Vendor events are key to getting out of your inner circle and making new connections, if you find events that are well attended, connect with your ideal client and have a strategy before you get there. After 23 years in the direct selling trenches, I’ve become an expert at getting results at vendor events. They aren’t always perfect, but this complete guide to vendor event success will help you make the most of your time and get better results.
Let’s get started.
What Questions Should I Ask The Vendor Event Organizer Before I Say Yes?
You found an event, yay! Now what? Time is money. Don’t waste it at events that have a high vendor fee, are flooded with vendors that sell similar products and/or have low attendance. One of my vendor event failures was a fundraiser for an animal rescue. Everyone brought their dogs, which were adorable, but no one was interested in shopping with Fido on the leash. It’s ok to interview the event organizer and say No if it’s not for you.
10 Questions You Should Ask Before You Commit
1. Is this the first time you’re holding the event?
If not, how many attendees did you have last year?
2. Who attends (Moms, families, etc…)? Note: Pets and children are big distractions.
3. What kind of marketing are you doing for the event?
4. Do you have a Facebook event page I can share and post my website link on?
5. How many vendors total (be wary of too many vendors)?
6. Will you provide a table? If yes, what size is it? Do I need a tablecloth?
7. Is there a fee? Note: Most will ask for a table fee ($25 – $30 avg) or a % of sales, and a $25 door prize donation. I prefer a % of sales because it only costs you money if you make money. Everything is negotiable. Ask if you can donate a % of sales instead of an upfront fee before you say yes.
8. Are you going to have duplicate vendors (more than one of a product type or industry)?
9. Tell me about your school/group/charity…how many active members do you have? (The more active members, the more successful the vendor event will be.)
10. Do you have access to electricity and/or wireless internet?
I Found A Vendor Event, Now What Do I Do?
You interviewed the organizer and found an event that’s a perfect fit for your biz. Now what? It’s time for strategy. What’s your objective? For most direct sellers, it should include generating sales, parties and recruits. Small biz owners might also be looking for leads and building an email list. “Go social” at the event and create a social media challenge for the attendees to take a pic with you, or a product, and post it on their social sites like Facebook and Instagram. Have some fun and become a shameless self-promoter. I’ve even “staged” photos and had people line up at my table so it looks like I have the most crowded table at the event. Sometimes you have to create your own buzz! By the way, pics are more engaging when they include people, and not just products, in them. Avoid salesy words that sound like “buy my stuff” when you post to Facebook and Instagram. Instead, share a pic of your crowded table with a comment like, “Having a blast raising money for (school name)!” and hashtag your product and company. Be prepared and bring your iPad so attendees can subscribe to your email list, LIKE your Facebook page and/or see product videos on your company’s YouTube channel. You can also create a form for attendees to fill out, but it’s not always easy to read someone’s handwriting and you might get bounce backs on email addresses.
Learn about our new eCourse: Killer Vendor Event Strategies
Should I Bring Cash and Carry To A Vendor Event?
I’m not a fan of cash and carry. Cash and carry customers tend to take the product and run. You might miss the opportunity to get all their contact information, which you would be able to do during the ordering process. Placing an order slows down the interaction and gives you more time to make a connection and probe for more opportunities, including parties and recruiting leads. Plus, I don’t like to look like a hot mess. Cash and carry requires schlepping tons of product. If you don’t sell it, you’re schlepping it in the door and back home. Pass the deodorant. My one exception is a holiday vendor event when people are looking for a grab and go gift. Stock up on gift bags at the dollar store and add $1 to the cash and carry price so you can provide a gift bag with purchase, one-stop shopping! You’ll have the busiest table at the event. Download a free credit card processing app (Square, Paypal, etc…) to increase sales.
What Should I Display At A Vendor Event?
Just like ordering off a restaurant menu, less is more. I know you’re excited about your new products, but you don’t need to bring them all to your vendor event. Your display should communicate a simple call to action to the attendees. If your table is too busy or confusing, potential customers will walk on by. Use bundle deals that create what I call a BUY (or DO) THIS > GET THIS focus. Use your monthly marketing programs to create your bundle offer. For example, PartyLite offers a 1/2 price item with a $50 purchase. This comes to life at a vendor event with a Buy 2 Jar Candles bundle deal ($50) > Get a (high ticket item) 1/2 price. Based on this example, the vendor display is a selection of jar candles, a high ticket item, and an iPad with product videos, visuals and marketing materials. That’s it.
How To Setup A Vendor Display
Most vendors display products flat on the table, with no real focus or objective. Think yard sale. You, on the other hand, will look like an expert merchandiser because you are going to use Triangle Marketing! “What’s that?” you might be asking. You can read up on it in my best-selling book, Success Secrets of a Million Dollar Party Girl. I created Triangle Marketing after learning that photographers compose photos using imaginary triangles because it’s more pleasing to the eye. It works for your vendor table, too. Use props (cover with fabric*) to elevate products so they are displayed in the shape of a triangle. A prop can be a box, or even a pot that you found in the kitchen at the hall where the vendor event is located. As you read above in my cash and carry tips, I don’t like schlepping extra things. I’ve even borrowed boxes from other vendors. Go team!
The video below maps out your vendor display, which will consist of three triangles:
Left triangle: Product (Do this)
Center triangle: Visuals/Marketing materials**, Order Forms, iPad
Right triangle: Product (Get this)
You: In front of your table ready to engage attendees
*Bonus Tip: Click here to watch Lynn’s vendor event how-to videos on YouTube. Subscribe to Lynn’s YouTube channel and you’ll get the latest how-to videos for women entrepreneurs sent to your inbox. It’s free!
**Marketing Tip: Staple your visuals/flyers to a gift bag. It makes them look way more fun; they fold flat and are very lightweight.
What Do I Say When Someone Approaches My Vendor Table?
First: 2 Key Phrases to Avoid, Exclamation Points Optional:
Join my team! Facebook is flooded with “join my team” posts. It’s overused and sounds a little scary. “Joining” is borderline cult lingo. A simple Help Wanted sign will do. People get the “help wanted” message and understand that it means you have a job opening and they can make money. Sign me up.
Book a party! Booking is industry jargon and not very customer friendly. Customers don’t want to be “booked.” Remember Hawaii Five-O? “Book ‘em, Danno,” meant someone was going to jail. Orange may be the new black but try some new verbiage like “get the gang together, “girl’s night out” or “wine down Wednesday.” If you wine it, they will come.
Surprise your new friend by not asking them to “book a party.” That’s what every other vendor just did and now they are scared to make eye contact with you. Instead, get to know more about them. First rule of engagement: A potential customer should be talking more than you. For example, I attended a vendor event and a jewelry rep cornered me as I approached her table, rambling on about her hostess offers and specials, before she took the time to find out anything about me. If she opened her eyes for one minute she would have noticed I was not wearing jewelry, a sure sign that I was not her ideal client. I might have referred a few jewelry lovin’ friends if the rep had asked the right questions and built a rapport with me.
The lesson? Zipper up your lip and read on…
Ask the Attendees
Find out who’s interested in your product or service by asking:
“Have you ever experienced (insert your product name)?”
If they say yes, ask, “What do you like most about it?” (Let them sell themselves). Now you’re ready to share your awesome do/buy this > get this deal.
If they say no, ask, “Do you enjoy (candles, jewelry, cooking, etc…)?” Find out if they are an ideal client before you ramble on about your biz. Odds are that not everyone who stops at your super attractive table will want or need what you have to offer.
Engage the attendees in conversation by playing a fun door prize game:
“Can you guess how many (your product or candy) are in the jar?” This is just for fun. Everyone loves to win a contest. While they’re busy counting, sign them up for your email list to enter a prize drawing. Then ask the next question….
Find out the best way to connect by asking:
What’s the best way to connect…Facebook, text or email?
If they prefer a text message, and you’re emailing, you’re wasting your time. Use your smartphone to connect on Facebook, or put their cell phone # in your phone, while they’re engaged in conversation. You’ll get better follow-up results.
Create a call to action by asking:
Do you prefer to shop on sale or retail? No one is going to say, “I prefer to pay full price.” This gives you the opportunity to share a special “event only” offer. Upsell by using a Buy This > Get This deal of the day. If you’re a direct seller, create offers based on what your company is offering and make up “event only” coupons to seal the deal. But wait, there’s more….show off a freebie for hosting and offer incentives for setting a party date (Pick a date, pick a prize!) and taking a look at your biz information. Your display should always be focused on your objective. Don’t forget to add your contact info and web address to your materials.
How To Follow Up With Vendor Event Leads
Remember the door prize drawing you did to generate leads? Everyone’s a winner! Well, there’s only one grand prize winner but why not follow up by telling everyone they won something. It’s a great ice breaker. Share who won the grand prize and say, “You won a gift too, a free _____!” Prizes could be a sample, consultation or invite to a private VIP sale/trunk show event. At the end of the day, we all want to be winners!
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For more tips and examples of triangle marketing, read my blog post The Power of Triangles – and Other Vendor/Expo Event Success Tips.
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.