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How To Get An Un-Fair Advantage


It’s often said, “There are only two seasons in Chicago: Winter and Construction.”

But there’s another phenomenon that occurs every year when the warm weather rolls around: There are plenty of outdoor block parties, festivals and events to keep everyone busy all summer long.

My beautiful wife Michele and I enjoy going to arts and crafts fairs, and we attended a different one each of the past two weekends.

Sure, I enjoy the various displays, but that’s really more Michele’s thing. What I like best is the chance to meet dozens of small business owners (truth be told, many of them are really just hobbyists) and observe what strategies and tactics they’re using to make money.

Unfortunately, I am almost always extremely disappointed; and the last two weekends were no exception.

Now, there’s no doubt that the vast majority of artisans who display their creations at these festivals are extremely talented at their craft, and very dedicated to it. Besides the dozens of hours they spend sitting at tables and booths all summer long, they also put in hundreds – and even thousands – more actually creating their art.

But as skilled as they are at their craft, they are equally horrendous at marketing.

Which is a shame, because with just a little bit of the right kind of marketing, every show exhibitor could easily multiply their income many times over (while freeing up a lot of their time in the process, only having to sit at a fair booths every weekend if that’s something they truly enjoy).

It all comes down to creating a low-stress, systematic approach to gain consistent and measurable results, instead of the ongoing frustration and grunt-work of just showing up and “doing” fairs all summer long.

(In this way, they’re really no different than 99% of “brick-and-mortar” small business owners, contractors and professionals, who also wake up every day basically starting from scratch and thinking “what can I do to make a sale today?” instead of having systems in place to attract new, repeat and referral business.)

For example, of the dozens and dozens of booths Michele and I visited over the past couple of weekends, almost none of them made any attempt at all to collect our contact information for future follow-up (and the few who did were very clumsy in their efforts).

Similarly, almost none of the exhibitors employed effective strategies and tactics to add to the “holding power” of their booths, making sure prospects stayed at their booths (and away from their competitors’ booths!) for as long as possible, to build trust and start a relationship.

Instead, except for a few on-the-spot sales they may have made, these hard-working craftspeople watched thousands of prospects just come and go, with virtually no chance of ever turning them into paying customers – even if they happened to spend a few minutes browsing their creations.

Michele and I were very impressed with a few of the artisans’ work, and spent more than a few minutes talking to them and carefully perusing their offerings before moving on to the next booth without making a purchase – either because we weren’t ready to buy right then and there, or didn’t find something in their current inventory that we wanted.

Don’t you think that if these people would have followed up with us (catalog, newsletter, offers to attend future events, etc.), eventually we would have become customers of at least a few of them – perhaps even satisfied, repeat customers and referrers?

In other words, we could have become a profit center for them, instead of just another missed opportunity. And if they did this with even a small percentage of the thousands of people who attended these fairs, those fairs could have become massive, long-term successes for them instead of just hit-or-miss one-time events.

What about your business? Do you have systems in place that bring you predictable, repeatable, consistent results, or do you just “start from scratch” every day, wondering whether or not you’ll make enough sales to pay the bills and maybe have a little bit of profit left over?

I used to be a “hope and pray” guy myself, but since I learned to put systems into place for myself and then my clients, life has been a whole lot easier – and our summers have been a whole lot more enjoyable…

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