Bruce Baker’s Show Tips for 2011

Can you believe another year has flown by? Here are my show tips for the new year—I hope that all of you have amazing business growth in 2011! 


There are so many clichés that fit the times: “It is always darkest before the dawn,” and “If you are going through hell keep going!” to name a couple. Things are getting better, you have to believe that, but it will most likely take a little time for you to feel it in your wallet or your bank account. 

Here are a few smart tips for 2011that will help create a better business in the process. 

Did you ever notice when you are at a show or any sales event there is always one person who seems to get most of the business? That individual who has “gravity” and pulls people into their space while people line up to buy? With the right kind of thinking, that could be you. You, too, can be that person who arrives at a show (be it a craft show or gallery) and clearly dominates the event with one sale after another. 

My tips for 2011 are focused on making you that person. You can do it! 

If you know how to arm yourself and put good business practices to work, you can have all the business you want. If you play the victim, you are bound to fail—everyone is a victim of something. Yes, the economy is weak in most parts of the country, yet I meet people every week who are bucking the odds and seeing significant business growth. If you have the right attitude and good vision, you, too, can have a growing business even in this lame economy. 

I have attended many workshops, conferences and trade shows this year and I have to say I have learned far more than I have ever thought possible about what it takes to make a good business great , and sometimes it boils down to attitude. 

What I have learned this year from talking and consulting with successful artists is that business is not rocket science. Do the logical thing and customers will follow. It sounds easy, but it is true. A “can-do” attitude armed with good information is a formidable task but also a recipe for success. 

Here are some tips to help you get there:

For your mindset 
Just like a reptile, shed your skin and rid yourself of all thoughts that place you in a victim role. If you find you are telling a story to yourself (in your head) or to others about loss and lack, that is a victim stance. The victim role is powerless and will not help you. If you are reciting to others about how shows or sales are down, you are buying into victim mentality and it will not serve you as well as seizing your power and figuring out how to make things better. 

Lose the tendency to be a victim at all costs; it is a nowhere, dead-end street for business growth and sales. There are winners and artists who are experiencing business growth even in these tough times—this is a reality. It is easier said than done to turn your thinking and dialog around, but through constant vigilance you can change the way you think. 

When I meet these successful individuals, I always try to figure out what makes their business a success when so many are struggling. As I have toured the country this year, this is what I have learned is the key to their success: Pick and choose the topics that work for you. Once you decide what direction to take, you must commit and be disciplined to reap the rewards. Remember, a positive attitude goes a long way to improving your quality of life both personally and professionally. 

You, too, can build a better business as you move forward through 2011.

For your life
Don’t whine, grouse or complain. This type of dialog zaps your creativity and only helps to bring your business down, especially at shows. When artists are “bummed out,” they bring the customers down with them and this does not put the customer in a mood to buy. Approach every show, every day and every hour as a new and positive opportunity and you will see the difference in your cash box almost immediately. 

For your booth
Build a “brand” with your business. We are a brand society; customers are brand-loyal and as an artist you are not exempt from this phenomenon. This is not the first time I have mentioned this, but I am bringing it up again as many, if not most, artists still do not realize the importance of this important trend in our culture. Build a brand! It is not that difficult, but it is important that your customers recognize you and know who you are. 

Start with a trade sign with a good logo, one that is easily recognizable and that speaks to your business and the style of your work. Something easy to remember, easy to recognize graphically and easy to pronounce is a good place to start. 

The more you display the sign, the more people will recognize you and your brand. Customers are creatures of habit; they will be drawn in if they remember you from a previous show. Many times what draws them in is not your work but your branding.  

Once you have good graphics for your business, these images have to be consistent throughout. Business cards, order forms and mailings should all have these consistent images to help build your brand.  

Brand your packaging so that when people buy your work and carry it around, others see your brand is being purchased. This can be as simple as a printed sticker that you put on a shopping bag or jewelry box.  

Also, encourage people to tweet about you. There are a myriad of social networking sites and if you can get people in your space to talk about you, it is good for business as long as what they say is positive.

Any kind of in-booth promotion you can do costs little to nothing. For example, you might be doing a show and announce that you have a class starting in a few weeks—encourage people to sign up and give them a discount or benefit. 

For your digital images/slides 
After attending the ZAPPlication Conference this fall, I saw firsthand how the digital era has changed the quality of images for juried shows. The technology that is out there, both in terms of hardware and software, is daunting. It can be hard to keep up. 

Consider getting professional help with your digital images. Good shows are hard to get into and the artists who get in have incredible slides. Trust me, you will get into more shows by using the advice of a professional. 

For your sales
Learn the language of sales and be sincere when you are selling. So much of our “sales culture” is an insincere “schmooze” and customers can see through it from ten paces away. 

Remember to wait for customers to ask you a question or engage you in conversation before you start to sell to them. Customers like to deal with warm, friendly people who engage in eye contact and smiles. 

Customers will buy more in an environment that is lively and exciting; it is a part of your job as a salesperson to create that excitement. Energy and enthusiasm are the keys to stimulating people to buy when they are in your booth. When you create this “vibe,” more people are drawn in and more sales are transacted. 

Consider functionality when you design and describe your products. Objects that have a function are so much more likely to sell in the current economic climate. Functionality is totally on-trend and anyone who makes functional objects will tell you that items with a purpose or specific use are easier to sell. 

So much of what we make has no apparent function, so we as artists have to use language to get the point across. To say to a customer, “When you hang this on your wall it will bring you so much tranquility,” is a function. So learn to load your words with “benefits” to the customer. “When you put this in your garden, it will be the focal point of your backyard,” is a function, but you have to make it clear to the customer—well-chosen words are the key.

 Use current and future trends to make objects that people want to buy! Trend tracking is easy with a computer; a Google search for the word “trends” will turn up a wealth of information. If you know about a trend and make design decisions to speak to that trend, you will have products that are in higher demand. 

Here are just a few current trends to get you thinking:
Large—people with the money to buy art generally want something large because they live in large spaces.
Kinetic—several galleries I worked with in the last few months told me everything they had that had movement outsold stationary pieces by far. 
Light-emitting—the category of decorative lighting is really hot right now. Thanks to advancements in LED lighting, many artist are adding illuminated elements to their work with good results.

I have given you a lot of tips to help you get to that place of being the artist at a show who is getting all the business. It is a long list and no doubt will take some time to put in motion, but what I have described here is what is making success and growth for the people who are doing well at shows. 

At the ZAPPlication Conference I heard a profound quote: “If money is your problem, you don’t have a problem. The problem is you don’t have enough vision! When you have enough vision, the money will follow! 

Put those wise words to work for you, and have a great year in 2011. I hope to meet many more of you on the road this year at a show or a workshop.

Bruce Baker is a jeweler, gallery owner and nationally recognized expert on booth design. Visit his website at