Tuesday, August 05, 2014

How (Not) to Sell New Yarn at a Crochet Conference

This post is the fifth installment in an ongoing series about an exclusive yarn I developed with my friend Doris Chan. This is the first post. New tab I created about everything Lotus.
L to R: Kathryn White, Vashti,
Haley Zimmerman. Photo: Nancy Smith

 © 2014 Manchester NH

I've just returned from a spectacular crochet conference blow out! (The CGOA's's 20th annual Chain Link conference in Manchester NH, July 23-27 2014.)

This was the first crochet conference I've attended as a yarn company owner

It's the fifth one I've attended as a teacher. Six months or so of class prep led up to this event! I taught eighteen hours of six large classes in three days. It is a blur to me now.

I'm gently teasing myself with the title of this post. Throughout the conference I'd suddenly see this or that missed opportunity for my yarn and could only shake my head at myself.  For example:
  • I could have had a yarn sample, coupon, SOMETHING in the goody bags!
    One of the printing pages I created
    of yarn labels ("ball bands")
    for 60 sample Lotus balls.
  • I could have printed up the simplest Lotus yarn thing for people to pick up from the info table at Registration. A ball band with a URL, a yarn snip, whatever, right? After all, I designed the yarn ball bands. I might think that's cool if a guild member I knew did that.
  • I could have shipped bags of Lotus to a market vendor! Wouldn't it be fun for Lotus to be a part of the market excitement? Plus, I'd have a booth number to tell all the people who asked about Lotus. 
In truth, a few "missed opportunities" occurred to me months before, and I had to set them aside as too complicated or impractical for this conference. Ship Lotus to a vendor? Well, this is wholesaling. My costs are not actually low enough yet for me to be able to wholesale Lotus. (By the way, another way of saying this is that the price of Lotus at my website is below full retail!)

Why not just bring an extra suitcase of Lotus and sell it in my hotel room, in class, or in the crochet lounge? 

Seems like an easy solution, doesn't it? Nope. Not only did I sign a contract prohibiting this, it's unwise. I wouldn't want to risk creating a bad impression of a seller or product instead of good.
I spy Lotus Snacks sample balls! You're
also seeing one of my favorite attendees,
Janet Bates, and part of the portable full
spectrum lamp she brings to conferences.
(Cropped close up of classroom photo by
Deb Seda © 2014, Manchester NH.)

As a guild member and attendee at fourteen of these conferences, I'm grateful for this rule. Who wants to be marketed to in classes and fellowship areas? We have the market for that, where it's FUN.

As a teacher, dealing with commerce in a class is weirdly distracting. The "Class Angels" are angelic because they collect and track any materials fees so that I don't have to switch gears.

I DID actually have Lotus with me. Wait, what?

In each of my Tunisian lace classes I gave out "Lotus Snacks." (I loved being the yarn sponsor of my own classes!) I designed a special ball band for them (see photo above), and the way the band wrapped around them reminded me of cupcakes. My friend Linda helped me label them in my hotel room, which was fun. (See photo of Lotus sighting above.)  I'm lucky I even got them made, and I'm happy that I have none left over!

The Lotus in my project tote had crochet attached because I foolishly thought I might have time to sit and crochet at this conference.
Some Lotus Chips
& Charms patterns.

I did bring all Lotus Chips and Candied Charms to wear and display in classes. Amazing to think of it now but I could not get it together to wear them. Just too busy. I even neglected to mention the love knot ones ("Lovebud Vines") in my 21st Century Love Knot Adventures class. The event was truly a blur!

I did bring free color samples to give out. At some point I dimly thought, "I refuse to take these back home. Must give them out." A designer friend said, "Ooh! Is this your yarn? Can I use some for yarn bombing?" I just gave her the whole bag. Yes, this is what a maxed out Vashti does.

I DID bring an extra suitcase full of Lotus...in the form of visual aids for the six classes. I always bring lots of swatches and visual aids for classes; this year I crocheted a gazillion with Lotus. After all, it's Lotus that made me fall in love all over again with the Star stitch*.

OK so maybe I could have mentioned that it was Lotus that I was passing around in a class, but then if I'd done that, it might have sounded like advertising, and that's not what teaching is about anyway.

So Lotus did actually get to meet lots of old and new friends! What am I worried about?

Yarn marketing is like developing a new muscle - for me, anyway. I took plenty of notes about what I could do in the future. I'm planning to have my own booth at next year's crochet conference in San Diego!

*Star Stitch Class Resources page.

Issues #59 and #60 of Crochet Inspirations Newsletter: "Star Stitch Lace Pretties" and "Star Stitch, the Tunisian Connection."