Updated: Jan 18, 2020
Selling at a con isn't a walk in the park. Some days your product flies off the table, an other days you'll feel lucky to make any sales at all. However, while it may seem as if your sales are at the mercy of chance, there are a number of ways you can maximize your profits make the most of your vending experience.
Here are 5 simple things you can do at your next con to boost those sales.
1. Make A Connection
When people buy a print, they aren't taking home just a pretty picture. Every transaction as a memory, or at least can be. They are purchasing an extension of themselves, something that affects them. You can create a personal experience simply by being present in the moment. Greet them, maybe shake their hand, find some way to make a connection with that potential customer. Find a way to make your artwork resonate with them; make it personal.
If someone has already stopped to examine your work further, or seems to be hovering with indecision, make the connection. All it takes is an invitation for conversation. A simple "Hello, how's your day?" or "I notice you're eyeing that character, do you like them?" can go a long way.
People tend to want to support an artist that seems approachable, inviting, and willing to converse. Convention attendees may be shy or nervous to ask questions and that unease will, at least in some small part, leave a negative impression. Anything you as an artist can do to dispel that unease will improve your sales. By breaking the ice for them, you relieve your potential customer of all that negativity. If you seem distracted--scrolling on your phone or working on a drawing while they are hovering at your table--they are more likely to move on. By being present and engaging with attendees, you will improve your sales and form those lasting connections. People remember the artist they struck up a conversation with over the one they walked straight past.
2. FOMO Is Your Friend
The fear of missing out is a powerful motivator. It can drive a lot of sales, especially during an event that only lasts a weekend. Attendees travel--sometimes a long way--for these events, and the air is always buzzing with excitement. Sundays usually see the largest bump in sales because it is the last day, and shoppers are scrambling to spend the rest of their budget to make the swiftly closing weekend as memorable as possible.
But how can you capitalize on FOMO? Limited edition prints can hold a lot of power in driving these types of sales. Maybe it's a special edit of an existing print that you only have a limited run of, or a print you offer exclusive to one or two conventions. Perhaps it's an annual series of prints featuring your original characters, and attendees need to make sure they get this year's edition before it's gone.
3. Review & Revise
One of the most common mistakes new artists make is spreading themselves too thin to fill their table. Author Tim Ferriss devised a business tip known as the 80/20 rule. Simply put, Ferriss states:
"80% of your success comes from 20% of your effort."
With regards to selling your art at a convention, this essentially means the majority of your sales will come from a few specific types of the products your offer. Perhaps you offer a wide variety of print sizes, stickers, charms, play-mats, canvas prints, wall-scrolls, an other various trinkets. It is likely that a majority of your sales derive from one of two of these products. Should that be the case, all the table space dedicated to offering a variety of products could actually be negatively impacting your sales. If the majority of your profits come from large prints and play-mats, but those only account for half of your allocated table space, you are clipping your own wings.
Analyze your sales after each event and take note of what generates the most profit. Focus on maximizing that 20% of your inventory. Rather than pushing sales to the products that don't appear as successful, double down on what's already working. Re-think your table display to get more eyes on those hot selling items. Don't spread yourself too thin in an effort to offer something for everyone.
4. On Your Feet, Soldier
Stand up all day.
I know, this one sucks. Nobody likes standing all day, all weekend, being actively engaged. However, If you stay standing, you project confidence in yourself and, more importantly, your product. A lot of this ties in with the first tip about being present. Staying hunched over and busy drawing is projecting the message that you’d rather be engaged in your own work than be available for a conversation. It tells your customer you don't actually want to be here, that you have more important things to do that engage with them; you may as well wave them off with your hand.
One of the hardest lessons to learn, one that only came to me when my table neighbor pointed it out to me, is that when you attend a convention to sell, you are showing up to work. You can draw any time; in your hotel room, after the Alley or Dealers closes, on the trip there and back. Working on commissions is enticing, but if you miss out on sales because a group of attendees hovered at your table and walked past because you didn't even notice feels awful. That's exactly what happened to me, as my neighbor pointed out. I walked at least three or four sales in that one interaction, all because I was too focused on a commission I could have done later that evening.
If you must sit, make sure you do so when you cannot see any traffic coming your way, and stand back up whenever people are approaching. Try instead to kneel on a chair, rather than fully sitting down. It is physically draining, but you will see results. Attendees notice an artist that is literally ‘standing behind their work’.
5. Social. Media. Marketing.
Before AND During the Con!
Let people know where your table is! The week before the con, make sure you have marketing graphics made up and post them before the event actually happens on every avenue you can. Draw a line on the con map to where you'll be, mark your exact spot, let your online audience know you're going to be available to meet and what deals you'll have available! Social media is probably the singular most powerful tool available as an independent artist.
Don't stop posting the first day of the con! Actively follow convention tags, like other people's posts, make a connection before you've even met your potential customer in person! Attendees are checking their socials as well at conventions. They will see an artist interacting in the tag, or their friends liking posts the artist makes, and they will come and find you. But they can only do that if you're present, and if you tell them exactly where you are.
Make sure you have all of your socials available somewhere on your table for attendees to see.
Post pictures of your display and your products sporadically throughout the con weekend.
Include the con’s hashtag in your tweets, and perhaps the staff running the con might notice and retweet you or some of your pics themselves!