Workshops are a great way to demonstrate your brand and products to existing and new customers. It gives you the opportunity to interact with a customer in a real-time conversation, build a positive community around your brand and position yourself as an expert in your craft category, and the confidence to reach new customers in a more direct way. As with anything, it takes a lot of planning and time but is well worth the effort.

GOALS                                                                                     

The first thing you need to do is set yourself a goal – what do you want your workshop to achieve? It could be that you have a new product you want to launch. This kind of workshop is ideal to get customer feedback and see how the product performs. You may want to attract a new customer as part of an acquisition programme – running a workshop and inviting new customers helps build a community in your crafting sector, introduces your brand in a friendly environment and also builds customer loyalty for future sales. Deciding the goal from the outset will be one of the key factors in hosting a successful workshop.

DESIGNING YOUR WORKSHOP

Planning is also key to delivering a great workshop. It’s so important for the event to be seamless for the customer – from the moment they book the workshop to the minute they arrive, through to the workshop itself and when they leave. A project plan is a great tool and should include each stage of the process, key deadlines and all the elements that are needed to deliver a great experience. This is the time to think about what your workshop will be about (based on your goals), how long it will last, what materials you’ll need, where you’ll host it and ultimately what it will cost versus what profit you could make.

VENUE

Your venue and how your workshop will work in the space is important to its success. A good workshop will last about two hours with around 20 people so think about a venue that is both comfortable and accessible.

If you own a craft shop, can you hold it on the premises? Will it affect your trade on the day? It’s more likely that it will increase trade as most of the attendees will want to shop afterwards. Using your own venue is also great way of attracting new customers and introducing them to other products.

Another idea for a venue is to work with a third-party organiser. ICHF and Upper Street Events both organise craft shows around the UK. Running a workshop at one of these events could be a cost-effective way of tapping into their customer base and introducing your brand and products to gain new customers. Also think about your local community. Are there events in your area where you could run a craft workshop? Joining forces with events organisers will help them as much as it helps you – bringing in a new workshop to their customer base.

THE WORKSHOP

Start to plan actual workshop. Twenty attendants is a manageable number and over two hours will give you enough time to interact with each person. If you think you have a great product that has a demand think about holding a workshop over a weekend with a shift in the morning and afternoon for each day. The trick is in the preparation. Prepare an agenda for the customer of what the workshop entails; with timings for each stage, breaks and finish time. Make sure you have all the materials laid out for each customer. A good idea is to have all the essentials in a goody bag on the table for when the customer sits down to start. Similar to a wedding, have name places written out and on the table for when the customers arrive.

If the workshop you’re running involves using machines, it’s acceptable for the customers to double up. For example, if you’re holding a papercrafting event, get the customers to share a die-cutting machine. This gives them confidence as it becomes a shared experience. Don’t forget to provide refreshments such as tea, coffee and plenty of water. If you want people to shop after the workshop then lay on some sandwiches and nibbles, it’s a big day out for the customer, so the more they’re looked after the better the chance that they’ll come again and recommend to a friend. Consider offering a 10 per cent voucher that can be used in store after the event – the chances are that you’ll get a sale there and then.

TARGET AUDIENCE

Getting the right customers to attend is vital for the success of the workshop. If you’re a member of a craft organisation such as CHA-UK you might have access to intelligence reports, which show the demographics for the main craft categories. Papercrafting attracts a more mature crafter whereas sewing and cake decorating have seen an increase in a younger audience in the last couple of years. Understanding your audience will make it easier for you to target promotion and messaging.

PROMOTING YOUR WORKSHOP

Social media is a prime channel to reaching a new audience in a costeffective way. Facebook now lets you target an exact audience that you can approach by creating a targeted post. It’s really easy to create – use a good image and exciting copy (make sure you include a URL to your website where they can book), set up who you’d want to target (this can be age, gender, location, activity such as sewing or papercrafting) and the length of time you want the sponsored post to run. Of course, Facebook is a business so you’ll need to pay to for this, but don’t worry, they give you quite a few options for cost. If you want to reach out to a local audience then get in touch with your local newspaper, explain to them about your workshop and how it could benefit their readers. Getting them to write a short story either in the paper or on the website is another cost effective way of promoting your event.

If you’ve teamed up with a third-party exhibition organiser then make sure you tap into their marketing – getting them to mention your workshop in their marketing materials (leaflets, website, social media), sharing their social posts and listening to comments through their Facebook and Twitter accounts, to which you can respond. Make sure you’re using your social channels on the day of the workshop. Think about creating a hashtag that you can use and upload pictures of the event to your Facebook and Twitter pages and encourage the customers to do the same. Take advantage of Facebook Live in the build-up to the event – showing behind the scenes, etc. The more creative you are, the more you’ll get noticed.

COST VS PROFIT

It’s essential to take into account the cost of the materials that you’ll need, manpower to help you run the workshop and also the hire of a venue and refreshments if applicable. Don’t forget people are coming to learn a new skill so your experience should also be factored into the ticket price. A way to save some cost is to think about offering a sponsorship package to suppliers.

If you need certain tools for a workshop, reach out to that particular brand and see if they will supply for free in return for their brand being mentioned in the promotion. This is beneficial for them too as they’re reaching out to a new customer base. Finally, make it really easy for the customer to purchase. If you can, try and set up a dedicated landing page on your website where the customer can buy online. You can also use the URL as a callto-action in your promotions of the event. If it’s by telephone, then make sure you get an email and send confirmation to the customer. Always think about providing a seamless journey for the customer.

FOLLOW UP

It’s important to stay in touch with these customers as they now feel comfortable with you and your brand and will now see you as a friend, so make sure you obtain their contact details such as email address, home address and telephone number. You can get this data either at the point where they purchased their tickets or at the workshop itself. You want to get a second sale, so it’s vital that you stay in touch. A great way to do this is to send them an email after the event thanking them for attending and offering them a discount code to shop with your brand. Your database of customers will start to grow and regular communications is key, such as a newsletter, inviting them to a Facebook group and so on. And remember, it doesn’t end with just the workshop.

About the author

Michael O’Connor is a partner at Grey Sergeant and specialises in marketing communications and PR in the craft and creative industry. Grey Sergeant provides strategic advice and planning and promotes businesses through PR, integrated marketing, media relations, social media, digital marketing and events. For more information please contact michael.oconnor@greysergeant.com

This article first appeared in Craft Focus magazine