Lessons Learned

Lessons come at us in the strangest forms sometimes...

I know three women who have recently shared with me situations they’ve experienced and lessons they have learned in regard to being vendors at the Farm Chicks Show. This is great information for anyone who is interested in selling at shows – any kind of shows – and so I am discreetly sharing their stories here.

T learned that when applying as a vendor to a show, it is REALLY important to take time to prepare your presentation. She decided she wanted to sell at Farm Chicks, though she has never been to the show. She grabbed a few great existing photos she had, quickly filled out the app, and sent it off. She was devastated when the response was a “no, thank you.” – but rallied, and grabbed a partner, built a mock booth, staged a photo shoot, put together a professional presentation, and re-submitted the entry. The answer that time? A solid ‘YES!’

R learned that when your business is multi-faceted, you need to selectively focus on various facets for different purposes. She produces her beautiful artwork herself, and sells it at trade shows. When she wanted to grow and begin selling ‘direct to public’, she chose shows like Farm Chicks to start. Her application was met with a reaction quite different than what she had anticipated, and a ‘No, thank you’.

After getting feedback and looking at her marketing, she saw that while her approach for gift & trade shows was great, she was projecting the wrong image for other kinds of sales opportunities. For a recent application to another antique & flea market show, R is re-staging her booth for a photo shoot and grouping small quantities of her products into vignettes on vintage props to give it a more ‘one of a kind’ feel. She is also playing up the wording in the application to focus on her use of vintage materials, the select one-of-a-kind artwork that she does not sell at trade shows, and on the fact that she is an artistic entrepreneurial woman. She says she is actually glad that this happened, because it helped her to see her business in a clear light, and as others see it.

J will be a first-time vendor at the Farm Chicks show this June, and she’s never attended the show as a shopper. She took a gander at my video series filmed at last year’s show, and let me know that it really helped her to see the kinds of booth presentations that vendors create there. (It is clearly not your regular ‘Antique Show’ at a convention center!) This led her to brainstorm and think bigger, broader, and grander than she previously was. She is planning the merchandising of her products to show off her own unique personality with a big visual impact, which she’ll need to grab shoppers’ attention in the midst of hundreds of stellar visual effects. Her products are incredible and sales are soaring – but she has to be sure to raise the bar for this show in order to stand out from the crowd.

In a related situation that has nothing to do with the Farm Chicks, D learned recently that you may think you are projecting one thing, but find that you are actually perceived in a completely different way. Consistency, clarity, and confidence go a long way in presenting a brand successfully.

In all of these cases, the women who owned the businesses suffered a blow to their confidence and sense of accomplishment when they realized that they had NOT put their best foot forward. They had to be brave, step back, take an objective position, ask for feedback, and make adjustments to the way they thought about, expressed, and CREATED their own image. Happily, they all did. And every last one of them is reaping the very positive results! THAT, dear readers, is how to run and grow a successful business...

By the way, this is not in any way meant to reflect poorly on the Farm Chicks' Jury process for vendors. Quite the contrary - I applaud their process. Their requirements are clear, their standards are high, and that is one reason their show is such a stellar experience for everyone. As Teri said when I interviewed her last summer, they pay attention to how every vendor helps build the Farm Chicks brand. Smart cookies, those girls.... keepin' us all on our toes!

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my take on retail visual design:

"The thing is, retail design is driven by psychology. It is by manipulating space, visuals, lighting, sound, smell, and mood that we influence customers to enter, stay, browse, buy, and return. It is an endless exercise in change, endurance, growth, education, and imagination that enables retailers to stay on top of their game and at the forefront of their customer's minds. Yes, what you sell IS important - but even the very best merchandise won't sell at full price if it's presented in torn boxes on dirty shelves in a store that is too crowded to turn around in. Visual impact is a huge part of business, and utilizing the principles that have been proven to work can help you build a better business." ~ DWK