This Summer I've spent considerable time frolicking around the new Providence Flea here in Rhode Island. Like other vintage art fairs that came before them, they've dropped the word "market" from the traditional name "flea market," and it essentially becomes a parade of art, antiques and vintage duds that hail from tiny independent vendors.
Because of this, you won't find scrappy tables covered in dusty boots with no laces, or board games secured with elastics and a few missing pieces. Instead, you'll find little pop-up stores. Some of them are mini-versions of their real storefronts, others are in-person versions of their online Etsy shops.
What I found, when perusing the Facebook page of the Providence Flea, is that all of these "tiny" vendors (ok, not all of them are that small) have their own Facebook pages and cult followings. And they do a pretty darn good job marketing themselves, better than many of the much larger small businesses I've seen. They've spent the time to come up with cute, personal and unique promotions and posts on their Facebook walls that I think small and medium-sized businesses could take a page from.
So, what can your bigger small business learn from these tiny enterprising crafters, antiquers, and crafty entrepreneurs?
Looking at an itty biz distills it all down to its essence where you can see that Facebook marketing is just telling your friends what you’re most proud of, what you’re excited about, and what you’re looking forward to.
Show Off and Showcase
We all know how well photos perform on Facebook’s Timeline, garnering more interest and engagement than a simple text post. Run by Gianna Pergamo out of Providence, RI, Pergamo Paper Goods is available in retail locations across the country and I personally spend some time dilly-dallying at her booth at the Providence Flea each time I walk by.
Take a page from her Facebook page and post a pic of your favorite piece, partnered by something like "Good morning!" Not only does it add a little cheer to the days of your fans, but it lets you highlight something you're proud of. If you're a retail outlet, perhaps you can dress up the mannequins in a winning, high-five kind of pose!
Bonus points if you can play Vanna for the product, like Jaclyn Trudel did with her handmade jewelry in a recent Facebook photo. It adds a personal, just-between-us touch to the Timeline, as you would see among friends. And, it lets you know how far these earrings hang. You might try on some of your products, too, so that your friends (and customers) can get an idea how they sit and how they catch the light.
Not a crafter? Still using kiddie scissors with rounded tips? Here’s a tip: STOP running, and sell what’s yours to sell. Pick up the thing in your shop that made you squeal and call your bestie when it came in. Now tell all your Facebook friends how proud you are to be able to serve it up.
Play Personal Shopper
Some of us excel at putting together stylish, stand-out ensembles and keeping up with what’s hip, what’s down, what’s up. The rest of us adore a little help.
If you sell clothing, new, gently used, vintage, handmade, homemade, or for dolls and teddy bears, grab a buddy and their body, put them in some of your put-together duds, share it with your online community as a suggestion of what they might like to wear for upcoming special events.
For example, like Gypsy Shop did with their growing Facebook fam for Fourth of July red-white-and blue duds. (Hmmmm, they must have red--I mean, read--our patriotic marketing ideas.) According to their website, Gypsy Shop is a “A roaming resale boutique peddling high end designer closet cast offs and on-trend vintage finds.” Peruse their Facebook page and you'll find all kinds of good ideas for your own shop.
You can also serve up gift ideas, like this shoe shining kit that Boston-based Vintage Finesse suggested on their Facebook page as a Father’s Day gift for the dapper dad. Sometimes people just need a little inspiration. Sometimes people just need you to tell them what a good gift idea looks like! Inspire your customers to come in and buy from you by hand-selecting gift ideas.
Piquing, Peeking Previews
The team at Mardy Stark, Providence-based purveyor of handmade textiles and curated vintage, knows the value of a well-placed preview. Early in the week, they let fans know not only that they’ll be at the upcoming Flea, but what they’ll be bringing. It’s a touch point, a reminder, and a cause to daydream.
Why not put together some mannequin modeling ideas in your own store? Who says that the cool outfits you put together on mannequins at the front of your store need to stay offline? Snap a photo and your customer will be mentally flipping through their closets to find matching blouse and shoes to complement the midi skirt that catches her eye. You can find more from Mardy Stark on Facebook and Etsy.
And who says this only applies to retail? Vendors at farmer’s markets have long used this technique to whet their customers’ appetites. It’s super helpful to the loyal customer because he can get his recipe box and pantry prepped for that week’s veggie haul. For instance, the Austin, Texas, community-supported agriculture (CSA) farm, Johnson’s Backyard Garden, posts a weekly photo of their CSA-box to their website.
Depending on the size of your product, you might need to take one photo of each and then splice them seamlessly together with an app like Diptic.
Thanks and Love
As you know, showing love online means link love, share love, tag love; you’ve probably seen the social share tool with buttons for Facebook, Twitter, et. al. with the headline “Sharing is Caring.” Be sure you do that, too. It’s good form, proper etiquette, a very sweet way of calling attention to your shop. And who doesn’t love a good referral?
The Providence Flea itself acts as a great role model when they tag every vendor and booth who will be at the market. Who wouldn't want to attend the event when they get a big 'ol shout-out just for vendor-ing. If you're throwing an event at your establishment, don't forget to shout out the other businesses you partnered with to make it happen!
Or, how about reversing that method? How about thanking the events you partner with, like food and wine fests? EssenTiles does this by tagging the event when they show a photo of their brisk business while there. You can find more of their wine glass charms and gifts on Facebook and Etsy.
I really liked The House of Findings Facebook photo post below.. This Cambridge, Massachusetts, online boutique used a photo-combining app, like Diptic, to compose a charming, colorful collage of product, people, and place. Then they tagged the daylights out of it--where they were, for which event, who they were with, and even who stopped by to visit.
In closing, I would like to thank the Providence Flea Market and its many vendors for inspiring this post and confirming the best of what we know about Facebook marketing. And if these teeny, tiny businesses can do it and thrive, then so can your bigger small business!