Sunday, April 23, 2006

Entrepreneur Tip: Selling in Churches & The Wrong Approach

How many churches hold fundraiser events that allow vendors to set up shop? Are you an entrepreneur starting a new business or already have a part-time business? Have you ever set up shop at church events?

My church has a lot of ministries and holds a lot of events. With nearly 25,000 members, it's important to have a strong variety of ministries to support the specialized needs and interests of a lot of people.

Recently, my church held a fashion show fundraiser for one of the ministries. It's not the first time they did an event like this. A little while back they did a bridal show as well.

Each time there's an opportunity for vendors to have a table, help offset the cost of the fundraiser, and basically, give the vendors a chance to be connected to the event.

I was in the fashion show recently and afterwards, I made my way through all the vendors to network with them. Speaking to each vendor, I would ask them about their business, how long they've been in business, and if they have business cards.

I asked each one of them how things are going and each time I got the same reply: "didn't sell anything" or "didn't sell as much as we wanted."

Now mind you, I do this at all of the church events that welcome vendors and each time, I get almost all of the same responses. This leads me to wonder - just what did people expect?

Wrong Attitude, Wrong Approach
I think many of the vendors are church members with their own part-time business and decided that this would be a great opportunity for them to make some sales. But that's the problem: it's the wrong attitude and the wrong approach.

Their commercial presence is additional to the main event - the church fundraiser. In the case of the fashion show, the vendors who offered clothing, jewelry, makeup, and other products add to the presence of the event. But the main event is still the fashion show - not them.

Their attitude and approach to the event was placed on sales not marketing. They did not comprehend the value of event presence as part of their strategic marketing mix.

Don't Base Your Business on Sales in Church Events
One of the biggest failures of these businesses is counting on sales from these church events. No business should ever count on sales from vending opportunities in church events. This is because there are more efficient and cost-effective sales mediums.

A church flea market will never replace a commercial flea market. A church flea market is limited to the marketing it can produce to attract buyers. A commercial flea market is far more robust in the marketing to attract consumers.

Any vending opportunities in churches are only an additional opportunity to market the business, not an additional place to sell.

Real selling opportunities to grow a part-time business are through e-commerce, advertising, SEO, PPC, classifieds, flea markets, word-of-mouth, eBay and other online auctions, and even price-comparison shopping portals. These mediums are designed for sales and what a business should focus on if the intended goals are for sales.

Marketing & Data Capture Is the Ojective - Not Sales
This comprehension failure caused the vendors to fail in several critical points of marketing:
  1. lack of marketing collateral
  2. no business cards
  3. no data capture
At such events, it is absolutely critical to have marketing material and to capture data. Just because someone is not interested in buying a product does not mean that you cannot capture their information for future marketing.

One of the vendors was a Mary Kay consultant who had a Mother's Day promotional basket. She asked people to sign up for a chance to win. They not only asked women to sign up, but men as well. The information they captured included name, email, address, and phone number. This was definitely the right way to maximize their vending experience.

It is absolutely critical to have marketing material like catalogs to give away. Business cards are also important because that allows you to give prospects direct access to you. And data capture is very important. You should have a prospect card, a prospect sheet, or a notepad for interested people to signup.

Capturing their data for the purpose of building a relationship can be better than making that quick sale. That quick sale may be that one and only sale. But building a relationship may create a repeat customer - which is more valuable than a 1 time sale.


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