Digital Marketing: Building Customer Relationships Before, During and After the Show

By Mark J. Post, Membership Director

Times have changed. It used to be that as an artist, you could simply focus on the creative aspects of your craft.  Then to sell, you’d show up at a show and hope for good attendance and strong sales. The best way to increase sales was to exhibit at more shows.  

Now you have opportunities to build business through your website and digital marketing. Craft shows are more than simply a place to close sales, but rather one point of contact in what should be a multi-channel, long-term customer relationship. There are activities that are easy to do to build your customer relationships before, during and after your shows.

Before the Show

Make sure your website is up-to-date.

According to our customer surveys, over 50% of attendees will visit our website and our artists’ sites to review the show before coming. Customers learn about your work and get interested in buying before the show. Returning customers want to see your newest work as they consider expanding their collection.

Let your customers know you are exhibiting.

Your loyal customers won’t come unless they know you are there! If you don’t have an e-mail list, start one. There are many affordable and easy-to use e-mail automation tools such as Constant Contact, Mailchimp and HubSpot that can help manage your email lists and campaigns. Use social media posts to announce your exhibition and build interest. The two-week period before the show is critical to building awareness of your show participation.

Don’t forget about direct mail.

Don’t get me wrong. E-mail is great – it’s fast and inexpensive. However, customers are swamped by emails and can easily ignore them. Even in the best campaigns, 70% or more emails are left unopened and unread by recipients.  A well-designed direct mail piece can attract the eyes of your customers at a much higher rate. For many artists and makers, one additional sale easily pays for the cost of a small batch direct mail piece targeted to your best customers.

At the Show

Show a range of work in your best setting.

The customer community is fickle. Some artists have told us that it’s easier to sell smaller, less expensive items, while for others, success comes by selling their most expensive, one-of-a-kind pieces. It’s usually smart to show the public a range of work in a well-designed setting. You may not need the fanciest booth in the world, but if your work is invisible because there is nothing at eye level, or it disappears into or clashes with your backdrop color, it hurts your sales.

Consider a special, “at-the-show-only” promotion to encourage visitors.

Think of a promotion or announcement that will encourage customers to visit your booth. Tell them about it in email and social media. Do you have excess inventory or new work that you’d like to feature? Maybe you want to tempt people to buy whole sets – of dinnerware, bedroom furniture or serving pieces. Or perhaps you’d like to get customers to introduce their friends to your work? Imaginative shoppers are always on the lookout for something different and even the most modest offer can attract their attention.

Always, always collect customer information.

A show is not only a place to make sales. It is also a place to build relationships with future customers and collectors. Engage them in conversation about your work and what they like. Make sure you have a mailing list signup book or tablet highly visible and encourage visitors to sign up. You’ll be able to continue your conversation with your future customers via email, social media or direct mail.

After the Show

Build your customer database.

Good shows result in both good sales and new customer contacts for future sales. Shows can be tiring, and you may be busy filling orders, but the sooner you reach out to new email contacts, the sooner future sales will happen.

Contact attendees after the show.

You’ve exhibited your work and it’s appropriate to continue your conversation with interested collectors. For those who purchased something a thank you note with links to other items that might complement their purchase can generate follow-up sales. Prospects who may have come close to buying yet had to think some more can be sent additional information and links to alternatives in order to finalize a sale after the show. All your attendees will be interested to hear about your future exhibitions and how to best get in touch with you going forward.

Join Our Creative Community – Be One of Us!

The Paradise City Membership Program makes it easy for our exhibitors to build their customer relationships. We offer free web pages, email marketing, direct mail and other services that help you reach engaged and knowledgeable customers. 

Applications for our shows are available, and full show information can be found on each show’s page. We make it as easy as pie to APPLY ONLINE. We can jury your work from your website or other image location and we look carefully at every artist and every application. You’ll know by a month after the application deadline if you are accepted for a current show. Once the deadline has passed, it is still possible to apply to the wait list for any show. We are very open to new and emerging artists and would love to hear from you. Apply now!