How to Create an Effective Vendor Application
Vendor applications are a very important piece of communication between events and potential vendors. If you don’t have one, vendors may assume that you do not have the time, experience, or resources needed to host a successful arts & crafts event. If your application is misspelled, sloppy, or missing pertinent information, vendors may assume that you are disorganized or lack attention to detail.
A professional and organized application sends a clear and concise message: whether you’ve done this a million times or this is your first show, you are putting forth the time and effort to do it right.
As both a craft show vendor and the owner of DFW Craft Shows, I have logged many, many hours simply reviewing vendor applications. My goal is always the same as your potential vendors—gather all the information needed to make an educated decision. That is why I am I taking a moment today to provide a little insight into what your vendors are looking for and why. At the end of this article, you will find an easy-to-use template demonstrating everything we have discussed.
The first step in attracting prospective vendors is defining your audience and describing your event. So many folks just throw some words out there and call it done. Do not make this mistake of underestimating the power of a well constructed event description. The event description is your chance to make an professional and lasting impression. It is of the utmost importance that you develop clear, captivating messaging for potential vendors (and shoppers) in all your marketing materials. If you haven’t already written your event description, or if you need some tips on developing a clear vision for your marketing materials, please check out How To Write a Compelling Event Description.
Once you have your perfectly crafted Event Description, you are halfway to filling your arts & crafts marketplace with unique, relevant vendors. You’ve told them why they should be at your craft show, and now it’s time to give them the full details: the types of vendors that you’re looking for, the kind of space you’re offering, and the general guidelines to applying and being accepted to your event.
Well-established events will not hesitate to let you know their stats, and lots of vendors value that kind of information. I know plenty of artisans who will not even think about an event until they know how many visitors it typically brings in. They want to weigh the booth fee against potential sales and all those numbers translate into valuable information. For other vendors, numbers are numbers, and they could care less.
Your goal is to attract as many vendors as you can, and having your event statistics can show that you are paying attention, measuring each year’s performance, and always looking to improve. There is serious value in that information! If this is your first year, that’s fine too. Pay attention to the traffic your craft show receives this year, and you will be armed with those benchmarks for the next time around. Regardless of whether or not you decide to advertise the information, being prepared will help you answer vendor inquiries accurately and quickly.
You may not have your full marketing plan in place yet, and that’s OK! You should, however, have a decent idea of how you will be spreading the word about your event. Providing that information can be very valuable information to your vendors. It not only demonstrates that you are taking your event seriously, it reassures them that the effort they are putting forth will be matched and supported by your marketing efforts. If you need a little help brainstorming, we’ve got 5 Simple Steps to Start Marketing Your Event.
Vendors aren’t looking for just any craft show, and similarly, you are not looking for just any vendor! This is your arts & crafts event and it is important to get enough information from your potential vendors to expertly curate your ideal marketplace. Ask as many questions as you need to get a good feel for who they are and who their ideal client might be. Do you want your all your vendors to be family friendly, or is your venue/audience adults-only? Are you looking for vintage finds or is your event geared toward a specific genre? Will there be direct sales consultants, and if so, how many will you allow per company?
Some of the typical information requested is the vendor’s name, category, type of products, price range, and whether or not their products are handmade (if that is relevant to the type of event you are hosting). Some events require their vendors to send a handful of images demonstrating their products or displays. Try to keep this survey of information as short as possible while still gathering the facts that are important to you. Don’t forget to include a section for contact information, in case you need to reach your vendors outside of email.
This is one of the most frequently forgotten tidbits of information on a vendor application, and it is also one of the most important. More vendors have dealt with a variety of booths spaces over their careers. The most common sizes are 8 X 10 and 10 X 10. Both of these sizes work well because they can easily accommodate two 6 ft tables and a variety of configurations. If booth spaces are smaller, vendors have to start thinking outside of the box (or inside the box, where they likely will be storing the rest of their booth display).
I have noticed that a lot of the less-experienced event coordinators leave this information out, because, honestly, they don’t know. Take heed: if you do not take the time to figure out your booth configuration beforehand, you are flying blind into your own event. How will you know how many vendors your venue can accommodate? How are you assigning a value to their booth spaces? How do you expect them to weigh the value of the booth space that doesn’t technically exist yet? Do your homework ahead of time–you owe it to yourself and to your vendors to know exactly what your venue has to offer.
Application deadlines are great, but certainly not required. Setting some kind of deadline or incentive to apply early will certainly help reduce the amount of last minute work that you have to do as the event coordinator. It also helps paint a more complete picture of how full your marketplace will be by a set date, instead of ending up a few weeks before your event and realizing you are only at half capacity. If you are a couple of weeks out from your deadline and still missing half your marketplace, then you know exactly where you need to refocus your efforts before there’s no time left to pivot. If you do not want to set a hard deadline that applications MUST be received by, consider offering a discount to early applicants as motivation to act now.
Leave your vendors with a final note about what happens next. Does a submitted application guarantee acceptance into the show? If not, when will vendors be notified if they have been accepted? This is also a good place to underline that you (the event coordinator) reserve the right to refuse entrance to any vendor that you feel will not be an appropriate fit.
Vendor Application Template
It can be difficult to design a document that communicates your message successfully, (especially if you are still struggling with what to say) but a well thought Vendor Application is the key to connecting with your local community and filling your marketplace. Now that you have defined your event and classified your ideal vendor, all that is left is putting the puzzle pieces together. That is why I created the Vendor Application Template (coming soon!). Our step by step guide will collect all the necessary details to put together a comprehensive Vendor Application for you!
Formats and Filenames
Just one final note about saving out your Craft Show Vendor Application. The most accessible formats are .doc and .pdf. Using .docx can prevent older versions of office from opening your document. Also, keep in mind that Google Drive can enforce some wonky formatting on .docx files, if you are planning on sharing your documents from there. When naming your document, use a name that is descriptive and indicative of the document’s contents. It is well-advised to include your event name and year in the document title, since vendors tend to juggle many shows and applications at once. This will also prevent people from stumbling upon and submitting your 2018 application in 2020 and so on and so forth.
Let us do the leg work for you!
When you list your event with DFW Craft Shows, we will take you through the event submission process one question at a time until we have all the information that a vendor would need to apply to your event. Reduce the time you spend answering the same questions over and over again; We’ve display all your event details front and center, presented in a clear, concise format that is easy to scan. Finding your perfect vendors has never been easier! North Texas area only.
This article was originally published under the name of Vendor Applications :: Part II – Vendor Info and has since been updated for accuracy and relevance.