Arts and craft fair marketing, or, what’s with the whistle man.

I wrote about him before. I learned more this weekend. Not enough to teach, but enough to keep me occupied for a while.

The pictures are the view you would have had you passed by his booth at about 3:50 pm on Sunday, 10-25-09. It was like this till about 4:30 pm. The fair ended at 4:00 sharp. Everyone around was busily striking tent, me included. The whistle guy was serenely making the money for his hotel that night, gas and highways fees.

So what is his secret? That is really the question. Standing in my booth all day I saw a couple of the whistles he sells hanging around the necks of children. I commented to the parents about their purchase from the whistle guy. Without fail they replied with enthusiasm. Either they had just bought it or in a couple of cases they had taken their whistle, purchased a few years ago, to have maintenance. Let me sharpen what he is selling a little further in order to make the case that what he is really selling isn’t whistles. The starter whistle is about 3 cm. long, high-pitched with only an end hole to modulate the pitch to an even higher pitch. Read, very annoying to those around. But the parents and children alike are very excited about these products. A step up from the starter is a whistle that can mimic the recorder all Japanese school children learn on. There is a deluxe model that does all kinds of wonderous things I am sure. Price wise they start at 1,200 yen up to 3,800 yen.

So, the lesson I take away from him this year is of consistency, service, a solid product that people want.

Consistency in the sense that I think he builds up an audience of fans over the course of a couple of years. If the fair is a flop my guess is it would have to be a flop a number of years for him to quit, at least according to what I have heard from him.

Service in the sense of after sale maintenance mainly. I have consistently heard that as a point of excitement or endorsement from some of his customers I have engaged in conversation.

A solid product. He makes whistles. Very pedestrian. In fact kind of the perfect product to study. If you can build a tribe of whistle fans I put forth you can build a tribe of any kind of fans. I am of course giving short shrift to all those who want to belabor the point of the universality of music, etc.

The thing I hear most often from artists selling work is that the work doesn’t fit the audience, read the customers are not able to understand the work.

That the high sellers have sold out.

That they, the high sellers have a great product and ….?.

The customers don’t want to spend.

I am only here to get contacts, not to sell.

I am an artiste.  I guess the implication is that sales are below the person.

During this craft fair I made my mantra, used selectively, only said in my head, “You should buy it.” I was surprised at how often it worked. At the least it made me smile outwardly. I have often had people come up, praise the work, comment repeatedly at how inexpensively it is priced and then walk away without purchasing anything. Armed with my mantra I found it easy to look at the whole process of these types as something to smile at.


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