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Art Fairs, Craft Shows, Music Festivals, and More

Festival Network Online Newsletter Commercial/Food Vendor Edition -  October 2008
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A note from the editor

Hello FNO Exhibitors and Food Vendors,

I sent this article to our FNO artists and crafters this month and thought the message could apply to all festival vendors.  This month I present a very cool article about a quintessential staple of every fair, the "Be-Backs."  We've all heard people say "I'll be back" upon leaving a booth without making a purchase.  This article by Quinn McDonald of explains the 5 different types of be-backs and which to pay the most attention to!

I am in need of article sources for food vendors and commercial vendors!  If I publish an article you send me or refer me to, I will hook you up with a free membership or renewal.  My email address is below, thanks a lot!  *

FNOBest wishes!

Julie Cochrane
FNO Marketing
Festival Network Online

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 Be-Backs: Love Them or Hate Them, They are Here to Stay

Festival Network Online

by Quinn McDonald

She looked interested in my jewelry. "This is so different," she said, moving to the next piece. "Now this one is really different," she said, trying on another piece. "I can't believe how different these are," she murmured, "none of them are alike, and they are all so different." Finally she turned to me, and said, "I'm shopping for my sister." Pleased, I said, "Do you see anything she might like?" The potential customer sighed. "Well, no, I'm looking for something different. But I might be back." Then she left.

Be-backs. Artists joke about them, mutter when they leave, roll their eyes when they hear the phrase. But Be-Backs are a part of the show artist's life, and knowing what to do may help you improve your sales.

The Eskimos may have a hundred different words for snow, but craft-show goers have at least five meanings for "I'll be back."

"I'm looking for something nice to say as I leave." No craft show attendee can make a purchase at every show or from every artist. But they will never buy unless they come into your booth. It's your job to delight them, entertain them, and make them like your work so much that they will want to buy it. But you can't force someone to like your work or to spend money they don't have. A browser who wants to leave without insulting you will often say "I'll be back." It's the equivalent of "I'll call you," that you used to hear (or say) at the end of a date. To paraphrase the title of a popular book, it means they just aren't that into your work. Let them go.

"I didn't find exactly what I wanted." Perhaps the browser sees something that makes an impression, but it's not exactly what they had thought of. Maybe it's not the right size or the color they had hoped. This is a Be-Back worth talking to.  Ideally, you have a greeting or statement you make when someone comes into your booth. If you get a response, you can add another statement and begin a relationship with the browser. A friendly exchange is something a client will remember more than the artist reading in the booth.
Do some detective work. After welcoming a prospect into your booth, find out about their taste in color, style, shape. Do it by saying something interesting about one of your pieces. Did you make the frame for that photograph?  Is the color of the plate a happy accident? Once you engage a client with a short (about 15-20 second) story, an interested prospect will have some sort of response. Are they shopping for themselves or for a gift? What are they looking for? If you have something similar that's not out, mention it. If you do custom work, mention that, too. They may not have to leave to find what they want.

"I want to compare prices." It doesn't matter if you have high-end items or a sales bin, some customers simply must hunt for a bargain. I don't recommend lowering prices, ever, but if you want the looker to become a buyer, you might want to hand the Be-Back a card with your booth number written on it, and add, "If you do come back to my booth, I can offer you X% off if you make the purchase today." It's wise to have a date on the card as well. You want that sale today, it's not a coupon for the future. How much to discount? It doesn't have to be a huge percent, even a small amount can make your booth more attractive than someone else's. But it is also important to remember that price is not every shopper's hot button.

"I'm bored." There are always people who come to shows because they need to kill time. You see them strolling the aisles talking on their cell phones, not looking right or left.  Sometimes they come with friends and both stay deep in conversation while standing in your booth. Worse still, they might come into your booth, handling everything without seeing anything because they are absorbed in their story. They want attention, but it's hard to get it and keep talking on the phone, so they use a number of phrases to get your attention. They will ask if you have a website, if you will be back at another show later in the year, if you have a retail store with more inventory to see, or for a card. They are hard to convert to clients, but since a show is all about sales, it's worth a try.

Go ahead and speak to them, even though they are on the phone. Maybe they can handle a second conversation. Try adding a detail about a piece. If they are truly not interested, they will leave.

"I want to see everything at the show before I buy anything." There are some people who cruise the entire show, marking down favorite booths. They then make another pass, deciding what items to buy. They may even make a third pass to decide between favorites. These shoppers are persistent and careful shoppers, and of all the Be-Backs deserve your full attention. If they show interest in a piece, tell them something special about it, or give a brief description about how the piece is made or how it can be used. These shoppers are attracted to friendly and special attention, and worth your effort. Try to begin a conversation with them about your work, their interests, what they have seen at the show so far, or ask their opinion on a piece. Once you have some information about them, try to help them visualize how they can use your piece.

Many interested show-goers come to a show to live the life of an artist. Give these people some attention and share something of interest to them, and they will be the Be-Back who always comes back to visit your booth.

(c) 2007-8. All rights reserved.

Quinn McDonald is an artist and a certified creativity coach who helps her clients get unstuck and move forward. She runs workshops through her business, QuinnCreative. See her work at

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