07 Dec 2016

The Holiday Market Marketing Mix

Last month I had to opportunity to do a workshop with Artscape on how to prepare you and your business for the Holiday Season. Amy Dennis has put together a summary on some points we discussed. Take a look!

*I’ve also put together a useful checklist on what to pack when preparing for your market, you can find it here.*

Breaking Down the 4 P’s of Marketing for Vendor Success

Craft markets, pop-ups and art fairs have always been staple sales channels for creative businesses, but today they are more popular than ever. For one, support for the maker movement and buying local has never been stronger. Moreover, consumer values are shifting. Shoppers are increasingly favouring quality over quantity, scarcity over scale, and service over speed.

By all appearances “big box fatigue” is setting in. As the antithesis to mass production, maker markets are primed for success this holiday season.  In fact, 85% of Canadians prefer to do their holiday shopping face-to-face this year (Source: SAS Canada).

With customers ready to swap their keyboards for their walking shoes, and holiday retail sales predicted to grow (by 3.5% per EY), there’s never been a better time to get your products to market… at a market!

We’ve broken down the 4 P’s of the Marketing Mix (a term coined by Neil Borden) to show how you can best set up for success as a holiday market vendor:



Stage for Success. If your market booth is your production, then your product is the star of the show. By the time it debuts, it has already undergone careful testing and meticulous labor to make it the best it can be. It’s now the job of your market booth to raise the curtain and showcase your star so it can shine.

Melissa Lowry is no stranger to market vending. The graphic designer and needle felting talent behind the brand Milo&Ben founded Makeology in 2013 to bring together like-minded makers. What started as a Facebook Group has grown into a community of over 1,600 talented artists and a series of real life Makeology fairs held in and around the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area.

Melissa’s advice to market vendors includes making your display look full, but avoiding the temptation to put everything out at once. “Take your most popular items (which will inevitably be the ones that sell the most) and make those your key pieces,” she says. “Too much product creates clutter, and increases the chance of something getting knocked over and damaged. Instead, get in the habit of keeping one item each on display and take orders. People will often place an order and pay for shipping right there on the spot. Be sure to restock as soon as it’s sold.”

Encourage shoppers to handle your work. First-hand experience sells, and experiencing the five senses helps too. Invite shoppers to feel just how soft your fabric is, to see the bracelet on their own wrist, to smell the pine in the scented candle, or to taste a sample of your delicious treats.

“Seasonal-ize” your offerings. Consider embracing the festive spirit by integrating a holiday theme to your product. A 2015 Nielsen study on candy sales found that holiday-themed sales are growing more rapidly than everyday themed items. Integrating can be easier than you think. Consider creating a limited edition holiday item, or pairing several items together to create a gift pack. Even more simply, you can infuse some holiday spirit to your booth with a simple sprig of holly or some festive bows.

Cater to the clientele. How much do you know about the shoppers at your market? Are they high spenders? Have they driven a far distance to get there? Shoppers who have invested a full day’s excursion to the market are more likely to spend more, versus someone who’s just passing through. Furthermore, consider their transportation. Shoppers might fall in love with your handcrafted grandfather clocks, but if they are relying on public transit to get home, the clock might likely go unsold. Do your research beforehand to make sure you’re bringing your most sale-able products with you.



Know your costs before you set your prices. This includes your materials, booth fee, travel expenses, and the value of your time. Remember, profit and revenue are not the same thing!

Diversity your prices to cater to all budgets and to suit your clientele. Selling only big ticket items can be risky, however, you may only need to sell one to recoup your investment. Consider diversifying your offerings to minimize your risk. Keep in mind that small, inexpensive products will satisfy impulse buyers, and they can fit the bill for those hunting down hostess gifts and stocking stuffers during the holiday season.

Shoppers love the holidays, but they also love a good bargain.Seasonal sales promotions or bulk purchase offers (i.e., “buy 5 for the price of 4”) can be successful tools for up-selling. It also helps to move more product, which creates more ambassadors for your brand than having excess product sit in storage.

Be prepared to make the sale. Have your float ready with change on hand to break $20 bills, and/or price your products in increments of $5 for optimum convenience. Credit card sales are the most popular form of payment, so don’t forget to pack your mobile payment system and have your smartphone, your charger and WIFI access primed and ready.

Display your pricing. Make it easy for customers to find your price tags and don’t put them in the awkward position of having to ask the pricing.



Leverage the market’s hype. Your holiday market likely has a marketing plan already in place. Let the organizers do the heavy lifting, but don’t stop there. You can easily piggyback on their efforts to get more people out to market who meet your specific target group, and to make sure shoppers remember you and seek you out when they arrive.

Start promoting 4-6 weeks out. Your past customers and current followers are your best word-of-mouth brand ambassadors, so it’s to your advantage to keep them in the know. Sharing the market’s promotional posts with your own social media communities and mailing lists takes little effort. Don’t forget to add your own personalized message, and always use the event’s official hashtag (if it has one), as well as its proper logos and artwork. These materials are usually found in the press section of a website, but contact the organizers directly if necessary to be sure you’re on point.

Once the word’s out, keep increasing your message frequency as the event draws near to grab last-minute planners. Then, keep the dialogue going online while the market’s in session by posting photos of your booth in action, inviting shoppers to stop by for a sample, and reminding them how to find you.

While the market is “on” so are you. Promoting yourself and your brand shouldn’t stop until the market does. You may feel tired, hungry or exhausted, but try to power through. Being friendly and approachable will attract more shoppers to your booth and keep them there longer. Despite the digital age in which we live, people inherently like buying from people. The more that shoppers warm to you as a person; the more they’ll want to support you as a business owner.

Cultivate your leads. Your primary goal of market vending might be immediate sales, but don’t neglect the opportunity to foster future revenue. Let interested shoppers know how to contact you. Bring your business cards and display them prominently at the market, and post let shoppers know how to find you on social media. If your display is photo-worthy, you just might garner some social media attention from snap-happy new fans.



Location, location, location. If you can afford to be choosy, then choose your booth location wisely. The best ones will sell out fast. Be prepared to pay more – or to negotiate – for the best real estate. High traffic areas are prime locales, including spots near the entrance, washrooms, or aisle intersections

Do your homework. Arrive at the market well prepared and with a plan. Invest in your display, practice your set-up ahead of time, and take a picture so you can re-create it on the day. Review the floor plan, know where to find your electrical outlets, and who your neighbours are.

Display your product strategically. Use recognizable brand colours so your customers can easily make the connection. Utilizing backdrops and standing banners can help create a personalized look. Keep in mind that your horizontal footprint is limited, so Melissa suggests working vertically to maximize your space. “Build height by utilizing shelves, crates, boxes, blocks – anything that builds height interest. This not only allows your product to stand out but also helps highlight key pieces. Consider adding lighting, table cloths, runners and racks to your booth to showcase your products in a way that attracts attention and best represents your brand. Visit other craft shows to get a feel for what others are doing and get inspired!”

Keep it tidy. Clutter is a distraction, so bring bins to hide your personal items and packaging items under the table. This is equally as important for safety as it is for aesthetic.


As with any marketing endeavour, always track your results – not just your sales but also your impressions, interactions and leads. In the true spirit of entrepreneurship, experimentation is key. Evaluate what went well and what could be better next time. There’s no such thing as failure, only plot twists and pivots!


Artscape offers the only business programs designed specifically for artists and creative professionals. Our hands-on workshops and courses give you the skills, resources and support to start or expand a creative business of your own. Learn more at


Melissa is a graphic designer, needle felter, mom of identical twin boys and a lover of all things handmade.