I see a lot of people posting in various forums about craft shows (‘tis the season). I don’t think I’m going to do a single flipping one this year – maybe revisit my original market, but I haven’t even decided about THAT yet. I’m seeing lots of advice handed out, and I just laugh, because I’m a battle scarred veteran, baby, and what I know is that NOTHING is ever what you expect.
Here’s one example. We’d been doing a lot of regular markets, and Hubby and I were getting pretty good at marketing, display, closing the deal, etc., and we were getting pretty smug about our expertise. We got an invitation to a midweek multi-day show – and though our weekends were damn crowded, our weeks had gaping holes. So we did a little investigation, and off we went.
It was a college show, on one of the University of California campuses. I know college kids aren’t our biggest demographic, but I spoke to the organizer extensively about this, and she assured me that faculty attended the show, and that the student body had a reasonably large graduate and adult population, and that booths with similar products had historically done well.
Ok, fine. We arrived on day one, at the proper time, to a space along a lovely tree-lined walk, and set up the booth.
Next to a man selling brine shrimp.
Brine shrimp are little miracles of nature, lying dormant as eggs for years until a water supply arrives and allows them to hatch. The big deal about this, for marketing purposes, is that you can slap a bunch of brine shrimp eggs in an envelope and mail them, along with a sad little plastic aquarium thingy, which the user fills with tap water and sprinkles with the envelope of eggs. Then they pop to life as unattractive little crustaceans.
I thought they were unattractive, anyway – I clearly recall being terribly disappointed as a young Magic, because they were just nasty little nearly microscopic bug-like shrimp and all they could do was swim and dirty the tank water.
Whereas the ad on the back of my comic book had clearly shown girl Sea Monkeys in little blond bouffant wigs, kissing their husbands goodbye as the boy Sea Monkeys sped off, carrying little briefcases and wearing ties. In case you think I am lying, here are some Sea Monkey products:
I hope you notice that they have a Sea Monkey Dog as part of the family. These are all part of a kit called My First Pet, which is a lousy trick to play on a kid who probably wants something he or she can cuddle. I would also like to point out that the ads are lying, and I was completely unsuccessful in trying to train my sea monkeys to build a castle.
Anyway, my point is that Sea Monkeys are a stupid product. A stupid, stupid product. Which the man next to me was selling. His were from Hawaii – like it matters where you fill the envelope – and had a “controlled microclimate” which is just fancy Tupperware that looks vaguely aquarium-ish. And you know what? People were lined up to buy them. They were yelling and waving money like they’d just learned that Sea Monkeys could cure cancer.
Not only did nobody look at our wonderful products, they couldn’t even get close to our booth, because there was an overwhelming mob of people DEMANDING to have Sea Monkeys. It was a completely demoralizing money-sucking week.
So when you read about craft shows, take all the advice with a grain of salt. Because we’ve been at this for a long time, and we’re pretty good at it, and we STILL had our asses kicked by Sea Monkeys.