Running a Successful Vendor's Booth

By: Robert Thomson


Whether you are a part-time crafter looking to make some extra spending money or a full-time vendor needing to increase sales and gain exposure for your product or brand, a vendor's booth at local (or larger) events is a good idea. It does take quite an investment in time and effort to have a successful vendor booth event, but the returns on that investment can be quite worthwhile.

1.) Scout out the territory - Keep an eye on local papers, or industry trade publications. Check websites, blogs, calendar of events for major venues and community and state event calendars for possible opportunities to set up shop. You'll want to contact the coordinator fairly early, to ensure that you get on the vendor list, get a table or booth, and get all your fees and paper work in on or before the deadline. Most events have some sort of fee for vendor booths, and a list of items that the vendor is responsible for bringing. Some venues, for example, supply tables, chairs, security and even signage. Others, such as charity events, local shows and festivals, simply provide the space. Everything else is up to you.

Some things to consider when choosing venues and events are: weather, time and place, duration of event and your current inventory. All of these can play a big factor in your sales. If you sell chocolates, for example, you don't want to be outside, for a 6 hour event, in July, in Las Vegas. Winter events in colder climates can always have so-so attendance, because snow and ice can deter many would-be buyers from attending. You don't want to end up driving eight hours one way for a 4 hour event, either. If the event is only one month away and you are low on inventory, it might be a good idea to skip the event in favor of one a few months down the road. One last thing to consider when choosing opportunities for your booth is the nature of the event itself. If your product is for a more high-brow, upscale crowd, the local volunteer fire department's annual bazaar probably isn't the right place for you, either. Match the event to your target market and you will have a better chance at a successful booth.

2.) Make a list and check it twice - Now, what to take? Check and recheck the list of vendor responsibilities provided by the event coordinator. Make sure you have everything on that list. Make a list of inventory to take along. Make a list of sale items to bring, too. Be sure you have everything you need to make the sale - cash box or register, credit card reader or imprinter, price tags, carrier bags or boxes for customer purchases, etc. Also ensure that you have other items necessary to the conduct of your business - business cards, price list, custom order forms, check stamp, blank paper, pens, pencils, signs, posters - in short everything you could possibly need to either make a sale or make a contact. It's better to be prepared for an eventuality that never occurs than need something you have no way of obtaining.

3.) A little help, please - The day of the event, it is always best to have a friend, colleague, employee or some other helpful soul to kindly and generously assist you in setting up your vendor booth. Arrive plenty early, to allow lots of time to get your booth just right before the first attendees arrive at the event. Familiarize yourself with everything in your booth, from where the cash box is to the placement of your products. Being familiar with your temporary home will help you to serve your customers more easily and efficiently. Having someone you trust with your booth will also allow you time for lunch, dinner and bathroom breaks as needed.

4.) Stop traffic - You'll want your booth to grab the attention of the event attendees. Use large signs, if possible, behind the booth or above the booth. Don't rely on signs that hang from the display tables, because once you get people stopping and looking at your products, the sign will be blocked by their bodies. Set up a sale box or table and offer items at a reduced, but profitable, rate. You may want to consider a trial size or free sample, especially if you sell food or drink products. Some vendors rely on drawings or giveaways to boost sales. You can even restrict a drawing to only customers that spend X amount at your vendor booth. (Be sure and make it a reasonable amount, though, as too high can seriously limit your success.) Before offering a drawing or giveaway of any kind, be sure that you aren't breaking any rules or regulations of the event or organization sponsoring the event. If you want to use the event as an opportunity to gain new clients or exposure for yourself, have some way of gaining contacts. It could be a business card drawing. It could be signing up for a newsletter. How about a simple customer a reply card enclosed with their purchase?

5.) At the event's end, clean up and pack up thoroughly. You won't want to leave any of your belongings or merchandise behind, and you don't want to leave a bad impression with your host, either, by leaving them a big mess to deal with after you're gone. Provide some sort of thank you to the event coordinator. Some vendors send or give thank you cards, others give the event coordinators free merchandise. Be sure to get their business card or contact info, too, if you wish to participate in the future. If you had a profitable, pleasant experience, let them know so, and let them know that you'd be more than happy to set up a vendor booth at their next affair.

Having a vendor booth can be a rewarding experience for you and your business. Having a successful vendor booth can be as profitable as it is rewarding.

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