4 Ways Street Fairs are the Best Ways to Test Your Small Biz

Entrepreneurs Can Test Their Products at Street Fairs

By Tom Greenbaum, New York SCORE

You have just developed or acquired a new product that you want to sell, either on line or in a retail environment. This product could be something you developed on your own, or an item you acquired from another source (national or international).

There are many different ways to test the consumer appeal of this product, however most are quite expensive, and often take a very long time to determine if there is any real appeal.

One of the tools that I recommend to my clients very frequently is the use of New York Street Fairs. 

Street fairs are held in various parts of the city every weekend from April to October. If the weather is good, and you choose a good location to test, you rproduct could be exposed to 10,000- 20,000 people within a eight-hour period.

An example of this is a client I worked with that had developed a very attractive line of yoga mats that leveraged her very creative, artistic design capabilities. However, we found it difficult to identify a relatively inexpensive way to test consumer acceptance of this product, until we identified the summer fairs in New York City.  

We prepared a series of different designs and went into one of the fairs that was a 3-day event (unusual, as most are only one day).  At the end of the fair, after an exhausting effort trying to sell the products and learn about the consumers attitudes toward them, we sold only 3 mats.

This was a very quick market test that told us that we did not have a winner, and we would have to dramatically change our approach if we were to be successful selling yoga mats to the New York market.   

My client decided not to pursue this effort, but she learned very quickly and inexpensively that there was a very high probability that her idea would never make it in the marketplace.

Street fairs are excellent test market vehicles for new products for several very important reasons:

First, if you get good weather, you do have the opportunity to expose your idea to a very large number of people in a short period of time. 

Second, you have the opportunity to interact with prospective customers to learn what they liked and did not like about your product, so it may be possible to make changes in your offering if it seemed that this would increase the appeal.

Third, you can experiment with different pricing options, by changing the price after several hours and seeing the impact this would have on the consumer sales and attitudes.

Fourth, the cost of entering street fairs is very low.  A normal size booth (about ten linear feet) generally costs less than $200.

There are some dangers associated with using the street fair test option that also must be considered before quickly scheduling this into your marketing plan.

You are at the mercy of the weather. If it is bad, the traffic will be very low, or almost nonexistent. This is a big chance you take.

You must be careful to pick a location which has residents in the area that represent your target market. For example, if you have a product that appeals to the Hispanic community, you probably do not want to do your street fair in the upper east side.  

You also run the risk (which I believe is small) that your idea, if it is really innovative will get ripped off by someone else.

In summary, I am a big fan of using street fairs as a test vehicle, a research tool, or even a regular sales channel for certain types of products.   

If you Google New York Street fairs it is very easy to identify the company’s that run them, and you can learn what you need to do to participate (i.e.: licenses, table and chair requirements, electricity etc.).

You will never know if this tool is right for you until the research is done, so on to Google to learn about street fairs, and plan to attend a few so you know how they work and what you need to do to achieve your objectives.

Good Luck.

Tom Greenbaum is a former marketing executive who has been with SCORE for over ten years, providing consultation assistance to over 1000 different people/organizations.   He has written seven books about marketing, marketing research and small business, the latest  of which is YOU CAN DO IT; A GUIDE TO STARTING AND RUNNING A SMALL BUSINESS – REVISED 2018.   It is available on Amazon or wherever you buy your digital books.

To reach a SCORE mentor for free counseling go to:  www.scorenyc.org, and request a counselor.

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