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Ideas on Event Advertising and Promotion from about 500 Artists, Crafters, and Vendors
By Louis Marquette  -  a CraftLister.com Craft Expert    about page  personal website
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What follows is a menagerie of ideas on event advertising and promotion from about 500 artists, crafters, and vendors who responded to a plea for advice to share. The format of this document is unusual – being mostly the essential ideas of others in * bulleted format with some comments added by me interspersed throughout the document. Many similar bullet points were combined, reworded to say both at once; many other bullet points had their language totally changed to clearly convey the truth they contained.


Event Promotion Requires a Large Budget; Much More Than Novices Ever Imagine!

*We had our first show last year and didn't know exactly how much to spend on advertising so we: placed ads in local newspapers, the local businesses put signs in their windows, the bank put the info on their marque at no charge, passed out flyers at every other local show, and even made vinyl drop cloth painted banners for business that were willing to let us post them. We also had a local radio station that announced it for free. Our town is on a main highway so we had lots of drive-by exposure. In all, this brought in 1,250 paid customers.
* I just promoted my first event, and the turnout wasn't what I was hoping for. Here are some of the things I tried: 1.Signs around the community and outside the event 2.The site is lucky enough to have a large marquis outside, so we posted on that. 3.Press releases in the paper 4.Paid ads in the paper
5.Community bulletin boards online and on local news stations 6.Interviews on local news stations 7.We handed out flyers at other craft shows. 8.We gave vendors flyers with their applications so that they could post them as well. 9.We contacted local churches and asked that it be announced during their bulletin readings. 10. We asked local restaurants to post them in the stores and(!) place them in any deliveries. 11.Websites such as your wonderful one!!! 12.Some fast food restaurants will even use them as tray-liners, if you give them a stack. 13.Local billboards (small ones as our budget did not support commercial ones.)
* One promoter says she uses ALL of the booth fees for even established & successful shows, about $15,000 for the last one, and applies it to advertising.
* Getting the public into shows always seems to be a problem especially into the newer ones. Some of the promoters in my area (southern New Jersey) are really quite good at it though. They seem to be able to "plaster" their information everywhere: street signs, flyers in every store that has a bulletin board, and advertising in the local papers.
* I need the retail to help pay the enormous costs of doing my Show!!!! I spend about $15,000.00 per Show on advertising.
* My friend and I are actually toying with the idea of promoting our own show after attending some really bad ones. I'm interested to see what fellow crafters have to say about this. [Louy – starting new shows is possible, but from the above it should be clear that the INITIAL advertising for a first year, no-reputation show will be enormous if you are to not put on a dud. A first year show should probably spend 2-3 times their total expected first year revenue on first year advertising for HAPPY merchants!!! - Louy]



Road Signs

LARGE, CLEAR, EASY TO READ SIGNS!
* The signs need to be LARGE and have REALLY BIG PRINT and SIMPLE INFO on a BRIGHT, COLORFUL BACKGROUND. As a former roadway sign painter, all artists should know that driver's only have 4-6 seconds to look away at a road sign and that sign should be simple and CLEAN in design. White backgrounds do NOT work to catch driver's attention ... use NEON colors and a large, clear san-serif typeface.
* Placing signs is not enough. I can't count the shows who claim to place signage only to find out there is a tiny 1 ft. x 1 ft. sign somewhere that basically nobody has seen. LARGE SIGNS PLEASE!!

NOTICIBLE, COLORFUL SIGNS!
* Use larger signs that have some bright neon color on them. Use other things on signs, like balloons, the day before a show, or the actual day, to help to catch the eye of people passing by.

EARLY & COMPREHENSIVE COVERAGE
* They have to be put out 2 weeks before the shows. No day of putting up signs.
* As many street signs as possible on the busy corners. Of course they may have to have permission from the city on where they can place and for how long.
* Also, outside signage, the WEEKEND BEFORE attracts my attention and makes sure I stop at the bank before I shop.

EASY TO FOLLOW SIGNS - SUFFICIENT SIGNAGE FOR DIRECTIONS ALONE
* Road signs are great if large enough and LEAD people to event.
*there MUST be multiple signs, if the show is 2 or more turns off a major street and the location is not immediately visible!!!! This is the biggest failing on promoters' parts....
* Last year we did 2 shows just doors apart and the one show people had difficulty finding due to lack of signage - the other show was busy and crowded

HOW TO SIGN PROPERLY
* When I attach a sign to a telephone pole I use duct tape and lots of it. It is illegal to use staples or nails on utility poles.
* The street signs are very important and the quality of the signs are a reflection on the image of the show.

SIGN LEGALITY
* I think its imperative for street signs to be placed around the area, when able to be. I realize some areas don't allow street signage, but since most Shows are a once a year event, I believe applying to the local Borough or Township for extra ordinary permission may reap rewards.
* Legality is NEVER AN ISSUE if addressed early – private property if FAIR GAME for SIGNS with property owners permission ( except rarely in some very exclusive communities, I only know of 1 ). Approach property owners for permission to place a sign, treat them to free tickets, and let them know you will remove the sign promptly – then do so for good relations next year.

MOST EFFECTIVE ADVERTISING OPTION BY CUSTOMER PER $ SPENT IS: STREET SIGNS!
* The most simple form of advertising for art shows is probably signs along the roads - main roads - near where the art show is. Also in majorly populated areas...especially higher income or artsy sort of areas. Signs can be reused..... or have a sign that you can just add on the place and time...big ART SHOW sign with a smaller sign that says where.

MULTIPLE CAR AND LAWN SIGN BLITZ
* every band club volunteer has a sign on her car for a couple of weeks before advertising the show
* I purchased a banner that fits over my (Lincoln Town Car) windshield. It just says "Craft Sale Today" and has my website in the bottom right corner. I put it on my car and park where it can be seen by passing traffic.
* A lot of the show promoters say their town will not let them put out signs. I do a church that gives each member a sign to put in their yard, and this works great for them.
* I think that so-called "lawn signs" stuck into the ground at major intersections, highway exits, public parks, etc., about a week ahead of time are quite effective, as are handbills and broadsides left in local businesses.



Street Banners & Billboards

* Normally I end up asking businesses and residents on the main streets if I can put a banner up in their property's grass area, and I promise to take it down the same day of the show, immediately after the show ends. And of course I ALWAYS send them a thank you note of appreciation for allowing me to do that.
* I DO RENT THE LARGE DIGITAL PROGRAMABLE SIGNS THAT ARE ON TRAILERS. THEY ARE PLACED ON THE PROPERTY WHERE FESTIVAL/SHOW IS HELD. SOME OF MY EVENTS HAVE THEM OUT FOR A WEEK PRIOR.
* Get a street banner made up. The best advertising I have found is the promoter place banners across major streets in that town/city.
* When doing billboards, keep it simple. The event name , dates, and times have to be big enough to read FAST!!!



Give Promotional Material Packet to Vendors

* When you send your vendor packets out, send each vendor flyers / handouts / postcards / etc to pass out at the events they attend leading up to your event. Send as early as possible so more events are blanketed and ask how many each vendor thinks they could distribute as the number will vary wildly and they are costly to ship. Handouts don’t cost the vendor a thing to hand out and it will be going to folks that already like going to festivals and bazaars.
* Send each vendor advertisements with a unique number embedded in the postcard. For every one turned in, the vendor received a $1.00 refund on their booth rent or a free raffle or a point towards a prize to the vendor who brings in the most visitors.
* Send vendors a “concept” coupon and allow vendors, who have the capabilities, to modify the coupon to add a few lines to advertise themselves Go one step further, again if vendor has capabilities and a website, to put a printable coupon on their website.
* Promoters and vendors should all learn how to write a press release! Send the who, what, where, why, when to every media source you can think of. – Promoters, send vendors a Sample Press Release and ask them to send theirs then to all event local media!
* Promoters should ask vendors to volunteer the use of their mailing list Ask, then them material to mail to their list, some may even send you mailing labels to use yourself.
* As a promoter my business does every advertising avenue you have listed except newspaper inserts. My biggest complaint about crafters is that the majority do not hand out the flyers we promoters provide for them.


Posters & Flyers.

* POSTERS! I been in & out the carny & theater business for 40 years, Posters in many locations really do work, if put in right places. They MUST pick places for the right people, such as high end clothes stores for cultured craft shows. POSTERS for Events in High-Volume Areas WORK - because they just do!!!! Spend for some printing, not top end. Be clear and specific with wording. Works every time I have used it.
* Flyers can be posted at: local banks, markets, convenience stores, grocery stores, doctors offices, hair salons, anywhere I shop, coffee shops, any public bulletin board, college bulletin boards, state welcome center, tourism stops & offices, supermarkets, town halls, schools, churches or other religious organizations, libraries or other places where people congregate, liquor stores, drug stores
* Do a flyer swap with all the local craft stores – you each post a flyer mentioning BOTH events. Even better when your mailed advertisements are swapped with other events in this fashion.
* Our local municipal event planner gave each artist several poster-like flyers that we could take to local businesses and post on doors. That worked well.



Vendor Actions

ARTIST & CRAFTER BIOs & PRESS RELEASES TO LOCAL MEDIA
* One of the most successful methods that I have heard of from numerous folks is: Artists and Crafters creating a press release talking about the themselves, their work, their awards, and their doing some specific event. This press release can then either be sent by the artists themselves directly to local media: papers AND radio & TV, or they can be sent to the promoter with the application for the promoter to mail them many at once to each outlet.

VENDOR's CUSTOMER MAILING LIST
* Whenever I do a show, I send out my own announcement of it to my customers. I prefer e-mail of course, because of the cost, but it is amazing how many of these people will show up.
* Promoters should encourage each vendor to put out a guest book to collect addresses and emails.
* I collect my own e-mailing list w/a cool red leather(like) embossed notebook during shows & then do e-mails before my shows. This works pretty good for me.
* Put out a sign that directs customers to your mailing list sign-up book. Announce that you will send them coupons and event listings that you will be attending. You can even send these 'special, loyal customers' special offers, or coupons only usable at specific shows. Artists will get more repeat customers that follow them and MORE SALES.

VENDOR FRIENDS & FAMILY NETWORK
* Artists who create home decor pieces should plant a friend with flyers outside of home improvement stores on the day of the actual Art Festival
* Vendors: Make plenty of flyers and give them to your friends to pass out to their friends/co-workers. Word of mouth is still the best advertisement. Get them to help you find places to put flyers.
* I am an artist first, and help to promote one small show (which I also participate in)....so I do everything in my power (budget) to get the word out! Last year, I had a couple friends with signs waving at traffic.....I paid them with pottery!

VENDOR SELF PROMOTION / IMAGE MAINTENANCE / UPCOMING EVENTS LIST
* Artists and Crafters should have a large sign at their booth stating that they hand make their products, everyone that has tried it reported positive results and even much unexpected surprise from many customers. A photo album of your craftsmanship in progress near your sign would be icing but sadly is critically essential these days. You should have handouts of your upcoming show list available on your table next to your photo album.
* I have had customers place pre-orders that they pick up at shows, so it guarantees attendance for the promoters, and those customers often purchase from other vendors as well.

VENDOR DISTRIBUTION OF HANDOUTS AT OTHER LOCAL EVENTS
* As a merchant I have printed out small third page flyers with my own shop coupon, since I paid for printing, and passed them out at other fairs nearby. I'm only one person but it has pulled in quite a number of people.
* Merchants are only too happy to spread advertising. It's just that we can't afford to print a bunch ourselves. Ask how many each thinks they can distribute and send accordingly!



Reputation

* Regardless of the actual advertising, there are some shows that customers just know as good shows and they will seek out each year's date themselves to attend! There are shows that do lot of advertising and barely anyone shows. Then, there ARE SOME shows that do little advertising and you must line up and wait to get in and can barely walk around due to the crow. Reputation....
* Turn craft shows into events. Name them. Have a theme, such as gold rush days, renaissance times, Hawaii in the Desert, Golf Putt Pirates, etc. People can dress up and outfit their booths as they like.
* Hold them on the same weekend yearly. e.g. The last full weekend in September.
* There are people who come to the show every year looking for me. They also look for the "cookie lady" every year and the "wood carver guy". Loosing quality artisans that keeps customers coming in would be a shame, especially if due to the craftsman's anger at the event allowing in China-made retail to compete with them at a claimed-Juried Event.



Promoter Mailing List

* Postcards to previous customers is essential. Collect attendees' info with a form or entry cards (complete with phone #s, addresses, and e-mails, where they heard of the event), and after the show compile a mail/e-mail/call list for future shows in that area.
* You may even get a local realtor to pay for all or part of your direct mail festival announcement if their ad can appear on the back. From experience - and as a former licensed Michigan realtor - we chose specific neighborhoods to 'farm' for listings and spent a large part of our advertising dollar sending direct mail into those neighborhoods.
* Offer to swap mail/e-mail lists with your vendors. One vendor claims a big mailing list that they send cards to before a show and they swear that promoters try to get them into shows just because they are known for pulling clients into the show to shop.
* Some have said they found that direct mail works better than print advertising.



Community & Charity Involvement

* Community & Charity involvement will get 'word of mouth' advertising flying through the local community. And what Parents, Uncles, Aunts and Grandparents wont stop in to support little Debbie's efforts??
* Community or Charity involvement may even help events acquire free advertising on the News, Radio, and Paper!
* Create some type of community involvement where there is none. For example, have kids do a car wash at your event for their club/organization/charity....
* Get community organizations to run Food or Drink stands to raise funds, or host their own Group Crafts booth.
* I've found that sponsorship by a community organization is critical and the organizations don't want to support imports from China either.
* Offer to collect for charities & organizations. With approval from the organizations or charities that are doing so, your show can be a drop off location for Can Food, Toys, Clothing, or Monies. Jars with the charity listed on each placed on a centrally located table can be used for money collection while larger buckets or new trash cans can collect larger donated items. Those organizations collecting may help put the word out there for you.
* If event appropriate! - Offer free spots to religious organizations for bake sales, group craft sales, info booth, member hello-meet, etc. Same for: Scouts, local charities, animal shelters, local authors,
* Again, only if event appropriate! - Invite groups to perform as event activities. Try: dance schools, martial arts schools, music schools, school bands, scouts, local zoo,

Use Local Resources Geared towards Tourism / Travel / Activities

* Our city adds info about whats happening in ours by making notes on our water bills.
* I also believe contacting and working with your local Chambers of Commerce and Tourism will reap benefits. Offer them a small free Booth where they can set up to show the Town and Area's attractions in exchange for including your Show in all their Promotional and Advertising material.
* Vendors might want to let local cities (most or all now have web sites) about shows so they can add the info to their sites.
* Think advertising locally and even in tourist magazines under events are great too.
* Local To-Do Magazines. I'm shocked when they list upcoming events and the bigger art shows aren't even mentioned
* A lot of times to weather crews from local Tv will do remote spots and come to your event during set up and do the weather and promote the show then too..



Radio & TV

* I believe that radio advertising works if they can afford it.
* I think more promoters should use the radio to advertise. Too often the tiny ads in the paper are over-looked.
* Most local television stations have a public announcement spot or a "Public Service Bulletin Board" that they announce upcoming local events going on that week. Normally they just need the information on your event about three to four weeks in advance. All the public television stations I've ever seen do this as well and it's free !!!
* The key, in my opinion, it getting those adds on when your prime targets are sitting around having their morning coffee watching TV. Use the early morning local news shows to spotlight the event.
* Second, I have discovered that most radio stations' websites have a community events section, and they are usually very good (at least in my area) about posting event listings (such as a craft show!).
* Drive Time! You can call and get time on almost any morning radio show if you're willing to comp a few tickets, or can get vendors to create a giveaway basket.
* Many local radio stations will also do "live remotes" from an event if they are asked to do so well in advance of an upcoming public event
* I know it's not for all promoters-but our local channel's news staff will plug a craft show a day or two before the show-and when they do it's terrific. I live in northeastern PA.
* Many of our local event promoters promise newspaper advertising that is wasted money with today's consumer using the Internet or TV as a source for current events.



Newspaper

* Newspaper ads with admissions coupons or an extra raffle entry will increase the chances of someone clipping it out of the paper and placing it on their refrigerator as a reminder.
* Linking to a cause also increases the likelihood a newspaper will run an article.
* One of the most successful that I have seen in a little over 40 years is to have crafters submit a bio, and a list of local papers with the application and then having the promoter send a copy of the bio with the show details to the local papers.
* Issue a press release! These are news worthy tidbits that most newspapers will print when they need fill material. It won't work every time, but when it does it is free!
* Local newspapers have a Date book section where you list your event for a week (that is the minimum) for $5
* You just have to be sure to submit your show to the Calendar Editor. I know my local paper will never take the initiative to put an event in the calendar (even if it's written up several times in the newspaper), but if I submit a separate request to include it in the Calendar, it gets in every time.
* Sometimes they will also follow up and send a reporter, depending on how big and unique the show is.
* Ask highest volume dates
* One recent event in my area blossomed this year compared to past years because they partnered with a widely read local newspaper and printed ads and articles daily for two months prior to the event.
* In the past I've put flyers in the newspaper box around my town and didn't get one response.
* Then if you can get the vendors to commity to doing this, make a b&w flier that's half sheet (so 2 fliers per sheet) and have them print out tons and pass them out in their neighborhoods in the newspaper boxes.
* Newspapers love local events and hand crafted is becoming more and more limited. It works.
* We have over the years tried newspapers, and have found only certain small community papers, under a things to do section, actually bring in any new business.
* Display ads in papers which cost quite a bit never paid in added customers through the door.
* BE SURE the paper gets the info in time. Send multiple times – 6 months out, 3 months, 2 months, 1 month, 2 weeks, 1 week!


Magazines and Publications

* I think it's really important for the promoter to invest in listing their events in craft show directories. Publications such as: The Sunshine Artist, The Art & Craft Show Yellow Pages, Crafter's Guide.



Utilize the Internet

* There are countless free sites to post on, thousands nationally that are utilized highly. Find the sites for your town, county, region, state. Post on chamber of commerce sites, tourism sites, tourist destination (resorts, inns) sites with event lists online, etc.
* Google, Yahoo, Craig's List, U Tube, Friendster, City Search, AOL, etc.



Advertising Targeting


* fine craft and fine art is general purchased by people in their late 30s to late 50s and that market should be targeted



Event Date and Venue Selection

* one problem that I have seen is that there needs to be research done on the date picked for the event.
* Maybe coordinate with other groups at the school who are doing car wash type events.




Other Ideas

* a couple of months before our show. I rent a commercial booth, solely for the purpose of advertising the craft show. It's a major chunk of our budget, but it seems to be helping.
* Utilize ALL Free Resources! It surprises me that more promoters do not list the shows in free areas such as weekend announcements for TV news shows, local small newspapers.



Advertising Refinement

* Track ALL ads, ALL monies, ALL customer sources
* Place ID numbers, or use different wording, for each print ad with coupon that you place, then you can track which newspapers/days/pages/sections/ad types perform best.













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