How do I know which events to attend?

Quick answer: You don’t. You must use trial and error.

Long answer: You don’t. You still must use trial and error but there are some things that can help you pick out a winner over an event that falls at the first hurdle.

The first thing that will ensure an event is successful for you is that you are pitching up at the correct events. What I mean by that is that your business is aimed at a certain demographic dictated by your product, your price and your image. Make sure that the event you are attending will have this demographic in enough numbers for you to be profitable.

It’s the reason that ice-cream vans don’t do so well outside football grounds on matchdays and why burger vans don’t drive the streets on summer evenings playing funky tunes.

Once you’ve sourced your events you need to apply to them. Get a contact and ensure that you’re asking the right person and get an application form. No-one gets back to you? Get in touch again, try a different person, make a phone call instead of an email. Be insistent without being rude. You’re not only trying to get a booking, but this is phase one of building a relationship so whilst it’s acceptable to ‘hassle’ once a week or so don’t be getting all grumpy about it and calling every day. That person will hardly relish having you on their site as a result.

I’m lucky. I’ve stumbled on some exceptional organisers in my brief career and they share, what I think of as, the most important characteristic – they care.

I recall a conversation with one of these people at a cold, wintery farmer’s market that I was doing for the first time. Throughout the day he kept asking me if I was doing alright. He didn’t mean how my feet were in the miserable cold, he wanted to know if financially I was making enough to make the day worthwhile. In truth, it wasn’t great, but it certainly wasn’t bad. The unusual thing though was he was more than a little concerned, I could see it in his manner having worked with him at previous markets elsewhere where I was considerably busier. I realised then how much he cared. The success of his market was intrinsically linked to my success. If I failed, he’d be upset on my behalf as he’d been a market trader and knew what it was like for us but also it may lead to me and other traders not wanting to attend in the future which would clearly have a negative effect on the market.

In this game, we can only prosper by working together.

A lesson that I have taken literally. I am always keen to share information with my fellow traders about good events, poor events and everything in-between. It is easy to think of the business world as cut-throat with every person out for themselves. I’m sure in some fields that this is true but certainly not at this level. I’ve always found that traders are keen to share because we can all benefit from another perspective and building a new relationship.

NFDM Soc. Med. Post
Facebook post from Northern Dales Farmer’s Markets.

Once you’ve contacted your event, check out their social media platforms. Are there pictures of thousands of smiling customers cramming in to stalls and such like? That may give you a clue as to how successful the event is although it is not a given, but certainly you should see some past posts advertising previous events, this gives you a clue as to how they will advertise the event that you are attending. A high social media presence is a good indicator of the success of the organisation and the demographic that they are attracting.

Something that has precluded me from events is cost and this can be very prohibitive. A rule of thumb is often, the more expensive the pitch, the more profitable it is although again, this is not a given.

The most that I have paid for a pitch is £125 and the least has been free! Some events will ask for a percentage of sales, this is quite often because they have no idea what the footfall will be and don’t want to preclude vendors from attending or sell short their event. This is a life-saver at events where you’re not so busy but if you do well, it certainly does hurt handing over a big wad!

If the event that you attend doesn’t do well, speak to the organiser, you may be able to agree on a reduction in your pitch fee but don’t expect it. I have had organisers volunteer this offer before I have even asked which dictates to me that they care whereas others have failed to respond entirely which indicates that I won’t be going back there and that I’ll be letting my fellow traders know too.

My top tip, however, is at the time of booking ask if there will be another vendor of your niche at the event. Generally speaking, experienced organisers will tell you before hand and won’t book anyone else, but it is worth asking for all but the biggest events which can accommodate repeated vendors. I fell foul of this at a local half-marathon where the council booked three food vendors of which two were creperies. D’oh.  Some 4 months later I have only just received a response from them. It wasn’t a great response.

Good luck out there, make some contacts and remember that sharing is caring.

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