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Baz Biz Maker Faire 2008 March 2, 2008

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Well folks, it’s that time of year again. The Maker Faire is coming up and the Bazaar Bizarre is accepting applications for this much-anticipated springtime event. The Faire is happening Saturday and Sunday, May 3rd and 4th at the San Mateo Fairgrounds in San Mateo, CA.  Visit this page for more specific info about the craft fair.

I can’t recommend the Bazaar Bizarre highly enough (see my review of the Holiday Baz Biz here). It is run like a well-oiled machine that hands out milk and cookies and it gives you incredible bang for your buck. Here are some of great benefits of participating:

  • The booth fee is only $110 for the entire weekend. I’ve always grossed at least ten times that, so it’s definitely worth it.
  • You get into the Maker Faire for free. Bring a couple of friends to work the table with you and you can take turns going to awesome free workshops and demos all weekend.
  • Jamie Chan is not only extremely nice, she’s totally on top of her shit. I’ve never had to go looking for chairs or parking and she always provides snacks, drinks, and craft fair survival kits (courtesy of the Sampler) to the vendors.
  • There’s always lots of local press roaming around.
  • No matter who they are, your booth neighbors will be awesome.
  • Post-show trading! You can do your gift shopping early and barter for all of it.

I know there’s more, but I just can’t think of it right now. People come from all over the country to sell at this event, so this is not just a posting for local folks. Especially if you’re within driving distance, it’s worth it in my opinion to apply.

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Inexpensive Marketing and Promotion (Part 4) December 12, 2007

And finally….

Swag bags: (Cost: ~25 cents per bag) Swag (a.k.a. schwag, freebies, giveaways, promos) are small promotional items you donate to attendees of an event. They range from the cheesy pens given away at auto sales to the luxury swag bags containing diamond watches and designer perfume given to presenters at the Oscars. Most trade or craft shows will solicit swag from their exhibitors to give to the earliest or biggest buyers, but there are other places to give away swag, too. Some businesses include a piece of swag with every order. Some set up giveaway or raffle tables at block parties or other neighborhood events, and some others just pass them out on well-trafficked street corners. There are even swag subscription companies like The Sampler, who will send your stuff out to folks who love free stuff so much, they’ll pay for it!

I’m personally a fan of swag that is cheap and does double-duty as advertisements, like stickers and buttons. You can produce a gagillion of either for relatively little money, and if your sticker or button has an awesome image on it (in addition to your company’s name or web site), you can get lots of people to do your marketing for you, giving you real bang for your buck. You can certainly go with less conventional media, like barrettes or zipper pulls, but the key is to get the most number of people to notice your brand for the least money possible.

When it comes to freebies, I like to stick to giving them away to friends and paying customers. These are the people who are the most likely to put your swag to good use, because they either already love you, or love your stuff. Also, in my experience, I have found that the best way to get people to not buy any of your merchandise is to put free stuff out on the table.

Coupons and Discounts: (Cost: possible printing costs, discounts people actually use) Coupons and discounts are tricky things. On the one hand, they can often be that extra little push between considering an item and actually buying it. On the other hand, you don’t want to overuse them or people will think you are having a hard time getting people to buy your stuff.

I sell very specific and unusual gift items, so the rules that apply to my business may not apply to yours, but here’s what works for me: I find that coupons work best for limited times, such as a semi-annual sale when you are discontinuing old merchandise and releasing new designs, or to get people from your mailing list to come to a show or event. Other good coupons are the ones you give to customers with their completed order, which encourages them to become repeat buyers.

As far as discounts go, I find that quantity discounts are the best kind there are. I used to sell (and will probably sell again soon) a “meat medley,” which was a collection of my three most popular plush designs, discounted to $80 from $84. It was a savings of less than 5% but I sold more of those collections than of any individual toy.

And that’s all she wrote.  Of course, there are other inexpensive ways to promote yourself, like having a web site, leaving postcards in neighborhood haunts, and going to networking events but this list is already four posts long, so perhaps I’ll save those for another time. If you have any other ideas that you’d like me to add or expand upon, please let me know in an e-mail or comment.  Happy hawking!