After exhibiting at markets and expos on a regular basis for over 10 years, I have seen many marketers come and go, some have gone on to become highly successful while others have just faded away. Don’t be the marketer who fades away.

It makes me cringe when I walk through a market these days when I think how much money these stalls are leaving on the table. There are some small changes that are so simple, work with just about any product and cost next to nothing to implement yet I see next to no one doing them.

I’d like to share with you a little story as to how the Green Box Market Booster began. It all started, as you might have guessed, with a little, shiny green box! The date on this blurry old photo is 2008 but I was even using it for a couple of years before that.
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At the time I was selling garden products online from an e-commerce store. While that was going well, I was also attending lots of local markets, home shows and garden expos to also reach my target market of people who had a general interest in garden products and wanting to grow some of their own food.

I knew the value of trying to bring them online and onto my list to receive a monthly newsletter so I’d be able to market to them as much as I liked. So, what would I need to do to entice them to give me their email address? At this time I didn’t even know much about autoresponders and I was using a program which just took down their emails and I was able to send them the newsletters. Many of these people remain on my lists to this day.

What I did was, take my green entry box to every event with a big notice saying “Your Chance To Win (certain product)” which was always something desirable of around $100 in value and a draw date for every 3 or 4 months. Then I’d have a plentiful supply of these printed entry forms where people would complete their name and email.

While people were looking at my products, they’d see their “Chance to Win” and start filling in a form. This led to other people stopping to see what it was all about. Often I’d have quite a queue of people waiting for a space on the table to fill in their form. I also included a tick box on the form where people would authorize me to send them a simple 5 part mini course by email.

 

So, at the end of the event, I’d possibly have many hundreds of completed forms, depending on the size of the crowds. First, I’d have someone draw the winning entry from the box and send them off their prize. Then I’d sit down and sort all the entries into piles. The main ones I was interested in were the ones which had both an email address (that was readable) as well as having the authorisation box ticked. These usually made up about 60 – 80% of the total entries but these were my “Gold”!

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Then just a few days after the event (after a few hours and strong coffees to enter the names in my database), I’d send out the first contact by email. It was like a thank you letter, thanking them for visiting my stand at the event, hoping they had a good time at the market or show and also a follow-up offer. It usually went something like this: “I realise that parking close to the event was difficult and made it hard for you to take large items home with you from the show. So, what I’d like to offer (and it’s for 3 days only), is free shipping of (product) straight to your home….Link”.

Now, this was when the magic started happening! There was always a reasonable percentage of people who would take up this offer. Whether they genuinely had difficulty in getting the product home, had too much to see and didn’t get back to my stand or just ran out of money! An offer to have something that they had liked shipped straight to their door at no cost, was an attractive offer. Three days later a reminder was sent (that the offer was finishing) as well as the first lesson of the 5 part mini course.

Big Benefit 1 – Extra sales that I wouldn’t have got if I couldn’t have contacted these visitors. Ten days later they had finished receiving the course emails and were getting to know me, trust me and want to hear more from me. So they were moved to the newsletter list where I shared useful information as well as recommendations for certain products that I had tested and were sure that would be a good fit for them.

Just think, say you are selling dog products. Wouldn’t these proud pet owners also be interested in dog training programs, holiday boarding kennels, dog food supplements and vet products? There are many of businesses out there that offer affiliate programs for these very products that you can easily receive generous commissions on.

Actually, I don’t care whether you sell cupcakes or kids clothing, having a list is the best way to take your business to the next level. Imagine if you could send an email out to your local customers who love your cupcakes that you were going to make a special batch on Tuesday morning and that you could deliver “piping hot fresh” right to their door that afternoon! This could become a very profitable way to fill in the gaps and even take over from the markets you do on the weekend.

Big Benefit 2 – Ability to form a relationship with these potential customers so they begin to like and trust you and you’ll be top of their mind when they are in the market for your types of products.

 

Big Benefit 3 – You can now contact these people at any time, send out surveys to get opinions on products you may be looking to stock, give out discount coupons for certain items or an affiliate offer on a product or service that you are comfortable to recommend.

 

Big Benefit 4 – It’s passive. I collected tens of thousands of names over the period of a few years and not once did I push it or ask people to enter by filling in the form. They saw it and filled it in off their own bat, usually while I was talking to other customers.

 

Big Benefit 5 – Or maybe this should be big benefit number 1? I get to sleep in on the weekends! No more 4am starts to get to the market and all set up, no more worrying about rainy days and bad weather.

 

So in summary – Find something you can offer as a prize, it doesn’t need to be worth a lot in dollar terms but something people in your market will cherish. Make up some forms for people to fill in, just make sure you state clearly they will be going on your database list to avoid any confusion later on. Start a regular newsletter with useful, topical information as well as reviews/tests of affiliate products they may be interested in.

Please, go forth and embrace the new digital economy! In this day and age, we can be so much smarter than just setting up a stall and waiting for customers to come to us each weekend. And by building an online component of your business, you have the potential to sell nationwide or even globally rather than being stuck to events in your local area.

I remember back a few years ago when I was doing the markets, one day it occurred to me that there was a real ceiling in respect of how far I could grow my business. While my products were popular and I was treated to healthy sales, I was only affecting such a small portion of the possible market. I was at one market, in one suburb, in one city, in one state and in one country, probably less than 0.000001% of the population would ever find me.

I knew I had to get an online presence and fast. My first websites when pretty basic but at least people could come online and order things in their own time, not mine. Shipping the goods was simple enough and now I was collecting customer’s names and emails. That was when the game changed, I now had a database I could contact with offers, I didn’t have to wait for them to call me to re-order.

Then with a healthy cash flow coming in, other opportunities open up to you, like dipping your toes in the water with your own private label products. It’s not all that hard to do. This can be huge, your products are unique, you have your own name/brand on them and this straight away eliminates all competition, you are no longer just selling the same products as everyone else!

Then you can spread your wings wider, other markets open up, like Amazon for example. Now you don’t even have to pack and ship out the orders anymore, the whole process can be automated.

And this is where I’ve got to and I love it! No more climbing out of bed in the early hours and setting up stalls in the dark. No more worrying about the weather and whether the crowds will turn up. I have the weekends back and I also have the flexibility to work when I want (or not) during the week as well. I’m able to be with my family on the weekends now and that is what is gold to me!

P.S. There’s a new list building and email autoresponder service that I’ve moved to and would highly recommend as the foundation to get you started with the complete set of tools market to your growing list of customers.