmers markets and fairs before becoming a vendor. By experiencing them as a customer, you get to see the entire operation from a different angle. You’re able to see what makes certain vendors successful and others irrelevant. You also get a chance to hear people talk and interact with vendors, which provides invaluable insight when you’re on the other side of the table.
- Learn and Respect the Rules
Every market has its own set of rules. The quickest way to get blacklisted or removed from a market is to violate these guidelines. Having said that, be sure to study up on the rules and memorize them backward and forward before you start.
Market organizers should be able to provide you with written rules that you can reference as you go. These rules will touch on things related to proper booth setup and size, the appropriate way to set up and take down, hours and time restrictions, payment processing guidelines, appropriate attire, and restricted items. When in doubt, ask someone. Veteran vendors can also be helpful sources of information.
- Do Something to Stand Out
In most farmer’s markets and fairs, there are lots of vendors selling similar products. (This is especially true if you’re selling produce.) While location within the market is very important, there’s also something to be said for designing a booth that stands out.
Some markets will require you to rent their tents, tables, and other supplies to ensure a uniform look from booth to booth. Others will give you the freedom to provide your own. In this case, designing a custom tent with your logo and a tagline can give you a little bit of extra visibility and brand recognition. You can also wear bright colors and/or have promotional items on hand to draw people in. As long as you’re following the market’s guidelines, anything can work!
- Strategically Organize Inventory
Once you draw people in, you need to think about how you’re presenting your inventory. A neat, well-organized selection will communicate care and quality to your customers.
According to farmer Curtis Stone, it’s best to pile the inventory high and make the most out of your limited space.
“As he explains, creating the illusion of abundance can make your products seem more appealing to passersby,” marketer Annie Pilon notes. “So stack your products rather than laying them out on the table. Or you can even hang things from the top of your booth or utilize other unique display tactics just so shoppers can see a lot of your products all at once.”
- Be a Good Neighbor
There’s a community element of farmer’s markets and fairs that exists among the vendors. As you attend more of these events, you’ll meet other vendors and strike up friendships. In order to set yourself up for success, be a good neighbor to those around you. Lend a hand when someone needs something and avoid burning bridges. You never know when you’ll need help in the future.
Learn As You Go
You can study tips, pointers, and best practices until you’re blue in the face, but you eventually have to dive in and figure it out on your own. You’ll make mistakes and experience missed opportunities, but that’s part of the process.
Here’s a challenge for you: Commit to attending at least four markets or fairs over the next 12 months. A year from now, you’ll be able to look back at your experiences from each of these fairs and pinpoint valuable lessons learned. And before you realize it, attending farmer’s markets and fairs will become secondhand nature.