As we gear up towards the busy gift buying season it is the perfect time to try and get your products in front of more people. While marketing and PR are of course essential, the aim is to sell your products and one of the best ways to do that, is getting people in the same room as them.
Craft fairs and markets can be a bit hit or miss (who hasn’t got a craft fair horror story to tell?!) but there is another option: host an open house and invite people to you!
Open house events are the perfect way to bring the craft show to your home. I’ve attended a few open house events locally but my favourite has to be those by Karen Arthur of Reddskinbags. Karen makes wonderful bags and clutches from reclaimed fabrics such as coffee sacks and mailbags, brightened up with her signature splash colour from African print fabrics. A talented seamstress, Karen also makes cushions, aprons, clothing and jewellery.
After attending a couple of her events and seeing first hand what a success they are, I wanted to share some tips on how to hold a successful open house event.
Think of it as a party to showcase your work.
Karen is a hostess. When you attend her open house events you know that you will have a great time regardless of if you plan on buying anything. If you are welcoming people into your home you want them to feel comfortable. Don’t just think of it as a selling event, it is also a time for you to show your family and friends what you have been up to and to network with their friends who you may not have met before. This is a chance for you to shine and have fun!
Display your products and clearly label the prices
On the day, you will be busy chatting to everyone and making sure they are enjoying themselves. The last thing you want is people having to interrupt your conversations to ask for pricing. Ensure your products are clearly labelled so guests can browse at their leisure instead of having to come up and ask you how much everything is.
Have a range of products at different price points.
An open house is a great way to showcase new products and patterns that haven’t made it to your online shop yet. Expand on your current range by using similar fabrics, colours and materials to make complimentary products at lower price points so you have something for everyone. Smaller, lower cost items can make great gifts and stocking fillers.
Take custom orders.
If you are able to offer personalised or customised items make this known. Have a catalogue of custom designs displayed on one of the tables featuring photographs of what you have done in the past and include relevant information such as how long to expect a custom order to take and the extra cost.
Invite everyone you know and tell them to bring a friend.
Open house events work best if people attend! The more people, the more potential sales you can make. Invite anyone you know that may be interested, work colleagues neighbours, local businesses, your networking buddies. Let them know they can bring a friend who they think might be interested in what you make.
Decorate your space.
You can be as wild and imaginative as time and money allow! If you sell decorative products use those around the room to show how they can be used. Be creative with things you already have around the house and materials and supplies you may have bought but never used. You’d be surprised with how much you can do with tissue paper, twine, balloons, scrap paper and a circle punch. Remember your brand values, if your business is all about natural materials, use them here. Make colourful designs? Use colourful decorations.
Dish out treats.
A party isn’t a party unless there are treats. Stock up on drinks and snacks for your guests. Cocktails and cupcakes? Tea and biscuits? Consider collaborating with other local business owners for some of the treats. Karen’s neighbour started a baking business and supplied beautiful cupcakes for an event this summer.
Let people know in advance.
Use your mailing list, Facebook page and word of mouth to let people know when you are holding your open house. Start mentioning it in advance to build up excitement, even if you haven’t set a date.
Make it child friendly.
Depending on your products, think about making your open house child friendly. It may not be suitable if you make breakables like ceramics but allowing guests to bring their young children could make a huge difference to you attendee numbers. Karen always has a few children’s books around for them to play with and kindly offers kid friendly snacks like fruit too. It means parents are still able to attend and whilst there we can relax (and buy!) without distractions.
Write receipts for any sales you make so the buyer has a record of the purchase. You also need to keep a copy for your books. Take a deposit for custom orders and arrange a mutual deadline for the item.
This could be your family or friends but make sure you have time to mingle, to answer questions, wrap purchases and have a drink – or two yourself!
Have you held an open house event before? How did it go? If you haven’t, would you consider it?