Our company, Haydenville Broomworks, crafts handmade traditional brooms. So far we have built a successful online marketplace and have attended small craft fairs. We really love going to craft fairs not only because they are profitable but because we get to meet and interact with our customers. We would like to expand our craft fair schedule to included bigger, more competitive fairs and trade shows. How can we decide which fairs to target and what is your advice on marketing ourselves to highly competitive show admission committees?

Anne Hopkinson, owner, Haydenville Broomworks,


Good fisherman "fish where the fish are," so go where your customers are. Start with a sales map — analyze your sales for the past three years: Where are your best customers, where are most of your customers located? Then look at the fairs where your customers are.

Now go to the show admissions committee armed with this data and an e-mail invitation to your customers. Make it a good invitation — these are your customers — reward them for their loyalty and they will reward you with profitable repeat sales and referrals.

At a minimum your invitation should be a very, very good incentive — BOGO, buy-one-get-one free — maybe BOGO for you and a friend? The incentive should be limited to the fair you are targeting; but if a longtime customer says that they are out of town I would certainly honor the incentive for another online purchase.

Once at the fair, your booth should not be a booth — it needs to be an "attendee engagement center." Do not just display your brooms, make your brooms. Bring several partly completed brooms to finish at the fair. Consider inviting your customers in the area to bring their broom in for a "tune up." What about a trade-in offer — bring in your old Haydenville broom for an allowance on a new one?

Bottom-line, your objective is to have your customers coming into the fair looking for your booth and looking to buy again.

About the author: Jon Seltzer, M.B.A. Instructor, Marketing Department, University of St. Thomas, Opus College of Business