Vending Best Practices – How to Make the Most of Your Vendor Table at Events
Within the last year, I’ve served as a vendor at countless events, including my own. Prior to launching my makeup line, I had only served as a vendor twice. I had a preconceived notion that as a service provider, hosting a table didn’t make sense. Sis, I was wrong, terribly wrong. At various vendor events, I’ve sold my books, digital products, cosmetics of course and even signed people up for consultations. In this blog post, I want to share you with best practices I’ve learned over the last year to make the most of your table. I’ll break this post into sections for ease of understanding and flow. Feel free to chime in, in the comments, and let me know what else you’d add to the article.
Before You Get There
Before you say yes to vending at an event, speak with the event host about the target audience they're aiming for. It has to align with the ideal customer of your business. Otherwise, you will not see a return on your investment. Also for first time vendors, yes vending has a cost. But you have to weigh it with prospective ROI. Some events will cost $50 - $150 to vend. Others will cost upwards of $1000. Keep in mind, no event is a guaranteed success so you have to also be clear on how much risk your business can stand to take. If you're trying to find events to host a vendor table at, use sites such Facebook and Eventbrite. Also leverage your network. You can email the event host to see if they are seeking vendors. Other questions I like to ask are:
- Have you hosted this event before? If so, how many people attended?
- How many people do you expect?
- How are you promoting this event?
- How are you promoting the vendors?
- What is included with the price of vending?
- Do you provide the table/chairs for vendors? If so, what are the dimensions?
- Where will vendors be located relative to guest?
- Is this an indoor/outdoor event?
- How long will the vendor area be open for guests?
- When can we set up our table?
Also, do not be afraid to reach out to businesses that vended at that event or with that host before to gain perspective on the crowd!
The first step to hosting a successful vendor table is making it look appealing. Essentially, your table has to attract attention while still being on brand. Think about things you can add your table to catch the eye of those that walk by. I love shopping at places like TJ Maxx, Marshalls, Ross and Burlington because they tend to have unique centerpieces at low cost. I’ll use some of their glassware to hold my business cards or display my makeup. I also like to use those wedding style picture frames (accented with pearls or rhinestones) to display my price list or social media information. Try to avoid crowding your table however. I should still have an idea of what you’re selling when approaching.
Table clothes are another way to stand out. Branded table cloths are ideal, but can be expensive. I recommend getting a table cloth in your brand color. You can find them on Ebay for cheap. I have a pink table cloth with sequins that really stands out amongst a crowd of black table cloths. I alternate between that and a plain hot pink table cloth that I paired with a rose gold sequin table runner (also from Ebay).
The next thing to consider for décor is signage. I use a 4x6 foot L stand banner from Vistaprint. It cost a little over $100 but does include the stand. I recommend signing up for their emails to catch it when its on sale. The banners come in a variety of sizes and can be a taller or shortage. However, you don’t have use a traditional banner. Table top signs are just as effective. Fedex offers a 7x14 inch table top banner that I use as well. One of my good friends uses a large photo that she designed and had printed. Then she went to a store such as Michael’s and used there custom framing service. She displays her frame on an easel. The type of sign you use doesn’t matter but the quality of it does. I recommend hiring someone to design your sign for you if graphic design isn’t your strong suit.
I always get asked how much inventory you should bring. I do not have an answer to this honestly. For each event, I forecast sales based on how many attendees will be there. Communicate with the event host to get insight on attendance. With each event, you get better and planning what to bring. If you haven’t already, invest in a push cart. This is a game changer when you have a ton of stuff to carry by yourself.
As relates to tracking inventory as I sale throughout the event, I use the Square app. I preload all of my inventory items and pricing into the app. I also use the discounts feature to pre-load any specials I offer for the event. This allows me to better track what was sold and how much money I made for the day. I believe this feature exists for Paypal as well.
If you haven’t already, order a card reader for your business. I have a Square reader which is free upon signing up for the service. The service itself is free but they do charge a small transaction fee. If you use my link to create your Square account, your first $1000 in revenue will not be charged. All payment apps have a fee but don’t fret. You can write these off on your taxes. Paypal also has a reader that you can request through their site for free. If your site is built with Shopify, you will have to request their card reader.
I know its 2018 but where are people who still pay cash or will only pay cash. Though I do not like accepting cash, you do not want to miss out on a sale. Before your event, go to a bank and and get change. I recommend $100 in singles and the rest $5 and $10 bills. You can still document cash sales in your Square and Paypal app to track revenue for the day.
Promoting Your Table
Prior to event, promote that you will be in attendance to your following. Some of your customers may come out to support you! There are others who may already plan to attend the event and will be excited to meet you as they have already been following your business. If the event has a Facebook page, promote any specials you will have for the attendees there if the host allows. Use the Create Like a Bombshell workbook to map out your promotional strategy, its free!
If you have someone with you during the event, have that person work the room and encourage attendees to stop by your table. If you’re alone, no worries, you can still promote your business. One thing you can do is come from behind your table and stand in front of it. It makes it easier to catch the attention of others and start conversations. Remember to stand as much as you can and smile! I have t remind myself to smile because my normal resting face is not welcoming *lol*.
Another strategy you can leverage is hosting a giveaway at your table and/or contributing to the event's giveaway. You can give away raffle tickets or ask attendees to drop a business card in a bowl to enter into your giveaway.
What to Wear
If I’m at an event solely to vend, I ALWAYS wear a branded t-shirt that features my company’s logo and website. I used Printful for my shirt but there are thousands of companies but locally and online that you can use. I also wear comfy bottoms that are still on brand. Its important to look like your brand. 98% of the time that I’m vending, I’m selling cosmetics. I need to embody my brand. So I ensure that my clothes are not only presentable but I’m wearing a full face of makeup to match the brand. I wear more makeup than normal when vending because its apart of the presentation. If you sell t-shirts, wear one of your shirts. If you sell hair, sew your bundles in girl! Your image is indeed apart of the selling factor at events. I do recommend wearing comfy yet stylish shoes so you don’t kill your feet. If I’m a speaker and a vendor at an event, I ensure that my outfit aligns with my brand colors as I won’t wear my t-shirts on stage.
The first question most people will ask is “What’s this about?” or “Tell me about your business?”. This is where your elevator pitch comes in handy. You should be able to tell someone about your business and why its amazing in 45 seconds or less. Practice makes perfect. You should also be able to answer any question someone has about your product or service. Some people will say some of the off the wall things to you at times, but its important to remain as confident and nice as possible. For example, there are people who will come to my table, ask me about my products and then say “I don’t event wear makeup!”
In those instances, I keep my smile and simply ask them a few questions to understand why they don’t wear makeup and ask if they want to try a sample. I always have testers of my products on my table along with mirrors and makeup wipes. Keeping a positive attitude has led to a ton of sales from those folks. However, every conversation won’t turn into a sale and that’s okay. Try to encourage that person to instead leave their email for your newsletter and give them a card. If someone is rude to you, though it may be tough to resist the urge to clap back, don’t! It will spread like wildfire throughout that room and reflect poorly on you instead of the other person.
One thing that’s super important to remember is to greet everyone that comes to your table. Don’t allow them to stand there without speaking to them. As an event attendee, that turns me off. Everyone that comes to your table matters. Don’t judge them based on appearance and assume they can’t afford your product. If you are in a conversation with someone, invite those that approach your table into the conversation or at least let them you will be with them in a moment and they’re welcome to sample your products. Those small steps can make a world of difference.
Honestly, this is easiest if you are a speaker at the event OR if its your own event and you’re using it as a lead generator for your service/program. You can use your table for back of the room sales. During your talk, you can let attendees know what you do or about a specific program/service you offer with permission from the event host. Then at your table, you can tell the attendees more about working with you and have them either sign up then there and pay OR have them sign up for a consultation. Consults can happen during or after the event. The reason I feel its easier to sell from the stage is because the conversations for selling services/programs are longer than selling a product. You may be spend 15-20 minutes with someone which limits how many people to talk to. For me, I aim to sign attendees up for a consult if I’m not a speaker to save myself time at the event which allows me to generate more leads.
What To Bring
Here’s a list of items you want to ensure that you bring with you when vending
- Inventory (Applicable if you have physical products)
- Pre-Order Forms (If you are preselling something)
- Consultation Forms (For services – you can also use a laptop or tablet)
- Square Reader (Free if you order from Square – but if you need it quickly, its sold in stores for $10), Paypal Reader (Free if you order from Paypal) or Shopify Reader (Only if your website is hosted through Shopify)
- Money to provide change
- Form to collect emails (can also be done with a tablet)
- Post Cards or Business Cards (I include a coupon code on mine for the cosmetics site to capture those that don’t buy. I use Vistaprint for printing.)
- Shopping Bags (Find these for cheap on Ebay if you don’t want them custom made)
- Water and Snacks
- Samples (optional)
- Phone or Camera to capture photos/video of your table and of customers
- Phone Charge Charger
- An assistant (game changer)
What else would you add to this list of vendor best practices?