"How do you find your events?" We hear this question a lot.
Every business model is different but ours is split up into equal thirds: events, wholesale, online sales. So events is a pretty chunk of our sales each year.
It's also an important aspect of our company why. We make candles, in part, because we want to connect with our community and customers. We want to see people's eyes light up when they smell Peach Orchard. Know you're why before you dive into an event search.
First, there are some preliminary questions that you need to ask before you begin looking for events. Much like looking for a house or a car, you need to know what you are looking for. This will save you time and prevent you from "purchasing" an event that doesn't meet the goals and/or needs of your company, no matter how big or small it may be
- How far do I want to travel for an event? If you want to stay within a 30 mile radius of your home/studio, don't spend time searching for events in the entire state.
- Who is your audience? We have to constantly ask this question, and - no - everyone is not a sufficient answer. You have a specific target buyer. Know it. An obvious example but helpful is the beef jerky guy that tries to sell his product at a vegetarian convention. Ridiculous but similar scenarios are played out more often than you think. We've learned the hard way that people at music events don't buy candles. We can have 70,000 people come through a music festival, and - no matter the volume - they aren't interested in carrying around a candle. As a rule, we say no to music festivals - no matter how promising it may sound.
- How many events can I manage each weekend? If it's just you, that's awesome. You'll just need to be more selective on which events you apply for. If you have friends/family/team members that can take on an event, awesome.
- Do I have the resources to add more than one event per day? If you have people to run a second or third event, great. But do you have the table set up, extra tents, extra cash boxes, time to train event workers, etc?
- How much do you want to spend per event? We've spent $10-$1000 for events. Know what your budget is and, again, don't spend time searching for an event that you can't afford.
- Do you have the inventory for this event? If you are looking at a three-day event at Christmastime, but you know that you're going to want to spend time with family and will have your hands full with online sales, don't pursue that big convention center holiday fair.
Second, there are several ways that you can find events once you know what you're looking for.
- Local. Start by googling events in your city. The list will be manageable.
- Hashtags. Figure out which hashtags are popular for your area and search them regularly. We search the #yeahthatgreenville hashtag often to figure out what's happening in our city.
- Talk to other makers. They are in the same boat as you, so why not paddle together. When you're at an event that isn't super busy, take advantage of the time to talk to those set up near you - minding that you're not taking away from their sales or your own. Some great questions to ask are (1) What were your top three events last year? (2) What were your worst three? (3) Are you returning to this event? Why or why not? This could be an entire blog post on it's own, but know the maker that you're getting advice from. We ask people that we know so that when they say, "It was a really good event," I have some context for what that means. That means they sold out and not that they just barely covered their booth fee. One of our best events of the year is the GCA Fall Festival. We'll find vendors that also did well at that event and ask them, "How did this event compare to the GCA event?" We have a starting point.
- Facebook. Find other makers online and check out their "events" tab. See where they are going and - better yet - where they have been. Ask them how events A and B were for them last year. Are they returning? Why or why not?
- Record system. There'll be events that you hear about a little too late to signup for. Have some system so that next year you remember to sign up. For us, it's a Google calendar. We have notes already plugged in for next year like, "Checkout the Ladybug Festival."
- At events. It's more common than you might think for event coordinators to visit other events and - essentially - hand out personal invitations to various makers. When you're at an event - this also could be another post! - be at the event. Don't be on your phone. Don't be down a few booths talking to a friend. Be present. Be engaged. You are not only representing your company and product, but you may also be "auditioning" for other events. Those events that carefully select and jury their vendors are some of the very best. They know their audience and are selecting makers that will represent their brand well.
While there is no right way to finding events, use wisdom in your search. Don't google "State Festivals." It's overwhelming. If you can only do one event the week before Christmas, choose it well. Don't go to Random Church Craft Bazaar, just because a friend said it's "really good." Figure out what "really good" means so that you can invest your time and resources wisely.
SIDENOTE: Be cautious of asking business advice from other like-makers. For instance, we are good friends with another local candle maker, but we don't ask her for event advice. She's worked really hard to find her events, and it isn't fair for us to tag along after her. It doesn't work for her, and it's not going to work for you. No one wins.