Finding a vendor event in your first month of biz should be a key part of your direct sales launch plan. Why? Because, while they love you, your mom and sister can only buy so much.
It’s true. The sooner you start doing vendor events, the sooner you will branch out of your warm market and connect with your ideal client. Avoid the but-I-don’t-have-anyone-to-book-a-party-with trap (excuse) and get out there and find someone to book a party with! A little hustle can go a long way to keep your customers, parties and leads flowing in month after month.
Here’s 20 Out-of-the-Box Ideas to Find the Best Vendor Events:
Hair Salon: Whether you need a color touch-up or not, book an appointment with your hairdresser in your first month of biz. While you’re sitting in her/his chair, mention that you started a new biz and would love to partner with them to refer clients to each other. Then ask if the salon is planning any Ladies Night Out events (many do). If not, pitch the idea to the manager or owner. At the very least, ask if you can leave catalogs and maybe a sample in the waiting area. One of my best repeat customers – who I never met – came from leaving a catalog in my hair salon.
Meetup.com: Meetup is, “the world’s largest social networking portal that facilitates offline group meetings in various localities around the world.” You’ll find everything from Pets to Heath & Wellness to Cooking. If you have nothing on your calendar, look for vendor opportunities or find a group that will help you connect with your ideal client. Warning: Build relationships before you start selling. People will naturally ask, “What do you do?” as they get to know you.
Networking Groups: There’s never a shortage of women’s networking groups with a culture of ‘women helping women’ who want to help you succeed – and offer vendor opportunities to showcase your product. Really. They do. ‘Date’ a few groups to find the best fit for you and join in. You’ll build your confidence, grow your network and learn biz tips. Bonus tip for introverts: Introduce yourself to the organizer and offer to help with the registration table. You’ll get to meet every member while staying in your safe zone.
Mom Groups: Are Moms your ideal client? A quick Google search will help you connect with offline and online Moms’ groups and find vendor opportunities. Better yet, create a signature talk around a problem you solve and pitch yourself as a guest speaker.
Book Clubs: Join (or start) an online or offline book club and watch your network grow over a shared love of books. Ask your new friends if they know of any vendor opportunities or, if you’re the organizer, feature a biz-lady-of-the-month in your Book Club group. That includes you.
Wine Tasting Rooms: Reach out to local wineries to inquire about special events. Ask if you can set up a table to showcase your products and offer to donate a product and promote the event to your customers. Wine, I mean win, for all.
Olive Oil Tasting Room: Same as the above. But with oils. Wine is usually involved too. I even created a partnership with a local Olive Oil Tasting Room to bring my parties to them, combining oil tasting with a fun girls’ shopping night. Hostesses & guests loved the unique experience which helped me book more parties. Use a fun theme, like ‘Olive (your product name)’. Get it? Sounds like ‘I love (your product)’!
Boutiques: Many fashion boutiques offer special events for their customers. Stop in and offer to promote the event in exchange for a small space to showcase your products during the event. This pitch is even easier if you are a customer or ask while you’re buying something. Who can say no to a Customer?
Coffee Shops: Your local coffee shop is where your community comes together for everything from open mic nights to workshops to kids’ activities. Check the calendar on their website and head on over to network and offer a free door prize in exchange for a vendor spot.
Children’s Activity Gyms: Do you sell children’s books, organizing totes or toys? The local children’s activity center is where your ideal client is hanging out. You might want to pitch a fundraiser and offer a % of sales in exchange for a free vendor table during one of their busiest classes.
Local Banks and Corporate Offices: During the holiday season, many banks and corporate offices hold vendor events for their employees. That means you have a built-in audience = vendor win! Call the HR department to find out if an event is in the works and get on their preferred vendor list. These spots are rarely advertised and fill up fast.
Assisted Living Community: Another out-of-the-box vendor opportunity is waiting for you at your local assisted living community – where you might be the only vendor and table fees are under $25.00. Call and ask for the Activities Director to pitch yourself and your services. Better yet, offer a free class or workshop that relates to your products.
WeddingWire.com: Are brides your ideal client? Search weddingwire.com for bridal shows in your area. Before you fork over hundreds of dollars for a table (some events are $500+), attend a few events as a guest and network. You might find a new client or a great referral partner during the champagne toast.
Google: Ok, so a Google search is not out-of-the-box; how you search is what will help you find the best events. Narrow down your search by adding a plus sign between your keywords. Examples: Vendor event + your city or county + Moms group or Vendor event + Ladies Night + Valentine’s Day.
Private Schools: Private schools are one of the best kept vendor secrets. The parents are more involved and they are motivated to buy from you because the money goes back into their child’s education.
Restaurants: Many chain restaurants (The Melting Pot) are using “Ladies Shopping Nights” as a marketing tool to pack the house on slow nights. You can even pitch the idea to a local restaurant and offer to organize the event for them by bringing in your direct sales buds. I’ve done this with great success because you have a built-in audience of restaurant workers and customers.
Zumba or Yoga Class: Get in shape for your direct sales incentive trip and sign up for a Zumba or yoga class. Once you get to know the instructor, ask if you can give out some free samples (or a door prize) and set up a small display during class time. The instructor gets the hostess credits and you get new customers, parties and sponsoring leads. And yes, I’ve done this too. By the way, the Zumba instructor is a great sponsoring lead.
EventBrite: Type the word “vendor” in the eventbrite.com search box and the first list that comes up will be events in your local community. Underneath the local events, you’ll see “popular queries” which include: Vendor Opportunities for Women, Vendor Booth, Craft Vendor, Vendor Fair & Jewelry Vendor. Search and go!
Facebook Multi-Vendor Online Event: If you’re looking for an online vendor event, type “Multi-Vendor Event” in the Facebook Search. These are typically run like a Facebook Party but with multiple direct sellers sharing their products and offers. Choose wisely to find an event that is not all vendors selling to vendors, and be wary of spamming your customers and friends by adding them to the invite list before you ask. Personal invites are best.
Realtors & Insurance Offices: I’ve been invited to a few Open Houses at a real estate office that included vendor tables, and even helped my insurance agent plan a customer event around her backyard pool. And yes, I brought in my vendor peeps: yoga instructor, a chef and an angel card reader. That’s my kind of vendor event… a free vendor table while sipping margaritas and sampling sushi by the pool. This vendor thing can be hard work, but someone’s gotta do it.
New: Learn about the Killer Vendor Events eCourse
What “Out of the Box” ideas do you have to find vendor events? Let me know in the comments below.
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Lynn Bardowski is an award-winning entrepreneur and bestselling author of Success Secrets of a Million Dollar Party Girl. She speaks to global audiences about Direct Sales Success, Women’s Empowerment, and Social Selling and is a resource for press, media and bloggers. Like her on Facebook, follow her on Twitter and subscribe to her YouTube channel.